Past Events

A Selection of Past Events Sponsored and Cosponsored by CAST

For more past events, see our annual reports.

two profiles facing each other

Photo Credit: Neighbors in Memory

Neighbors in Memory: The Entangled Legacy of the Armenian Genocide

October 29, 2023

Mandel G03, 2 p. m.

Join us for this two-hour event - a unique look at one of the most consequential human rights violations in history.  A special combination of an academic perspective and journalistic storytelling, this event will explore the history of and ongoing debates about the Armenian genocide of 1915.

street demonstrations

Labor Day march of New England's Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists union done with the Greater Boston Labor Council

Actors on Strike

October 16, 2023

Usdan International Lounge, 4-5:30 p.m.

Join an informal conversation with the leadership of New England's Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists union - President Andrea Lyman and Vice President Tom Kemp, and Brandeis faculty experts Tom Doherty (Film Studies) and Dan Breen (Legal Studies) to learn more about what led to the strike that has brought film and tv production across the country to a standstill, what striking actors and writers aim to achieve, and why this matters far beyond Hollywood.

children looking at military weapons

A family with children inspects the fragments of downed missiles, which the Russian army fires at Ukraine, Kyiv (July 4, 2023)

Photo Credit: Maxym Marusenko/NurPhoto via AP

The Clear Blue Skies: Diaries from Ukraine

October 1, 2023

Spingold Theater, 2 p.m.

"The Clear Blue Skies," a play based on messages sent by Ukrainian youth to their acting teacher in the days and weeks following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, will premiere at Brandeis. Come learn how these young people experienced the chaos and catastrophe of those early days of the war. 

Jaime Black wearing a red dress in the forest in the snow
Jaime Black | between us

November 9, 2021- February 25, 2022
Kniznick Gallery

Curated by CAST Chair Dr. Toni Shapiro-Phim

  • Artist, curator, and event participant bios
  • Associated events:

    Waltham Public Library Book Club Meeting | Polly O. Walker
    Monday, January 24, 2022
    7 - 8:30 pm (Zoom)

    Members of the Waltham and Brandeis communities are invited to join a Waltham Public Library book club conversation. Dr. Polly O. Walker (of Cherokee descent) will facilitate a discussion of renowned novelist Louise Erdrich’s The Round House. A story of a family on an Ojibwa reservation in North Dakota, it chronicles the aftermath of the rape of a Native American woman. Both the crime and the pursuit of justice are world-shattering.

    This event will be held online, via Zoom. To join, click on this link on the day of the event. Then, click the “Zoom link” listed for Monday, January 24th. Registration is not required.

    Sponsored by the Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation minor; the Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts; and Waltham Public Library’s Initiating Inspiration Book Club.

    This event is part of Jaime Black's between us, curated by CAST Chair Dr. Toni Shapiro-Phim.

    For further information about the Library Book Clubs, please e-mail Laura at Copies of the titles are usually available through the library’s subscription to Hoopla and/or Overdrive/Libby without a wait. Members of the MInuteman Library Network can also pick up hard copies of the titles at the book club display table on the first floor of the Waltham Public Library. Anyone who needs assistance placing a hold on a title for a library book club can contact Laura for further assistance. Copies might also be available at local bookstores, such as More Than Words

About the exhibition:

Water. Stone. Twigs. Bodies. The color red. These elements appear throughout Jaime Black’s exhibition, between us, honoring the interdependence between humankind and the natural and spiritual worlds. The artist, of mixed Anishinaabe and Finnish descent, focuses special attention on Indigenous women’s potency in all these realms as nurturers, as trust-builders, as knowledge-holders and knowledge-givers.

The photographs, video and poems on display tell stories alongside empty red dresses, which hang facing the four cardinal directions, dresses that, with their absence of bodies, allude to the thousands of Indigenous women and girls who have been missing or murdered across North America. Elsewhere on campus, clusters of such dresses will appear, a re-creation of Black’s renowned REDress Project, reminding us of the gendered and racialized violence experienced by Indigenous peoples in Canada and the United States. These dresses, along with Black's other work in the exhibition, ask us to consider ways to confront such injustice, while celebrating beauty, and reverencing women as the weavers of, as Black says, “the threads that bind and sustain us.”

Brandeis University is located on territories originally inhabited and stewarded by Indigenous Nipmuc, Pawtucket, and Massachusett peoples.

