Critical Issues Forum features leaders on immigration, global warming, substance abuse, policing

FLINT, Michigan—The University of Michigan-Flint’s signature speaker series this year includes a special kick-off event featuring acclaimed hip-hop photographer Jonathan Mannion and performance artist Tunde Olaniran. Centered around the theme “Truth,” the 2019-2020 Frances Willson Thompson Critical Issues Forum will feature national thought leaders and celebrated authors.
Each speaker will offer their own unique perspective on truth during their Flint visits:
  • Oct. 9: Jose Antonio Vargas, an undocumented immigrant turned Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. He is author of “Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen.”
  • Nov. 21:  Brittany Packnett, an educator, activist, writer, and social justice leader. She was a member of the Ferguson Commission and President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.
  • March 25: David Sheff, a journalist and author of “Beautiful Boy.” Inspired by his son’s battle with substance abuse, the book (also made into a movie) investigates the disease of addiction.  
  • April 9: Naomi Klein, an award-winning writer who focuses on how global economic policies impact real people and the plant. Her latest book “On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal” argues for urgent action to address climate change.

The kick-off event is set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 19, at the UM-Flint Theatre. It is free and will feature Mannion, whose 25-year career includes more than 300 album covers and his portraits have become iconic images for hip-hop legends including Jay-Z and Aaliyah. He will be joined by Olaniran, a celebrated singer, rapper, and activist who is Flint born and a UM-Flint alum.

“Every year, this series provides opportunities for our campus and our Flint community to be informed, enlightened, and challenged to think differently and broadly about the things that impact our lives,” said Mary Jo Sekelsky, interim vice chancellor for University Advancement at UM-Flint. “This year is no exception, with four speakers to add to a list of forum alumni that include Nobel Prize winners, cabinet members, and cultural icons who have made this series one of our university’s signature events and a highlight of our year.”

Luncheons are from 11:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. in the Northbank Center Ballroom Tickets to attend all four luncheons are $140. Single and two-ticket series also are available. Authors will be available to sign copies of their books immediately following the luncheon. 

Then, each speaker will also appear for a Sullenger Dialogue, which offer the opportunity for more in-depth conversations with the speaker from 1:45 to 2:30 p.m. at the University Center. 

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