Young people can agitate against injustice better than the leader of the United Nations can, or so he says. “I as secretary-general have constraints sometimes, political constraints,” Ban Ki-moon tells his audience at Lehman College, which was the U.N.’s home for five months in 1946. “But young people, you don’t have a limit,” Ban says. “You just raise your voice. We need you rise up for civil rights, for social justice, for equal opportunity and fair play here in the United States and beyond.”
Colum McCann’s advice to aspiring writers? Write. The Hunter College creative writing MFA professor reads “A Letter to a Young Writer” and his short story “What Time Is It Where You Are” at the Writing Center. Going against the common advice to write what you know, McCann urges young writers to “write toward that which you want to know. Better still, write toward that which you don’t know.”
Who is the Neapolitan novelist writing as Elena Ferrante? The world doesn’t know, yet the world has taken notice of such books as The Days of Abandonment and The Story of the Lost Child, the final story of her (or his?) Neapolitan quartet, which place Naples at the center of the universe. Ferrante’s translator Ann Goldstein and publisher Kent Carroll join The Graduate Center’s Giancarlo Lombardi and Bettina Lerner at Proshansky Auditorium to talk about Ferrante’s work, which one critic calls a social tapestry with an underlying feminist sensibility that explores the struggles and contradictions faced by women in the latter part of the 20th Century.
Donald Trump is the only pol “who screws up and his poll numbers go up,” says Maggie Haberman of The New York Times, and he seems willing to say anything. “It’s funny how when you’re president of the United States,” says Politico chief political correspondent and Brooklyn College alum Glenn Thrush, that “stuff you say has a tendency to actually happen.” The Trump beat reporters, in conversation with Peter Beinart at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, describe a Trump rally as “the angriest bar mitzvah you’ve ever been to.”
They could starve in India or work like slaves on the sugarcane plantations of British Guiana; that was the choice for thousands of Indians who left home from 1838-1917. One was journalist Gaiutra Bahadur’s great-grandmother Sajuria, who, pregnant and alone, immigrated in 1903. Bahadur seeks her story in Coolie Woman: An Odyssey of Indenture. Indenture provided cheap labor after Britain abolished slavery, and the indentured weren’t treated much better than slaves. Women had it worse, as victims of domestic violence. The abolition of indenture was “the first significant victory” for Indian nationalism, Bahadur tells a LaGuardia Community College audience.
Award-winning music writer and cultural critic Jessica Hopper gives a raw backstage look into the marginalization of women and people of color in the music industry. In her lecture at Macaulay Honors College, Hopper, the author of “The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic” said: “Writing is a way that we refuse to be silent.”
Good news for everyone getting older: Aging doesn’t mean becoming debilitated, Mary Ann Rosa, a nurse and professor at Queensborough Community College tells an audience there at a talk on the future of health care. The baby boom generation that once caused the nation to build new schools is now older and impacting health care. One emerging trend, Rosa says: telehealth care. Patients and physicians will be spending more time communicating via devices, helping patients manage their medical conditions without hospitalization.
The brutal armed conflict in Syria and lack of economic opportunity are just two reasons some 5,000 people a day leave their homes in the Middle East and Africa and risk their lives to try for a new start in Europe. Smuggling the refugees and economic migrants has become a major revenue source for organized crime — second only to drug smuggling, says Inigo Lambertini, deputy permanent representative of Italy to the U.N. The causes of the crisis are well-known, but potential solutions are harder to come by. Two U.N. officials and two professors hash out ideas before an audience at The Graduate Center. Peter Schuck, professor emeritus of Yale Law School, says there is an international humanitarian duty to protect the displaced or potentially displaced people, and EU countries have to figure out a burden-sharing scheme.
The Underground Railroad was part of a struggle for freedom that goes back at least to the Revolutionary War period, when the British offered black people their freedom in return for fighting for the Crown, historian Graham Hodges tells a Black Studies lecture at his alma mater, City College. The Railroad was really its “conductors,” who enabled “self-emancipated people and their striving for freedom” and fought kidnappers who trolled places like New York and grabbed black people off the street. One unsung freedom fighter is the subject of Hodges’ book, David Ruggles: A Radical Black Abolitionist and The Underground Railroad in New York City. In 1838, Ruggles brought home a man from the docks of New York who had escaped from slavery in Maryland. He sheltered the man and eventually sent him on his way to a new life. That man was Frederick Douglass.
Racism remains troubling, but it is important for the black community to acknowledge that it still exists, says Ta-Nehisi Coates, acclaimed author of “Between the World and Me,” winner of the 2015 National Book Award for Nonfiction. In a frank discussion at Medgar Evers College on the legacy of racial violence in the U.S., Coates said: “It is a beautiful thing when you are firm, when you can stand and say, ‘You can’t lie to me. I know what happened.’…There’s a kind of freedom in that.”