Mascots, Myths, Monuments and Memory
Saturday, March 3, 2018
Oprah Winfrey Theater | National Museum of African American History and Culture
“A number of strands in contemporary politics turn on the need, sometimes the demand, for recognition. The need, it can be argued, is one of the driving forces behind nationalist movements in politics. Nonrecognition or misrecognition can inflict harm, can be a form of oppression, imprisoning someone in a false, distorted, and reduced mode of being.” – Charles Taylor, “The Politics of Recognition”
In light of events such as the demonstrations at Charlottesville, Virginia, the controversy over the name of the Washington, D.C., football team and the debate over the fate of Confederate statues, the Smithsonian has organized a national symposium that explores the politics of memory and the conflicting interpretations of America’s past. The program, “ Mascots, Myths, Monuments and Memory, ” will examine the history and contested memory of racialized mascots, Civil War monuments and other public memorials.
Hosted by the National Museum of the American Indian and the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the symposium will bring together scholars, activists, elected officials, artists and other stakeholders. Speakers, including Ibram X. Kendi, Bree Newsome and the Honorable Mitchell J. Landrieu, Mayor of New Orleans, will examine the social and psychological impacts on affected communities in the United States and around the world.
Screening: “More Than a Word” trailer
“More Than A Word” analyzes the Washington football team and their use of the derogatory term R*dskins. Using interviews from both those in favor of changing the name and those against, “More Than A Word” presents a deeper analysis of the many issues surrounding the Washington team name.
10:15 - 11:45 a.m.
Contested Symbols in Sports and American Culture
Why were racist mascots selected to represent American sports teams? Who is invested in holding on to them? How are communities recognized or misrecognized historically? Who stands to gain from the misrecognition of others?
- Kevin Gover (Pawnee), Director, National Museum of the American Indian, @SmithsonianNMAI
- Ray Halbritter (Oneida), CEO and Nation Representative for the Oneida Nation Enterprises
- Jennifer Guiliano, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, @JenGuiliano
- Mike Wise, sportswriter, ESPN Undefeated, @MikeWiseguy
Moderator: Damion Thomas, Curator of Sports, National Museum of African American History and Culture, @DamionThomas
1:00 - 1:45 p.m.
Ibram X. Kendi, American University, @DrIbram
Kendi, the author of “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America,” delivers the symposium keynote address as he discusses the call for the removal of symbols that mythologize the defeat of the Confederate South at the conclusion of the Civil War.
2:05 - 3:30 p.m.
The Politics of Memory
Artists and activists discuss the impact of 19th and 20th century racialized symbolism in the 21st century. The conversation will explore a range of responses from removing monuments to systemic racism from view to the renaming of institutions to visually contextualizing the founder of the United States or Confederate War Heroes as the slave-owners they actually were.
- Bree Newsome, American filmmaker, musician, speaker, and activist, @BreeNewsome
- Julian Brave Noisecat (Canim Lake Band Tsq'escen), writer and policy analyst, 350.org, @350
- Andrew Demshuk, assistant professor of history, American University, @AmericanU
Moderator: Lonnae O’Neal, ESPN The Undefeated, @LonnaeONeal
3:45 - 5:15 p.m.
Monuments and Power: Memory vs. History
Panelists will explore questions such as: Who controls history? What is the relationship between memory, power, and identity? What happens when members of society perceive a shift in power as well as challenges to long-held notions of identity? What are the next steps after the removal of historically, culturally insensitive monuments? Who is helped by the renaming of landmarks and institutions? Questions will be posed to academics, mayoral, and community leaders who have presided over communal discussions concerning the removal of monuments.
- Lonnie Bunch, Founding Director, National Museum of African American History and Culture, @nmaahc
- Tom Finkelpearl, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, @NYCulture
- Aaron Bryant, museum curator, Chair of the Special Commission to Review Baltimore’s Confederate Monuments
Moderator: Paul Gardullo, National Museum of African American History and Culture
Watch the Mascots, Myths, Monuments, & Memory Symposium Live on Facebook.com/nmaahc! #ANationsStory