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Border Justice Series focuses on education

March 26, 2008

“Education, Justice, and the Border,” the latest in Arizona State University’s popular annual Border Justice Series, will be presented over two days at the West campus, April 7-8.

Among the topics that will be explored through public art, theatre, film, music, and town hall-style discussions are affirmative action, Proposition 300, the DREAM Act, English-language Learning, and education about border justice. Admission to both days and all activities is free.

The event begins on April 7 at 12:15 p.m. with opening ceremonies on the Fletcher Library lawn featuring the unveiling of “Education without Borders,” an installation by the CALACA Cultural Center, and a theater performance by Teatro Nopalero. Other activities on both days take place in La Sala in the University Center Building (UCB).

“This is about raising awareness on these issues,” says William Simmons, an assistant professor of social and behavioral sciences in ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences who has directed or co-directed the series since its inception in 2003. “We are seeking to provide a forum for a discussion of the issues that puts the human face in the forefront. Once you put a human face on the issues, they are often seen in a new light, and perhaps with a new urgency.”

A highlight of the event will be an appearance by Alex Rivera, a New York-based digital media artist and filmmaker, Sundance Fellow, and Rockefeller Fellow. Rivera, whose work addresses concerns of the Latino community through humor, satire, and metaphor, will present a pair of his shorter films and answer audience questions.

Michael Stancliff, a New College assistant professor of rhetoric and composition, says the event is one of the ways the college and ASU reach out to the community on matters of importance.

“This event demonstrates our commitment to the community,” he says. “Through the Border Justice Series we serve the West valley by presenting topics that are important to people. We are talking about issues that impact their lives daily.”

The focus of this year’s event will feature expert commentary and discussion by field leaders who will provide multiple perspectives at a time when Arizona stands at the center of debates over the impact of immigration and diversity on education. English-language learning (ELL) and the Flores case, Proposition 300 and the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act, the proposed initiative to ban affirmative action in hiring and student recruitment have become flashpoints for heated political discussion. The series’ two-day, multi-faceted program includes an exploration of border enforcement and its impact on civil rights and education.

“Too often, border and race issues are considered only through clichés that fail to do justice to the human cost of public policies,” says Simmons, who has written extensively on such topics as contemporary political thought, human rights law, and conspiracy theories among African Americans. “We believe that through a multi-faceted event like this that incorporates art, theatre, music and discussion we can reframe these issues in a way that moves past slogans and clichés.”

The opening ceremonies include the return of the “mending wall” in the expanded and modified form of “Education without Borders,” which will be presented in the shape of an “Ojo de Dios” (God’s Eye). The piece is made of eight-foot-high metal panels that reach 160 feet and are decorated by CALACA and other artists from the West campus and surrounding community.

Filmmaker Rivera, who over the past 10 years has addressed concerns of the Latino community through his work in digital video and the Internet, is a significant addition to this year’s event. He will be featured from 7:30 – 9 p.m. in La Sala A and B during a “Media Advocacy and Border Education” session.

“Alex is one of the bright young shining lights of American film,” says Simmons. “His slightly quirky depictions of border issues bring a fresh new angle to contentious debates. We’re hopeful his participation will bring further national attention to our event, and will also expose the Phoenix area to the work of this important talent.”