When Then Is Now: A Meditation on Social Justice, Activism and Political Change   UNIVERSITY OF HAWAI`I
February 10-11, 2011

When Then Is Now: A Meditation on Social Justice, Activism and Political Change

A Special 2011 Winter Institute

A screening of Mountains That Take Wing: Angela Davis and Yuri Kochiyama with guest filmmakers C.A. Griffith and H.L.T. Quan

C.A. Griffith and H.L.T. Quan Angela Davis and Yuri Kochiyama

The Fourth Biennial Winter Institute for Black Studies emerges amidst a time of economic crisis and, perhaps, in its scope, reflects the circumstances we face in the second decade of the twenty-first century. Even as global foci have been placed in the arena of economic concerns, also brought into sharp relief are global struggles for human rights and social justice. The prevailing issues related to ethno-racial and class relations, social and economic justice concerns and quests for equality and human rights persist amidst the questions of the global economy that are the omnipresent backdrop of our times. Arguably, depending on ones position in the global socio-economic hierarchy, economic distress has always persisted as upfront, public and personal.

It is the shared struggle for social justice and commitment to activism across communities that serve as the inspiration to focus the 2011 Winter Institute for Black Studies on the documentary film, Mountains That Take Wing: Angela Davis and Yuri Kochiyama, produced and directed by C.A. Griffith and H.L.T. Quan. Davis and Kochiyama are icons of great twentieth century social movements and continue to forge change in the twenty-first century, presenting us all with useful tools for navigating the work before us. They both exemplify the intertwined African American and Japanese American liberation and civil rights struggles, as well as embody the overarching concerns and activism related to the struggle for justice and human rights across ethnic, social, gender, regional and national lines. Ultimately, the aim of this year’s Institute is to utilize this important film as a catalyst for broader discussions about the historical and current relevance of the actions of individuals engaged in making social change and to bring forth innovative ways of exploring and contesting the conditions that forestall change in the arenas of racial discourse, racism, social justice, human rights and the overall life chances of individuals in Hawai ‘i, the continental US and across the globe.


The documentary film, Mountains That Take Wing: Angela Davis and Yuri Kochiyama, allows us to observe a vibrant conversation about the lives of those who have fought and continue to fight for change. The filmmakers, C.A. Griffith and H.L.T. Quan, will both be present at the Winter Institute and participate in a post-screening discussion on the evening of Thursday February 10th and a workshop in the afternoon of Friday February 11th. Undoubtedly, they have produced a film that enables audiences to glean valuable insights from Davis and Kochiyama. But also, as filmmakers and scholars, Griffith and Quan offer insight into the process and possibilities for mapping and advancing social justice and human rights through visual media.

Contemporarily, we all must consider the significance of a range of events that require levels of attention not so far removed from the struggles of previous decades. These are exemplified by a lengthy list of events and actions that include acts of verbal and physical violence in political arenas, queries about the nationality of the US President, discourse emerging from new political entities such as the “Tea Party,” the signing into law of Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070, a restrictive embrace of questions of constitutionality and, among other concerns, an engagement in an intractable war and the many lives that are lost - physically and otherwise - in the process. These circumstances remain a clarion call for individuals – scholars, community members, students, politicians - to interrogate and engage the modes in which our society articulates, forges and also thwarts the quest for justice. If anything, during these seemingly imperfect times – these modest times – it is the perfect moment to reflect, learn, engage and plan for a much better future; which is implicit in any struggle for substantive change.

The Fourth Biennial Winter Institute for Black Studies (WIBS) is a result of a joint effort between University faculty members and community members, as exemplified by the partnership with the African American Diversity Cultural Center Hawaii. We hope that this Winter Institute will provide intellectual stimulation, inspiration and – perhaps, most importantly - motivation.


Organized by University of Hawai`i Faculty and the African American Diversity Cultural Center Hawai`i

For more information contact:  Dr. Elisa Joy White - ejwhite@hawaii.edu - 808.956.2824