Kniznick Gallery exhibitions are made possible thanks to the generous support of Rosalie & Jim Shane, the Marcus Arts Endowment and the Rosenberg Arts Endowment. between us is sponsored by the Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation Program (CAST) and the Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts. Additional gratitude is offered to Dr. Elaine Reuben ’63, for her generous support, and to the Departments of Fine Arts and of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies for their co-sponsorship.

flyer with flowers drawn on, green background, and the event details
Social Deis-tance DIY #2

April 23, 2021

CAST UDRs Anna Cass '21 and Aviva Davis '21 invited the campus community to a socially distanced gathering where they could decorate clipboards, design their own pins, and enjoy the winning CAST sticker contest design(s) by Jennifer and Lauren Podhorzer.

woman dancing
A Conversation and Participatory Movement Experience with Dr. Ananya Chatterjea

April 21, 2021

Ananya Chatterjea is founder of Ananya Dance Theatre, a company of cultural activists and BIPOC women, womxn, and femme artists who believe in the transformative power of dance. Read more about Ananya Chatterjea

This event was cosponsored by Asian American and Pacific Islander Studies and CAST.

event flyer with a photo of Richard Nixon pointing to a map of Cambodia
Words of Survivors: Cambodian Genocide

December 7, 2020

This recording of the event features the culminating project of students in the Introduction to Creativity, the Arts and Social Transformation class at Brandeis University in the Fall semester of 2020. The course is an interdisciplinary exploration of theory and practice at the nexus of creative expression and social change. Students engaged with multiple forms of creative expression – music, theatre, visual arts, and so on -- often highlighting the potential of deep, compassionate listening as a fulcrum around which, or from which, momentum for constructive change can flourish.

One of the guest artists that semester was award-winning playwright Catherine (Cat) Filloux. Years ago, she sat at the side of nine individuals in the New York City borough of the Bronx, and listened to them, deeply and with great compassion. Seven of them were refugees from Cambodia, survivors of a genocide that wiped out between a quarter and a third of that country’s entire population in just under four years. More than 100,000 Cambodian refugees have resettled in the United States. (The U.S. resettled so many, in part because of the U.S. government’s involvement in and responsibility for some events in Cambodia in the late 20th century.) Cat Filloux interviewed five Cambodian women and two Cambodian men -- Buddhist monks – in the 1990s. They shared with her their lived experience of U.S. bombardment, of revolution and genocide, of hunger, loss and displacement, all having spent time in refugee camps in Thailand before arriving in North America. Two Catholic nuns – who were not Cambodian – also spoke with Cat back then, reflecting on their experience interacting with the recently-arrived Cambodians in their neighborhood.

All these years later, students took the raw transcripts of those interviews – the students, too, “listened” -- and fashioned the transcripts into monologues, which they read for the public (via Zoom). They didn’t perform them – this isn’t a play. They read actual and adapted words of individuals grappling with agonizing memories and unknown futures, words they edited for clarity of presentation. There’s grief, humor, violence, worry, brilliance and poetry in these stories that reference the Khmer Rouge (sometimes called Pol Pot in the monologues, after the leader of that genocidal regime). We invite the audience to take them in, and attend to any emotions that might arise for yourself.

The students also designed the music, publicity and backgrounds and shaped the format of the conversation with the audience that followed the reading. (The conversation was not recorded.) They did all this as a way of taking a constructive creative step in the midst of current migration debates and the suffering of people searching for safety and dignity in situations of violence, honoring individual experiences of ingenuity, chance, terror and fortitude, and offering a platform upon which to start conversations about U.S. government policies and actions and their consequences, often across the globe. They went beyond the headlines – of history and current events – and encourage viewers to do the same. Indeed, our neighbors, the people in front of us at the supermarket or playing with their children next to us as we play with ours in a park, all have stories. Our students encourage you to ask questions of them, especially across difference, and to listen, deeply and with compassion. Who knows what stories they hold? Who knows what possibilities, what strengths and skills and vision might emerge, through that telling, and that listening?

poster that says Your Healing is Killing Me - Virginia Grise - with a drawing of a female boxer
Your Healing is Killing Me - Virginia Grise

November 18, 2020

Part performance, part lecture, part writing workshop—this event was unprocessed and gluten and guilt free. Listen to this audio segment that was offered prior to the event. 

Cosponsored by the Department of Romance Studies, The Latin American and Latino Studies Program, and CAST.


Open Session of Tom King's ENG 170b: Contemporary Theatre with Virginia Grise

Sponsored by the Department of English and cosponsored by CAST.

