Examining the Legacy of Slavery and Racism By Robin Heffler As part of a School of Public Affairs effort to explore social justice issues and their relevance to students’ future careers, some 170 students, faculty and community members recently viewed a film and engaged in a lively discussion about the legacy of slavery and racism in the U.S. Hosted by Dean Frank Gilliam, with support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, participants gathered on Jan. 19, 2010, in the screening room of the Acosta Training Complex to see an abridged version of the documentary film, Traces of the Trade. In the film, which aired on PBS in 2008, producer and director Katrina Browne tells of her shocking discovery that the De Wolfs of Rhode Island, her prominent, Caucasian ancestors, were the largest slave-trading family in U.S. history. Together with nine other De Wolf descendants, Browne retraces the slave-trade triangle—from Bristol, Rhode Island, to slave forts in Ghana to a family plantation in Cuba and back to Bristol. Along the way, they struggle with the politics of race, how to “repair” the Filmmakers juanita brown and centuries-long damage of slavery, and their own katrina browne Yankee culture and privilege. After the screening, program participants engaged in one-on-one discussions about the film, as well as a question-and-answer session. “No one wants to associate with the oppressor because of the guilt and shame involved, but we need to acknowledge history and how it plays out in the present,” said Amy Smith, a first-year social welfare graduate student, who had just spent the day discussing white privilege in her class on “Cross-Cultural Awareness.” “And, since racism is a problem that affects everyone, everyone should be part of the solution.” Associate Professor Laura Abrams, who along with Joy Crumpton and Gerardo Lavina leads the “Cross-Cultural Awareness” class in the Department of Social Welfare, saw the issues raised by the film as important for social workers. “In a helping profession, it’s easy to see clients as having made bad choices rather than seeing their lives as structured by disadvantages and inequalities related to race, class and gender,” she said. �
Students Meet with City Officials to Examine Zoo Privatization City Hall Day 2010 Eighteen students from across all three graduate programs traveled to Los Angeles City Hall on Feb. 19, 2010, to examine whether privatizing the Los Angeles Zoo would be beneficial to public constituents and save the city money as it faces unprecedented budget shortfalls. Assigned into six teams of three participants, students met for several weeks prior to the City Hall Day, led in discussion and research preparation by professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris and executive director of external programs, VC Powe. Each team prepared questions to understand the positions of various stakeholders on the Zoo issue, ranging from the Zoo director, John Lewis, to representatives in the mayor’s office, to unionized labor. On City Hall Day itself, each team met with three stakeholders to interview them, and then regrouped with the other students to discuss their overall findings and recommendations. City Controller Wendy Greuel, who co-founded this event six years ago with UCLA, remarked that this year produced “some of the best and most useful information” for the city to consider in addressing the Zoo issue. Based on the research and collected interviews, the students prepared a policy memo for Greuel’s office, which has since been submitted by Greuel to the chair of the L.A. City Council’s budget and finance committee, Council member Bernard Parks. �
Heffler is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and former UCLA editor.
NEWSFORUM | SPRING 2010
5/14/10 12:02 PM
The magazine of the UCLA School of Public Affairs