Kenan Expands Community Ethics Collaborations

KIE is broadening work with the city through a new community-based research effort that brings together diverse perspectives from residents, local leaders, and the university to develop, share, and apply innovative solutions to historically intractable problems. This work is part of a larger priority to strengthen partnerships with the local community and mobilize community wisdom with university knowledge to address real world issues.  Two new Community Ethics collaborations the Kenan Institute for Ethics is funding are “Faith-based Organizing, Congregational  Development, and Coalition Politics” and “Farmworker Traveling Bus Art Project and Community Events.”  These projects reinforce Kenan’s commitments to our work in and with Durham, relying on a more integrated presence within the community while moving beyond the confines of Duke.

Professor Luke Bretherton (Divinity, Kenan Senior Fellow) will be collaborating with Durham CAN (Congregations, Associations, and Neighborhoods) alongside Duke University partners (Kenan, POLIS, Divinity) to bring together diverse congregations, neighborhood associations, and local institutions to capture and archive the wisdom of community organizers who have many years of successful experience enabling grassroots democratic politics and religious and non-religious public life.  Through a series of workshops, interviews, and interdisciplinary public scholarship, this project will provide the opportunity for existing key leaders and organizers in Durham CAN, along with faculty and students at Duke, to learn from and be challenged by very experienced community organizing practitioners.  Bretherton adds, “It is a platitude to say we live in a time of polarization when building coalitions across lines of class, race, and religion is becoming more difficult while at the same time, the need for coalition building as part of revitalizing grassroots democratic politics is as important now as ever, if not more so.”

In another initiative, Professor Charlie Thompson (Kenan Senior Fellow, Cultural Anthropology, Documentary Studies), will coordinate a team of farmworker advocates to bring to Durham a continually-evolving, interactive bus sculpture.  This project will bring representatives of AMEXCAN and their bus sculpture to the Duke/Durham area in March for public events surrounding this exhibit.   Thompson says, “This farmworker bus sculpture, created by Sally Jacobs, using a vehicle often repurposed for hauling farm laborers, turns a school bus into an informative and inspiring work of art, all just in time for Farmworker Awareness Week, which my class will be promoting with Student Action with Farmworkers, a national organization headquartered at Duke.   Getting on the bus will be an act of learning and solidarity for all who participate.”  Through this collaboration, local farmworker families will be given a voice through interactive storytelling while Thompson’s team of advocates and students will organize and host a shared meal with farmworkers and other local labor groups.  This project will also include documenting the entire experience to produce an original creative response to the exhibit to be displayed on campus.   “I’m honored to be part of Kenan’s Duke/Durham collaboration,” says Thompson, “This grant helps unify into a single initiative many of my deepest commitments that have have been part of my teaching and community engagement at Duke — food justice, farmworkers, storytelling, and art.

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Ada Gregory, Associate Director of the Kenan Institute for Ethics says, “We’re thrilled to seed these two exciting new partnership projects that are continually being shaped and reshaped by the specific needs and questions raised by community partners and community members themselves.”