About the artist: From panzas to prisons, from street theatre to large-scale multimedia performances, from princess to chafa – Virginia Grise writes plays that are set in bars without windows, barrio rooftops, and lesbian bedrooms. Her play blu was the winner of the 2010 Yale Drama Series Award and was recently published by Yale University Press. Her other published work includes The Panza Monologues co-written with Irma Mayorga (University of Texas Press) and an edited volume of Zapatista communiqués titled Conversations with Don Durito (Autonomedia Press). She is a recipient of the Whiting Writer’s Award, the Princess Grace Award in directing and the Jerome Fellowship. Virginia holds an MFA in Writing for Performance from the California Institute of the Arts and is the Mellon Foundation Playwright in Residence at Cara Mía Theatre in Dallas, Texas.

Text reads: Virtual Voices of Comedy feat Boston Comedy Chicks, November 14th, 7-9pm, Join us after the show for a Q&A with the comedians! Follow @DeisCAST for the Zoom Link and to find out if you are one of our weighted blanket raffle winners! This event will have closed captioning… and below are photos and the names of of Xazmin Garza, Kelly MacFarland, Wendy Liebman, and Tooky Kavanagh. They are surrounded by blobs of color.
Voices of Comedy

November 14, 2020

CAST UDRs Anna Cass '21 and Aviva Davis '21 hosted Voices of Comedy, an event designed to amplify the voices of comedians who are often overlooked. This event's comedians came from the Boston Comedy Chicks: Wendy Liebman, Xazmin Garza, Tooky Kavanagh, and Kelly MacFarland. After their sets, the UDRs moderated a Q&A with the comedians.

Voices of Comedy was held the week following the presidential election so that audience members might recover from our nation’s upsetting and often depressing political climate. They say laughter is the best medicine, so we put that to the test.

This event was sponsored by CAST and cosponsored by Brandeis Pluralism Alliance, Creative Writing, English Department, Hiatt, Latin American and Latino Studies, Library, Politics Department, Student Activities, and WBRS.

Filloux headshot

Photo Credit: Vandy Rattana

Open session of ENG 170b, Contemporary Theatre: Between Rights and the Posthuman with award-winning playwright Catherine Filloux

October 19, 2020

This event welcomed the Brandeis community to join students in ENG 170b, Contemporary Theatre as they discussed the role of theatre in witnessing human rights violations and advocating for change.

How do theatre makers enter into community, bring attention to suffering, and work toward rehumanization?

Catherine Filloux is a theater artist who has been writing and speaking about human rights and social justice for over twenty years. Recipient of the 2019 Barry Lopez Visiting Writer in Ethics and Community Fellowship; the 2017 Otto René Castillo Award for Political Theatre; and the 2015 Planet Activist Award, Filloux’s plays have been produced around the U.S. and internationally. She is a co-founder of Theatre Without Borders; and the first Art & Peacebuilding Scholar at the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies at the University of San Diego; as well as an alumna of New Dramatists.

Filloux’s plays include White Savior, premiere at Pygmalion Productions in Salt Lake City, Utah in October 2020; her web drama about deportation and children, “turning your body into a compass” livestreamed by CultureHub; “whatdoesfreemean?” produced in New York City by Nora’s Playhouse; and Kidnap Road, premiere at La MaMa, and also presented by Anna Deavere Smith at NYU’s Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue.

In this open session, we explored Filloux's play Lemkin’s House, a stunning examination of our longing to recognize, witness, and end genocide, and our failure to do so, and her collaborative play The Breach: A Story about the Drowning of New Orleans, created with Tarell Alvin McCraney and Joe Sutton.

About Lemkin’s House: In 1944, Raphael Lemkin invented the word “genocide” and spent his life fighting to have it recognized as an international crime. But when the U.S. finally signs his law – decades after his death – the Rwandan and Bosnian genocides erupt and torment Lemkin in the afterlife. He must weigh his accomplishments against his guilt for deserting his family. If genocide cannot be stopped, how will Lemkin rest?

Sponsored by CAST; The Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences; and The Department of English.

