Who We Be: Race and Image at the Twilight of the Obama Era

Jeff Chang and Justin Simien
In conversation with journalist Erin Aubry Kaplan
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Episode Summary

In the waning days of the Obama era, artists and young people are shaping our discussion about race through activism, social media, film, and art. Author Jeff Chang’s newest book Who We Be: The Colorization of America remixes comic strips and contemporary art, campus protests, and corporate marketing campaigns for a fresh look at America’s racial divide. Director Justin Simien's Dear White People film taps into the unease of "post-racial" hype among college students of color. Join Chang and Simien in a talk about how art and writing are speaking to this moment and what happens next when the Obamas leave, and the White House goes back to being a white house.

Participant(s) Bio

Jeff Chang has written extensively on culture, politics, the arts, and music. He is the author of the award-winning Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation, and co-founder of ColorLines, the SoleSides hip-hop crew, and CultureStr/ke. His latest book is Who We Be: The Colorization of America. Named by the Utne Reader as one of the "50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World," Chang has been a USA Ford Fellow in Literature and currently serves as the executive director of the Institute for Diversity in the Arts at Stanford University.

Justin Simien, one of Variety magazine’s "10 Directors to Watch", is the writer and director of the critically acclaimed film Dear White People, which won the Special Jury Award for "Breakthrough Talent" at Sundance 2014. In addition to producing and directing online companion pieces for The Help, Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and Middle of Nowhere campaigns, he has also written, produced and directed for Take Part TV and the Streamy-nominated web series INST MSGS.

Erin Aubry Kaplan is a journalist, columnist, author, blogger, and teacher who has been writing about black issues since 1992. She has been a staff writer for the LA Weekly and an opinion columnist for the L.A. Times, the first African American to hold the position. She has contributed to many publications and nonfiction anthologies. Her collection of essays and reportage, Black Talk, Blue Thoughts and Walking the Color Line: Dispatches From a Black Journalista, was published in 2011 by Northeastern University Press. Her second book, about the cultural legacy of Barack Obama, is due out in 2015.