text graphic: Our Own Story, Own Your Story


This spring semester 2020, the arts and culture programming at Michigan State University confronts the urgent questions of racial prejudice, implicit bias, inequality, human and social justice, mass incarceration, and citizenship by bringing together internationally renowned artists, composers, writers, poets, and filmmakers. From April 5 to 10, nine events will boldly take up a broad range of storytelling practices to encourage compassionate thinking, generate awareness of our most pressing social issues, and serve as inspiring catalysts for civic action. All these events are open to the public.

We welcome you to come and listen to award-winning singers, musicians, filmmakers, poets, and artists and hear the stories of our time. We hope that listening to these stories will help you find your own.

photo of young man with Chicago hat on, he is pulling a grey hood up

John Lucas and Claudia Rankine: Situations Exhibition

Visual Art

The Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University is hosting the entire series of Situations videos collaboratively produced by documentary filmmaker John Lucas and National Book Critics Circle award-winning poet and Macarthur genius Claudia Rankine. The videos combine still and moving images from archival, televised, and surveilled sources with voice-overs by Rankine that address both explicit acts of racism and insidious racist aggressions that are built into institutional structures and everyday life. This is the first time the entire series of Situations videos appear in a solo exhibition.

February 8 – May 31
Tuesday – Sunday, 12–7 PM
Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum

A intricate, textured, and colorful physical collage of thread, beads, and rosaries

Luis Sahagun: Exhibition

Visual Art

New works by Luis Sahagun, 2019-2020 Artist in Residence in the College of Arts & Letters’ Critical Race Studies Residency program, will be on display at the MSU Union Art Gallery March 28-May 8, with an opening reception on Saturday, March 28, from 6 to 8 p.m. Sahagun’s drawings, sculptures, paintings, and performances confront the palpable inescapability of race and transforms art into an act of reclamation. As a previously undocumented immigrant and former laborer who immigrated to the United States with his family from Mexico at the age of 3, Sahagun’s work focuses on the importance of Latinx cultures and contributions in order to combat anti-immigration and anti-Latinx national rhetoric.  

March 28 – May 8
Monday – Thursday 12–5 PM, Friday 12–7 PM, Saturday 10 AM–2 PM
MSU Union Art Gallery

3D model of a small, angular room

Clear Confinement: ADX Revealed
jackie sumell

Visual Art

This public sculpture by jackie sumell, 2019-2020 Artist in Residence in the College of Arts & Letters’ Critical Race Studies Residency program, will be on view at the W.J. Beal Botanical Garden at Michigan State University from March 30 until September. A public celebration is scheduled for Friday, April 24, from 5 to 7 p.m. sumell is a multidisciplinary artist and prison abolitionist whose work has been exhibited extensively throughout the United States and Europe. Anchored at the intersection of activism, education, and art, sumell explores social sculpture, mindfulness practices, and prison abolition. Her work has positioned her at the forefront of the public campaign to end solitary confinement in the United States.

March 30 – September
MSU’s W.J. Beal Botanical Garden

chorale on stage

Considering Matthew Shepard By Craig Hella Johnson
University Chorale


The University Chorale presents Craig Hella Johnson’s Considering Matthew Shepard, an inspiring musical retelling of the story of a young, gay student from the University of Wyoming who was kidnapped, severely beaten, tied to a fence, and left to die in October 1998. Conducted by David Rayl, this oratorio includes a range of texts by poets Hildegard of Bingen, Lesléa Newman, Michael Dennis Browne, and Rumi as well as passages from Shepard’s personal journal, interviews and writings from his parents, newspaper reports, and additional texts by Johnson and Browne, all woven together to form a powerful and artistic narrative.

Sunday, April 5
7 PM
Fairchild Theatre, MSU Auditorium

Portrait of Reginald Dwayne Betts, man with full black beard wearing a black shirt

Reginald Dwayne Betts
A Reading


Poet and essayist Reginald Dwayne Betts, whose work addresses the impact of mass incarceration on American society, will speak as part of the Residential College in the Arts & Humanities/Center for Poetry Wednesday Night Live/Spring Poetry Festival. Betts is the author of three poetry collections including Felon, winner of the 2020 NAACP Image Award for Poetry and finalist for the upcoming Los Angeles Times Book Prize for poetry. His two previous poetry collections are Bastards of the Reagan Era, winner of the PEN New England Award, and Shahid Reads His Own Palm, winner of the Beatrice Hawley Award. Betts’s memoir, A Question of Freedom, won the 2009 NAACP Image Award for Poetry.

