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Press Release

Journalist Charles Blow to Deliver Farenthold Endowed Lecture in Peace, Social Justice and Human Rights

September 14, 2020


Lecture to be livestreamed virtually from the Rothko Chapel on Thursday, October 1

Houston, TX – The Rothko Chapel and the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice at the University of Texas today announced that journalist Charles Blow will deliver the 2020 Frances Tarlton “Sissy” Farenthold Endowed Lecture in Peace, Social Justice and Human Rights. Underwritten by the Ford Foundation, his lecture – “Is this really a racial reckoning?” – will be livestreamed virtually from the Rothko Chapel on Thursday, October 1 at 6:00pm CDT. The Rothko Chapel and the Rapoport Center have partnered since 2015 to present this annual lecture, named in honor of Sissy Farenthold, who has dedicated her life to exposing and responding to injustices as a lawyer, legislator, and global leader in human rights. The lecture series aims to inspire audiences to think and act creatively in response to the greatest human rights challenges of the 21st century.

In his role as an op-ed columnist at the New York Times, Charles Blow has become a household name for his tackling of hot button issues such as social justice, racial equality, presidential politics, police violence, gun control, and the Black Lives Matter movement. Mr. Blow is also a CNN commentator, a former Presidential Visiting Professor at Yale, and author of the 2014 New York Times best-selling memoir Fire Shut Up in My Bones. In his lecture, he will discuss the historic protests to demand racial justice following the killing of George Floyd, which some began to call a long-overdue, honest dealing with racial justice and equality. As months have passed and progress has stalled, Blow will pose the fundamental question: “Is this really a racial reckoning?” A Q&A session moderated by ABC13’s news anchor Melanie Lawson will follow the lecture.

The Rothko Chapel has operated at the vanguard of social justice since its founding in 1971; it has hosted symposia for scholars, activists, and religious leaders from around the globe to engage in discussions on issues affecting human rights, and to work towards a culture of mutual understanding. The Rapoport Center serves as a focal point for critical, interdisciplinary analysis and practice of human rights and social justice, and aims to promote the economic and political enfranchisement of marginalized individuals and groups both locally and globally.

The 2020 lecture is presented at a significant moment in United States history, with a global pandemic, historic nationwide protests, and an upcoming presidential election all seeming to serve as referenda on the soul of the nation. This lecture by Charles Blow kicks off a series of programs that the Chapel will present over the next year to explore how civil and human rights have historically been understood, applied, and denied in this country, which rights are particularly at-risk today, and how we can become more effective advocates and activists as we work to undo injustice and create a more equitable society.

“During this unprecedented moment in our nation’s history, it is more important than ever to ask ourselves what actions we are taking within our communities that will contribute to a more equitable society,” said David Leslie, Executive Director of the Rothko Chapel. “We are honored to welcome Charles Blow to our lecture series and are confident that his leadership will help guide us in our continuous efforts to tackle these questions.” For the Rapoport Center, the lecture continues ongoing inquiry into the logics and history of racialized inequality. “Blow brings necessary attention to the white privilege and power that must be dismantled to address anti-Black structural racism,” said Karen Engle and Neville Hoad, co-directors of the Center.

About Rothko Chapel
The Rothko Chapel is a contemplative space that interconnects art, spirituality and compassionate action through a broad array of public programs and community initiatives. It is open to the public every day of the year at no charge. Founded by Houston philanthropists Dominique and John de Menil, the Chapel was dedicated in 1971 as an interfaith, nonsectarian sanctuary, and invites visitors from around the world to experience the power and sanctity of Mark Rothko’s monumental paintings. The Rothko Chapel is an independent non-profit organization whose mission is to create opportunities for spiritual growth and dialogue that illuminate our shared humanity and inspire action leading to a world in which all are treated with dignity and respect.

About the Rapoport Center
The Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice was created in 2004, thanks to a generous gift by the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Foundation. Its mission is to serve as a focal point for critical, interdisciplinary analysis and practice of human rights and social justice. The Center’s motto is “Partners for Change at the Intersection of Academics and Advocacy,” representing its unique position as an academic center that not only works across disciplines, but also collaborates with communities outside the academy with the aim of producing innovative and enduring change in the lives of marginalized individuals and groups.

Media Contact:
Elizabeth Kubany

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