Rethinking Race Returns for 16th Year


“Rethinking Race: Black, White and Beyond” (RTR) is back for its 16th year at The University of Akron (UA), running Feb. 20 through March 5, 2022. Its longstanding mission is to engage the campus and the public on important topics such as diversity and awareness around issues and culture. This two-week series is a combination of virtual and in-person programs which offers opportunities to learn, talk about and gain new perspectives on race and all its intersections such as culture, gender, class, language, ability and age. All events are open to the public, and indoor on-campus events require a mask per University policy. See a complete list of events

More important now than ever

Co-Chairs, Dr. Sheldon Wrice, vice president for Inclusion and Equity/Chief Diversity Officer and Heather Pollock, visiting assistant professor in Anthropology, recognize the urgency to promote respectful, enlightening and empowering ways to engage individuals in productive conversations about race.

“As the champions for diversity, inclusion and equity, our office has led the charge to ground the academic experience of students, faculty and staff in intellectual rigor that presupposes the importance and complexity of diversity and its role in the development of the sophisticated intercultural skills necessary to work in a diverse society and interconnected world,” said Wrice.

“So many of us are currently having conversations about race, even daily, but we can always use more practice having engaged conversations about race – dialogues that challenge our viewpoints, give us new perspectives and invite persons to the table that we might not otherwise get to meet,” said Pollock.

New programs and Matthew Cherry as keynote speaker

The Office of Inclusion and Equity is pleased to host UA alumnus and Academy Award winning filmmaker Matthew Cherry as the keynote speaker on Feb. 21. Cherry is a former NFL wide receiver who has gone on to a career in film, including winning an Oscar® for his animated short film “Hair Love” in 2020.

Drawing from the theme of Cherry’s animated short is another unique event in this year’s lineup: a visit to Kent State University’s exhibit “TEXTURES: The History and Art of Black Hair” for a guided tour with its curators, Drs. Tameka Ellington and Joseph Underwood on Feb. 28. Co-sponsored by Undergraduate Student Government in partnership with UA’s Myers School of Art, trip attendees can get a closer look at the exhibit, which synthesizes research in history, fashion, art and visual culture to reassess the “hair story” of peoples of African descent.

A new program this year is “What’s Race Got To Do With It,” a series of dramatic performances, videos, artistic creations and Face2Face conversations. In a variety of formats envisioned by academic departments tailored to their expertise, these events focus on specific places in our lives, including future workplaces of UA students, where the campus community can help them be better prepared to engage in more productive conversations about race.

On Feb. 24, UA’s Department of Criminal Justice Studies is hosting “Live from Death Row: Race, Mass Incarceration, and the Shadow of the Lucasville Prison Riot,” an online event about the U.S. criminal justice system. A screening of “The Shadow of Lucasville,” a documentary about the biggest prison uprising in the 20th century that happened in Lucasville, Ohio, in 1993, will then be followed by a unique opportunity to speak directly with Imam Siddique Abdullah Hasan, the Sunni Muslim leader of the Lucasville riot, who will be calling in live from Ohio State Penitentiary’s Death Row.

Other Event Highlights

  • On Wednesday, Feb. 23, the Williams Honors College is presenting Anthony White, a Cleveland native and author of the book “1 Second 7 Days,” who will speak about his own childhood experiences and topics ranging from mental health, overcoming the challenges of finding oneself and knowing one’s identity, and being African American in today’s society.
  • On Feb. 23 & 24, the National Museum of Psychology will offer a specialized tour for visitors to explore the history of race in psychology through the artifacts and exhibits it has in its permanent collection.
  • UA’s Center for Conflict Management is sponsoring a screening and Q&A with djones, a filmmaker from Georgia. On Feb. 24, djones will present two short films and engage with an audience about how thinking critically about society’s relationships with violence, crime and punishment requires significant challenges to mainstream narratives, especially with regards to race.
  • The EX[L] Center is sponsoring Gum-Dip Theater’s “Brokers without Borders,” an original play performed by a multi-ethnic ensemble of former refugees that demonstrates their experience of navigating an entirely new world and the celebrations of finding success in a globalized community.
  • Medical illustrations are addressed in “Redefining Art: A Way to Bringing Healthcare Equity” on Feb. 24. Chidiebere Ibe is a Nigerian medical student who taught himself to master medical illustration because he did not see persons of color depicted in medical texts. He is an artist, a future doctor and a black man seeking representation in his field and knows he must make the change he wants to see.

Community Partners

The work of RTR goes beyond the borders of UA’s campus. Intentional and enthusiastic community partners of RTR are organizations doing work to further conversations about race. These partners include Akron Urban League, Downtown Akron Partnership, Summit County Historical Society’s John Brown Institute, Summit Art Space and The Nightlight Cinema. Visit the Rethinking Race Community Partners webpage for details and updates on their events.

Media contact: Cristine Boyd, 330-972-6476 or