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Dialogue Keynote | Elizabeth Alexander on The Trayvon Generation

November 15, 20226:00 pm

ASL interpretation, CART captioning, and Spanish language translation provided

Cover of The Trayvon Generation. Jacket artwork: Carrie Mae Weems, Blue Black Boy (detail), 1997. Artwork © Carrie Mae Weems. Jacket design: Albert Tang. Jacket © 2022 Hachette Book Group, Inc., courtesy of Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

About the Event

This event is a collaboration between the MCA and the Chicago Humanities Festival.

Join us for a conversation with one of the great literary voices of our time, Elizabeth Alexander.  

In her latest book The Trayvon Generation, Alexander tenderly writes about the young people whose worldview has been indelibly shaped by persistent and visible racially motivated violence and asserts the unresolved problem of the color line at the center of the American experience. Join Alexander for a wide-ranging discussion about the power of art and culture to understand and confront issues of race, class, and injustice, and the ways in which Black artists, scholars, and activists have always revealed the “problem, the hope, and the possibility of America.” Moderated by Romi Crawford, Professor of Visual and Critical Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. 

This Dialogue presentation is organized by Daniel Atkinson, Manager of Learning, Adult Interpretive Programs, and Otez Gary, Curatorial Assistant, in collaboration with the Chicago Humanities Festival. 

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About the Speakers

Portrait of Elizabeth Alexander. Photo © Djeneba Aduayom.

Elizabeth Alexander is a prize-winning and New York Times bestselling author, renowned poet, educator, scholar, and cultural advocate. Among the 15 books she has authored or coauthored, her memoir, The Light of the World, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Biography and the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2015 and her poetry collection American Sublime was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in 2006. Her most recent book, The Trayvon Generation, was released in April 2022. Notably, Dr. Alexander composed and recited “Praise Song for the Day” for President Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration.  Over the course of an esteemed career in education, she has held distinguished professorships at Smith College, Columbia University, and Yale University, where she taught for 15 years and chaired the African American Studies Department. Dr. Alexander is currently president of the Mellon Foundation, the nation’s largest funder in the arts, culture, and humanities.   

Romi Crawford (PhD) is Chair and Professor of Visual and Critical Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She regularly writes on contemporary art and is coauthor of The Wall of Respect: Public Art and Black Liberation in 1960s Chicago (Northwestern University Press, 2017) and editor of Fleeting Monuments for the Wall of Respect (University of Minnesota Press, 2021).  

Related Content

Documentation of the discussion between Elizabeth Alexander and Romi Crawford.

Produced by the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, 2022


Major support for the Dialogue series at the MCA is provided by Julie and Larry Bernstein, the Zell Family Foundation, and Carol Prins and John Hart/The Jessica Fund. Generous support is provided by Lois and Steve Eisen and The Eisen Family Foundation, Caryn and King Harris, and D. Elizabeth Price.

This program was presented in partnership with the Chicago Humanities Festival. The Festival’s Social Justice & Equity Series is generously underwritten by The Allstate Insurance Company. This program has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Democracy demands wisdom. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.