A Panel Discussion with:

Thomas Allen Harris
photographer and documentarian

Shanti Thakur
filmmaker and Professor of Film and Media at Hunter College

Michael Thomas
writer and Professor of English at Hunter College

moderated by Mark Slobin
ethnomusicologist and Winslow-Kaplan Professor of Music at Wesleyan University

Followed by the Politics, Policy and the Arts
Student Contest Awards Ceremony
with awards presented by:

Anne Pasternak
Shelby White and Leon Levy Director, The Brooklyn Museum

and presentations by contest winners:

Clara Auguste (Performance)

Alexander Dwinell (Visual Art)

Elizabeth Garrett (Digital Media)

Kezia Roberts (Writing)

A reception will follow.

Researchers have recently confirmed what many populations across the globe have long known, that trauma is expressed genetically from generation to generation. The works of each of the panelists speaks to this transgenerational trauma, and the role of memory and tradition in cultures riven by war, displacement, and diaspora.

Following the distinguished panel, an announcement of the winners of the student competitions in Visual Arts, Performance Arts, Film and Media, and Writing will be announced.  The four winners have been chosen from 21 entries.  Arts Across the Curriculum and Roosevelt House express their gratitude to Anne Pasternak (MA ’93), President and Artistic Director of the Brooklyn Museum, who will be on hand to award $500 to each winner.
About the series

Each semester, the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College spotlights a prominent public issue with events running through the term. This semester, the focus falls on Politics, Policy and the Arts, with a series of special events co-sponsored by Hunter’s Arts Across the Curriculum program. It has brought together artists, scholars and performers from across the spectrum of disciplines as well as policymakers and public officials. The events have included lectures, performances, faculty and student seminars, and a student art competition.


Thomas Allen Harris  

Thomas Allen Harris is the founder and President Chimpanzee Productions, a company dedicated to producing unique audio-visual experiences that illuminate the Human Condition and the search for identity, family, and spirituality. Chimpanzee’s innovative and award-winning films have received critical acclaim at international film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Toronto, FESPACO, Outfest, and Cape Town; have been broadcast on PBS, the Sundance Channel, ARTE, CBC, Swedish broadcasting Network and New Zealand Television; and exhibited at the Gwangju Biennale in South Korea, the Melbourne Arts Festival and MoMA.

Mr. Harris’ newly released film, Through A Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People, won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Documentary (Theatrical), the Fund for Santa Barbara 2014 Social Justice Award and a Best Diasporic Documentary Award from the Africa Movie Academy Awards in NigeriaCalled “Wise and Passionate” by the New York Times and “Extraordinary” by Time Magazine, Through A Lens Darkly is presently opening in theaters across the country, accompanied by its transmedia community engagement project Digital Diaspora Family Reunion (, an interactive forum that combines film, photography, social media and oral histories in a live touring event. Since 2009, Digital Diaspora has held 18 Roadshows in 9-cities, and received in excess of 10 million media impressions.

Harris is a recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including a Tribeca Film Institute’s Nelson Mandela Award, and United States Artist, Guggenheim, and Rockefeller Fellowships. A graduate of Harvard College with a degree in Biology, Mr. Harris has taught as an Associate Professor of Media Arts at the University of California San Diego and a Visiting Artist at the International Center of Photography. A published photographer, curator, and writer, Mr. Harris lectures widely on the use of media as a tool for social change.

Shanti Thakur  

Shanti Thakur’s visually poetic films have screened at over 200 film festivals and museums around the world. Screenings include: Cannes Film Festival, Hamptons International Film Festival, Montreal World Film Festival, Margaret Mead Film Festival, Flaherty Seminars and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Thakur’s films explore how we perceive each other and ourselves through the lens of history, memory and identity. Working easily between documentary, experimental and narrative modes, her films Red Tulips, A Story About Forgetting, Sky People, Kairos, Seven Hours to Burn, Two Forms, Circles and Domino have won 25 awards. Her films have broadcast on the Sundance Channel and PBS, as well as in 22 countries.

Be it short or feature length, she works as director, writer, editor and producer. Thakur has received support from the National Film Board of Canada, the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts, the Independent Film Project (IFP) in New York and the Pew Fellowship in the Arts. Thakur holds an MFA in Film and Media Arts from Temple University, a B.A. in Communications from Concordia University in Montreal and a B.A. in Psychology from Ottawa University. She is Associate Professor in Film and Media Studies at Hunter College, City University of New York.

Michael Thomas  

Michael Thomas is the author of Man Gone Down (Grove/Atlantic, 2007), a beautifully written, insightful, and devastating first novel that follows a 35-year-old African American man, broke and estranged from his white wife and three children, who has four days to keep his family afloat and reclaim his stake in the American Dream. Donna Seaman wrote, “Thomas has written a rhapsodic and piercing post-9/11 lament over aggression, greed, and racism, and a ravishing blues for the soul’s unending loneliness.” Man Gone Down received a stellar review on the cover of the New York Times Book Review: “Thomas knows how the odds are stacked in America. He knows the unlikelihood of successful black fatherhood. He knows that things are set up to keep the Other poor and the poor in their place. More than anything else, he knows how little but also—fortunately—how much it can take to bring a man down.”

The book was selected as one of the New York Times Book Review’s top five novels of the year, as well as a New York Times Notable Book, and a San Francisco Chronicle Notable Book. In June 2009, Thomas was awarded the prestigious IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, one of the most lucrative literary prizes in the world—his novel was selected from 145 books nominated by libraries around the globe, of which four were from the US. “The IMPAC Dublin award is often described as ‘the largest and most international’ literary prize in the world after the Nobel” (NY Times).

Forthcoming, Thomas will publish a memoir, The Broken King, about four generations of men in his family. An eloquent and charismatic speaker, Thomas easily addresses a wide variety of topics.

Thomas received his BA from Hunter College and his MFA from Warren Wilson College. Currently, he is a full-time professor of English at Hunter College. Born and raised in Boston, he lives in Brooklyn with his wife and children.

Mark Slobin  

Mark Slobin is the Winslow-Kaplan Professor of Music at Wesleyan University and the author or editor of many books, on Afghanistan and Central Asia, eastern European Jewish music, film music, and ethnomusicology theory, two of which have received the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award: “Fiddler on the Move: Exploring the Klezmer World” and “Tenement Songs: Popular Music of the Jewish Immigrants.” He has been President of the Society for Ethnomusicology and the Society for Asian Music.

Currently he is writing on music in his hometown, Detroit, in the 1940s-60s.

Diaspora (Politics, Policy and the Arts), and Student Awards Ceremony | Posted on October 8th, 2015 | Human Rights Program Events, Public Policy Program Events, Public Programs, Student Events