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About the event

Watch the recording of this event below:

Photo of contributors to The Children of the People from the launch event.

Contributor Yvette Heyliger with event moderator Conor Tomás Reed

Editor Robin McGinty signing a copy of The Children of the People

(See more photos from the book launch event below. Click here to get your copy of The Children of the People).

In 1849, Horace Webster, the first president of the Free Academy said of the radical social experiment that would eventually become the City University of New York: “The experiment is to be tried, whether the children of the people, the children of the whole people, can be educated, and whether an institution of the highest grade, can be controlled by the popular will, not by the privileged few, but by the privileged many.” More than 170 years later, The Children of the People: Writings by and about CUNY students on race and social justice, offers the perspective of past and present CUNY students–some, now faculty–on the success of this experiment.

Join us in the James Gallery to celebrate the launch of the book with an evening of readings by the book’s contributors Connie Gemson, Yvette Heyliger, Jose Lopez, Kate McCaffrey, Lee Painter-Kim, Javier Riveros, Cynthia Tobar, and Alison Wong who will be joined by the editors Rose M. Kim, Grace M. Cho, and Robin McGinty, followed by a discussion lead by scholar, editor, and activist Conor Tomás Reed on the writing of the book as well as the current state of CUNY and public higher education. The recently published volume presents autoethnographic personal essays, scholarly articles, poems, and two original plays by more than 30 contributors. In the wide-ranging volume, contributors question the notion of meritocracy in a society riven by inequalities across the lines of race, class, gender, and nativism, and describe lives fueled by rage over injustice and filled with the love and sacrifices of family, community, and organizing. Challenging the neoliberal logic whereby college is primarily viewed as vocational training, the essays speak to the importance of cultivating critical analysis, self-reflection, and broader civic engagement.

Enjoy more photos from the launch event below and a brief reflection on the occasion, its importance, and the hard work that led to the book's publication and this celebration from the Interim Director of the Center for the Humanities Kendra Sullivan:

The Children of the People Write! brought us together - physically in the same room for the first time in two years - to celebrate a book six years in the making! What began as a series of autoethnographic writing workshops about the richly complex role public education plays in the lives of CUNY communities led by Queens, NYC novelist Bushra Rehman, grew into Invisible Freedoms, a play written and performed by College and Community Fellowship, and ultimately became this incredible multi-perspectival, street-level account of CUNY histories and futures told by the people whose needs, desires, experiences, and demands animate its potential as an engine for social, racial, economic, and educational justice. Edited by the inimitable Drs. Rose Kim, Grace Cho, and Robin McGinty, the book is both a celebration of and a critical engagement with CUNY - its limits and possibilities and civic and creative role in the construction of NYC itself. CUNY felt like more than an institution tonight, it felt like a common ground or gathering place for incredible people making their way through incredibly varied lifeways, lifeways that enhance and expand CUNY more fully into the people's university we all long to believe is possible. Without ignoring its complexities, by engaging with with then, tonight a more just city university felt more than possible, it felt real.

-Kendra Sullivan, Interim Director of the Center for the Humanities

Click here to read the full Table of Contents and list of contributors, as well as excerpts from the book.

This event is co-sponsored by the Autoethnographies of Public Education and Racial (In)Justice research group as part of the Mellon Seminar on Public Engagement and Collaborative Research from the Center for the Humanities at the CUNY Graduate Center, and the James Gallery as part of "We Are Beside Ourselves", a collaborative exhibition that brings together a group of artists who explore new ways to form a “we." The exhibition is part of the The Racial Imaginary Institute multi-year residency collaboration with the James Gallery at the CUNY Graduate Center.

CUNY March in Albany (banner in front of building). Photo courtesy of Katherine McCaffrey




CUNY March in Harlem

CUNY March in Harlem (courtesy of Katherine McCaffrey.)

CUNY March in Albany

CUNY March in Albany (banner in front of building). Photo courtesy of Katherine McCaffrey

Anti-War Poster

Anti-War Poster. Poster image courtesy of Katherine McCaffrey