Wednesday, April 8
7 PM
RCAH Theater, Snyder Hall

Portrait of a smiling Ann Hamilton, with short white hair and a navy sleeveless shirt

Ann Hamilton
Artist Lecture

Visual Art

Internationally acclaimed artist Ann Hamilton, known for her large-scale, multimedia installations, public projects, and performance collaborations, will give a public lecture about her art and research as part of the Department of Art, Art History, and Design Guest Lecture Series. A Distinguished University Professor at The Ohio State University, Hamilton’s work explores sensorial experience, history, and language. Her site-responsive process works with common materials to invoke particular places, collective voices, and communities of labor. “Everyone” is a frequent subject of her work, which creates opportunities for people to congregate, meditate, and reflect on their simultaneous experiences as individuals or part of a larger whole.

Wednesday, April 8
7 PM
MSU Union Ballroom

Claudia Rankine in a pink blouse with brightly patterned scarf over it

Claudia Rankine
Signature Lecture


Poet, Essayist, playwright, and editor Claudia Rankine, whose work is critically accredited for bringing national attention to police violence against Black Americans, racial prejudice, historical trauma, implicit bias, and white supremacy, will speak as part of the College of Arts & Letters Signature Lecture Series. Rankine is the acclaimed author of Citizen: An American Lyric, winner of the 2016 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt Book Prize for Poetry, 2015 Forward Prize for Poetry, and 2014 National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry. Her four other collections of poetry include: Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American LyricPLOTThe End of the Alphabet, and Nothing in Nature is Private, which received the Cleveland State Poetry Prize.

Thursday, April 9
7 PM
Kiva, Erickson Hall

Alison Bechdel wearing black pants and a black shirt sitting on the floor

Alison Bechdel
Pop-Up Exhibit

Graphic/Literary Arts

Cartoonist and MacArthur Genius Award recipient Alison Bechdel’s work will be featured in a pop-up exhibit at the MSU Library. Bechdel is famous for her long-running comic strip, Dykes to Watch Out For, and her graphic memoir, Fun Home, which was adapted as a musical and won a Tony Award. She’s also known for the Bechdel Test, a measure of the representation of women in fiction and in films. This pop-up exhibit, which is free and open to all, is part of a series of Friday exhibits in the MSU Libraries Special Collections Seminar Room featuring hands-on displays of rare, unusual, and historical titles.

Friday, April 10
12–2 PM
MSU Main Library

Photo from the movie Cooler Bandits, two men stare off to the left

The Cooler Bandits Screening
By John Lucas


John Lucas’ 2014 film, The Cooler Bandits, will be featured at the Capital City Film Festival, followed by a discussion with Lucas and the people in the film. Awarded best documentary at the 2014 Harlem International Film Festival, The Cooler Bandits is Lucas’ first feature-length documentary film. It follows four friends who struggle to confront their future after 20 years in prison. As teenagers, the friends engaged in a series of robberies for which they received stiff prison sentences of up to 500 years. The documentary encourages viewers to grapple with the inequities of our criminal justice system, lending voice to personal experiences of incarceration and humanizing the staggering statistic of Black men branded “felon” for life.

Friday, April 10


MSU Broad
Residential College in the Arts and Humanities at Michigan State University
Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures Michigan State University
Creative Writing Program Michigan State University
College of Music Michigan State University
Libraries Michigan State University
Department of Art, Art History, and Design Michigan State University
College of Arts & Letters Michigan State University
Department of English Michigan State University
Film Studies Program Michigan State University

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John Lucas and Claudia Rankine's 'Situations' comes to MSU Broad Art Museum

Lucas and Rankine began producing “Situations” in 2008 following the election of former President Barack Obama. The “Situations” videos address the complexities of living in a so-called post-racial U.S. by foregrounding the public and private experiences of Black Americans. They combine still and moving images from archival, televised and surveilled sources, and voice-overs by Rankine to address both explicit acts of racism and the insidious racist aggressions that are built into institutional structures and everyday life.

‘Who Is a Citizen’ Contest to Award Seven $500 Prizes

The Creative Writing and Film Studies programs within the Department of English are holding a literary and video contest with seven $500 prizes to be awarded. Contest participants must submit short prose, poetry, screenwriting, or video works that respond to the question, “Who Is a Citizen?


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