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Whose Freedom, Whose Speech? The Future of Community and Free Speech at University of Maryland

How can universities advance equality and inclusion while protecting free speech? Join students, staff, and faculty via livestream or on-campus at University of Maryland’s Memorial Chapel for a no-holds-barred conversation, with opening remarks from Keith Boykin and audience Q&A.

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. This event is part of a national effort to foster dialogue about free speech and diversity on U.S. college campuses, including events at the University of California, Berkeley and Middlebury College.

Watch the discussion LIVE via livestream below or on-campus at the University of Maryland’s Memorial Chapel. Doors will open at 5:30pm:


Suzanne Nossel, since joining PEN America in 2013, has overseen a doubling of the organization’s staff and budget. She is a leading voice on free expression issues in the United States and globally, writing and being interviewed frequently for national and international media outlets. Her prior career spanned government service and leadership roles in the corporate and nonprofit sectors. She has served as the chief operating officer of Human Rights Watch and as executive director of Amnesty International USA. During the first term of the Obama Administration, Nossel served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations, where she led U.S. engagement in the United Nations and multilateral institutions on human rights and humanitarian issues. During the Clinton Administration, Nossel was Deputy to the U.S. Ambassador for UN Management and Reform at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, where she was the lead negotiator in settling U.S. arrears to the world body. Nossel is a magna cum laude graduate of both Harvard College and Harvard Law School.

Keith Boykin is a CNN political commentator, New York Times best-selling author, journalist, actor, and public speaker. He also teaches at the Institute for Research in African American Studies at Columbia University in New York. Each of Keith’s four books has been nominated for a Lambda Literary Award, including his most recent book, For Colored Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Still Not Enough, which won the American Library Association Stonewall Award for Nonfiction in 2013. Educated at Dartmouth and Harvard, Keith attended law school with President Barack Obama and served in the White House as a special assistant to President Bill Clinton, where he was once the highest ranking openly gay person in the Clinton White House. He also helped organize and participated in the nation’s first ever meeting between a sitting president and leaders of the LGBT community. A founder and first board president of the National Black Justice Coalition, Keith has spoken to audiences, large and small, all across the world. He delivered a landmark speech to 200,000 people at the Millennium March on Washington and he gave a stirring speech about the AIDS epidemic in front of 40,000 people in Chicago’s Soldier Field in July 2006.

Nana Brantuo holds a bachelor’s degree in African Studies from Howard University and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Maryland, College Park (UMD). Currently, she is a doctoral student in Minority and Urban Education at UMD. Her academic interests focus on the mobility, migration, and educational experiences and trajectories of African and African descendant peoples. Her work has taken her to various institutions, including the University of Ghana, Legon, the University of the West Indies, Cavehill and the University of Havana—giving presentations, facilitating workshops, and collaborating with students, educators, policymakers, and researchers. Nana was formerly the policy manager for the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI)—one of the nation’s most highly regarded racial justice and immigrants rights organizations that focuses on African American and Black immigrant community alignment. In her role, she was responsible for engaging elected officials, policy advocates, and other stakeholders in challenging mass criminalization and unjust enforcement of immigration laws as well as rules and regulations that undermine the welfare of immigrants. She has published a number of articles for publications such as The Hill, PBS Newshour, and Black Perspectives. She also writes both personal and political pieces on Medium.

Adam Rothman is a professor in the History Department. Professor Rothman is an expert in the history of the United States from the Revolution to the Civil War, and in the history of slavery and abolition in the Atlantic world. He was a member of Georgetown’s Working Group on Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation, and is the principal curator of the Georgetown Slavery Archive. His most recent book is Beyond Freedom’s Reach: A Kidnapping in the Twilight of Slavery (Harvard University Press, 2015). Beyond Freedom’s Reach has been named a Humanities Book of the Year by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities and it has received the Jefferson Davis Book Award from the American Civil War Museum and the Margaret T. Lane/Virginia F. Saunders Memorial Research Award from the Government Documents Roundtable of the American Library Association.

Nadine Strossen is the John Marshall Harlan II Professor of Law at New York Law School. She has written, taught, and advocated extensively in the areas of constitutional law and civil liberties, including through frequent media interviews. From 1991 through 2008, she served as President of the American Civil Liberties Union, the first woman to head the nation’s largest and oldest civil liberties organization. Her forthcoming book, HATE: Why We Should Resist It With Free Speech, Not Censorship, will be published by Oxford University Press in May 2018. University of Chicago Law Professor Geoffrey Stone, a noted First Amendment expert, wrote in his foreword to the book, “Strossen stakes out a bold and important claim about how best to protect both equality and freedom. . . . No one can address this issue in the foreseeable future without taking on this formidable and compelling analysis. It lays the foundation for all debates on this issue for years to come.”


Cosponsored by University of Maryland Office of Diversity and Inclusion and presented with generous support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Cameron Schrier Foundation.

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