Speaker Series at the Institute of Politics

Every year, the IARA Project partners with the Institute of Politics (IOP) to feature renowned speakers at their John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum — Harvard’s premier arena for political speech, discussion, and debate.

During the 2023-2024 academic year, our IOP Speaker Series included four Forums featuring nationally recognized speakers working at the intersection of art, sports, entertainment, and racial justice.

Culture of Change: racial equity in art, entertainment, and sports

Art, entertainment, and sports shape American life. As cultural pillars, they reflect who we are, what we discuss, and which stories we remember. For better or worse, they form how we see each other — and how we see ourselves.

How do art, entertainment, and sports help advance racial justice? How can they be effective platforms for changing public opinion, and if not, what’s standing in the way?

IARA’s 2023-2024 IOP Speaker Series will explore themes including art as a form of protest, the value of entertainment in shaping political discourse, and the historical reckoning of cultural institutions with their legacies of injustice.

A conversation with Ava DuVernay: Resistance, storytelling, and film
April 24, 2024

This event featured a conversation between Oscar-nominated filmmaker and screenwriter Ava DuVernay and Professor Khalil Gibran Muhammad.

Art imitates nation: A conversation with Hank Willis Thomas
April 8, 2024

This panel explored how art, systemic racism and the commodification of Black struggle became intertwined with American culture. This Forum was in the format of a fireside chat between between Hank Willis Thomas, artist behind ‘The Embrace’, and Sarah Elizabeth Lewis, Associate Professor of the Humanities and Associate Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

Leveling the Playing Field: Sports and racial equity
March 19, 2024

This panel explored sports as an arena for patriotism and dissent. Panelists included:

  • Nneka Ogwumike, WNBA Player & President of the WNBA Players’ Association
  • Rob Parker, Sports Journalist
  • Moderated by Ken Miles, Executive Director, Penn Center for Inclusive Innovation & Technology
Gaining Ground: The Fight for Black Land
November 29, 2023

This panel explored Black land loss, its lasting effect on Black communities, and the efforts to reclaim their legacy. Panelists included:

  • Eternal Polk, Director of Gaining Ground
  • P.J. Haynie, Farmer featured in film
  • Johane J. Domersant, Global HR Director at John Deere
  • Moderated by Andrew Kahrl, Professor of History and African American Studies at the University of Virginia

Interested in this panel series?

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A person stands in front of a microphone, facing speakers in the distance on stage at the JFK Jr. Forum.

About the JFK Jr. Forum

The John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum at the Institute of Politics regularly hosts heads of state, leaders in politics, government, business, labor and the media. You can browse their archive of recorded talks, including appearances by Malala Yousafzai, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Caesar Chavez, Ban Ki-moon, and Kofi Annan, and more.