Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, offers an undergraduate fellowship to five of its top students to encourage them to engage in high quality research throughout their academic careers. The Merle Kling Undergraduate Honors Fellowship provides students with the mentoring and support to conduct independent research on topics of their choosing. One of the current Kling fellows, Ezelle Sanford, III, came to my home institution, UNC Chapel Hill, in the summer of 2011 to participate in the Moore Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program (MURAP), where I taught him in a public speaking workshop that is part of the program’s roster of activities designed to prepare minority undergraduates for doctoral study in the arts, humanities, and social sciences. Working under the direction of Dr. Reginald Hildebrand, Ezelle wrote a very fine research paper about community hospitals for African Americans in Durham, North Carolina, which he presented at one of the weekly MURAP seminars. This school year Ezelle nominated me to be the annual speaker for the Merle Kling Fellowship, and I am humbled by the invitation and delighted to be able to visit Washington University and meet Ezelle’s mentors and colleagues. The talk will take place on March 26, 2012 at 4 PM.
The 2012 Merle Kling Undergraduate Honors Fellowship presents
“Prisoners, Families, and Performance: Community Engagement Through the Arts”
A lecture/performance by Ashley Lucas
The United States currently incarcerates 2.3 million people, yet seldom do politicians, the media, or other forms of public discourse address what happens to the families, neighborhoods, and communities which are disrupted by the displacement of this extraordinary number of people. Women disproportionately bear the brunt of maintaining families which have lost income, stability, and continuity due to the imprisonment of loved ones. In an attempt to open up spaces for community dialogue about these issues, scholar, activist, and theatre maker Ashley Lucas developed an interview-based play, Doin’ Time: Through the Visiting Glass, about the families of prisoners, which she has toured as a one-woman performance since 2004. This talk blends moments of performance with scholarly analysis of the effects of the prison industrial complex on women and families and argues that the arts can enable types of civic engagement and community dialogue which neither activism nor scholarship alone can engender.