Constituting Community: Dreaming and Constitutional Abolition in Honor of Trayvon Martin’s Life brings together lawyer, writer, and organizer Derecka Purnell, minister, activist scholar Nyle Fort, Nailah Summers from the Dream Defenders, and editor-in-chief of The Cut Lindsay Peoples Wagner to explore the relationship between constitutional law, policing, and social movements. Reflecting the long-term work of the Dream Defenders and coinciding with a special issue of New York Magazine, the program will honor Trayvon Martin’s life and commemorate the 10 years since his murder, while investigating the violence within the Constitution which enabled his murder, systemic police brutality, and the embedded racism in U.S. Law. This event provides a platform for people to gather to constitute a space of resistance, organizing, and dreaming of abolitionist futures.
The program is organized in relation to Year of Uncertainty artists-in-residence Alex Strada & Tali Keren’s participatory installation Proposal for a 28th Amendment? Is it Possible to Amend an Unequal System? on view at the Queens Museum through February 13th.
Derecka Purnell is a lawyer, organizer, and author of Becoming Abolitionists: Police, Protests, and the Pursuit of Freedom. She works to end police and prison violence by providing legal assistance, research, and training in grassroots organizations through an abolitionist framework. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Purnell co-created the COVID-19 Policing Project at the Community Resource Hub for Safety Accountability to track police arrests, harassment, citations and other enforcement through public health orders related to the pandemic. She received her JD from Harvard Law School, her BA from the University of Missouri- Kansas City, and studied public policy and economics at the University of California- Berkeley as a Public Policy and International Affairs Law Fellow. Her writing has been published widely, including in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Boston Review, Teen Vogue, and Harper’s Bazaar. Purnell has lectured, studied, and strategized around social movements across the United States, The Netherlands, Belgium, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and Australia. She is currently a columnist at The Guardian, a Margaret Burroughs Fellow for the Social Justice Initiative’s Portal Project at the University of Illinois-Chicago, and a Scholar-in-Residence at Columbia Law School.
Nyle Fort is a minister, activist, and scholar. He earned his PhD in Religion and Interdisciplinary Humanities, with a concentration in African American Studies, from Princeton University in 2021. His research addresses issues of race, religion, politics, and activism. He is currently writing a book on African American mourning, with a particular focus on how public acts of grief shape, and are shaped by, black politics. Nyle’s work has been featured in the Guardian, Essence, Boston Globe, PBS, and MSNBC; and his scholarship has been funded by the Ford Foundation, Forum for Theological Exploration, University of Pennsylvania, the Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation, and the Atlantic Fellowship for Racial Equity.
Nailah Summers is the Communications Director for the Dream Defenders and is also a founding member of the Florida-based organization. As the Communications Director, Nailah links the community organizing Dream Defenders does with culture and history to reach a wide range of black and brown Florida youth. She was born in Washington, D.C. and raised in Miami. Nailah attended the University of Florida, where she majored in African American Studies with a minor in Philosophy. As a student, Nailah founded the Gainesville chapter of the Dream Defenders, and was involved in the school’s Samuel Proctor Oral History Program where she traveled to the Mississippi Delta to conduct interviews with veterans of the Civil Rights Movement. Prior to rejoining the Dream Defenders as the Comms Director, Nailah was the Coordinator for the Civic Media Center, a community-run library, info shop, performance venue and activism space and briefly worked as a Communications Specialist at United Way of North Central Florida.
Lindsay Peoples Wagner is editor-in-chief of The Cut, the premier women’s media brand, and co-founder of the Black in Fashion Council. At The Cut, Wagner oversees all editorial content, events, brand extensions, and more, conceiving of the strategic direction for the site’s next chapter. Previously, Wagner was editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue. Under her leadership, the publication launched Generation Next, a mentorship initiative which invited six diverse designers to showcase their lines at New York Fashion Week. She also put a spotlight on new voices, publishing Teen Vogue’s first-ever cover featuring a trans person of color with actor Indya Moore and making musician Lil Nas X the face of its annual music issue, marking his first cover in spite of the fact that he had a No. 1 song out. Prior to joining Teen Vogue, Wagner spent five years as an editor at The Cut and New York Magazine, a role she took following her time as the fashion market reporter at Style.com. In her first stint at The Cut, she won an ASME Next award in 2017, honoring outstanding achievement by magazine journalists under the age of 30, and wrote the critically-acclaimed “Everywhere and Nowhere: What it’s really like to be black and work in fashion,” that featured more than 100 people of color’s insights and perspectives on diversity in fashion. More recently, Wagner has been celebrated among Business of Fashion’s 2019 BoF 500, Forbes’s 2020 30 Under 30, and the 2020 Root 100 list of most influential African Americans. Wagner graduated from Buena Vista University, where she studied art and journalism. She hails from Wisconsin, and currently resides in Brooklyn.
Tali Keren and Alex Strada are New York-based artists and educators who are currently Year of Uncertainty artists-in-residence at the Queens Museum. Strada and Keren conduct fieldwork in cultural sites and institutions to deconstruct the systems of power that generate collective memory, with the aim of creating artworks that can help to create alternative narratives and social connections. Their collaborative work has been shown at the Anthology Film Archives, New York, NY; Socrates Sculpture Park, Long Island City, NY; Goethe-Institut, New York, NY; Museum of Moving Image, Astoria, New York; MuseumsQuartier, Vienna, Austria; Kaunas Biennial, Kaunas, Lithuania; and on the screens of Times Square, New York with Times Square Arts’ Midnight Moment.
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