Read about Filloux's residency with CAST 150b in fall 2020.

flyer that repeats the language in the first paragraph of the text below
Social Deis-tance DIY

September 11, 2020

The CAST Undergraduate Departmental Representatives hosted a socially distanced notebook collage and button-making event outside on campus. Participants used provided buttons and notebooks to express visions for the future. To inspire these expressions, CAST affiliated faculty offered quotes from materials or concepts taught in their CAST electives. A sample of quotes that were shared:

“Even in Kyoto / Hearing the cukoo’s cry / I long for Kyoto” -Basho

“The words we use are who we are.” -Anna Deavere Smith

"[W]e must make just and liberated futures irresistible." -Adrienne Maree Brown, referencing an interview with Toni Cade Bambara

Read what The Justice said about the event.

student standing in front of class reading
Creative Quarantining: A CAST and Creative Writing Event for all Brandeis Students

August 21, 2020

Location: Zoom

Many of us were quarantining in our dorms and off-campus apartments at the time of this event, spending inordinate amounts of time in novel confines. The programs in Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation (CAST) and Creative Writing (CW) brought isolated campus community members together through shared creative expression. 

Getting started: To prepare for the event, we created some writing prompts that, like quarantine, helped transform limits into inspiration.

Students were permitted to write a poem of no more than 25 lines, a journal entry of no more than one page, a 2-minute play (about 1-1.5 double-spaced pages), or a piece of flash-fiction (about 250-500 words).  No topic was off-limits. 

This student peer-centered event was open to all Brandeis students.

May 1, 2020


Time: 3:00 - 6:00 pm
Via Zoom

CAST minors will present on their final capstone projects as part of Create@Brandeis: Living Room Fest, May 1-3, Sponsored by the Arts Engagement team of the Division of Creative Arts, Brandeis University.

cast event zoom

Anna Cass
Title: Inspired by Voices of Comedy
Description: Anna will perform a short standup comedy set inspired by her CAST capstone: “Voices of Comedy”, a two-day comedy event featuring performances by women in the Boston comedy scene and a workshop.
Emily Eidler
Title: The Cultures of Us
Description: Emily will guide participants through a part of a lesson she planned for first graders exploring culture. She will show a picture book and lead an art project. Bring a piece of paper and some colored pencils, crayons, or markers. 

Haia R’nana Bchiri 
Title: “Comfort: Food”
Description: Haia will read selections from her anthology-in-progress of recipes and poems from her family, collected and composed as she worked on her thesis on mother-daughter relationships and then as the world shifted and family gatherings and traditions were put on hold. She will post some recipes in advance so that you can enjoy them at home during the virtual festival. See more on Facebook.

Hangil Ryu

Title: “Be Kind; Have Fun”
Description: Hangil will present a project showcasing stories that show that kindness still spreads, even during the time of coronavirus.

Rasheed Peters

Title: At the Heart of it All
Description: This project consists of a short video (musical piece-highlight reel-slideshow-monologue hybrid) and an open reflection (rambling) of Rasheed’s work as a storyteller and the elements that inspire and form it.
Time: 15 minutes (probably 10 tbh)
Zoë Rose
Title: Zoë Rose Spills Her Guts
Description: “Zoë Rose Spills Her Guts” is a one-woman show about exploring identity.
And Quinn Weiner, Chatroom host.

Broadsides to Brandeis: An Evening of Artistic Response

February 24, 2020

Time: 6:30 - 8:00 pm
Location: Abraham Shapiro Academic Complex (ASAC) Atrium 

Join us for the opening of the CAST and Creative Writing exhibition space outside the Creativity Lab on the top floor of the Abraham Shapiro Academic Complex.

Co-hosted by the CAST and Creative Writing UDRs, "Broadsides to Brandeis" celebrates our new permanent installation of the public art of Broadsided, a press founded by Elizabeth Bradfield, co-director of the Creative Writing Program. Broadsided Press selects and commissions work from poets and visual artists and makes their work available on the streets of communities. It brings words together with the energy of original visual art, publishing monthly collaborations on the website as pdfs that are then downloaded, printed, and posted by "Vectors."

The opening will feature an evening of poetry reading. Attendees are invited to come 15 minutes early to choose a poem to read, or bring a poem of their own. 

The event celebrates creativity and social justice efforts by writers and visual artists, and presents opportunities for attendees to display their own visual art in the new gallery space, learn about CAST and Creative Writing from their UDRs, and check out the CAST/CW Creativity Lab.

Free and open to the public.
Documentary Screening: Las Madres de Berks

November 20, 2019

Time: 3:30 – 4:50 pm

Michelle Angela Ortiz will screen her 30-minute documentary, Las Madres de Berks, a film that shares the testimonials of four Central American mothers detained for two years with their children at The Berks County Residential Center, a family prison in Pennsylvania. It also features the artworks that Ortiz created based on the Berks mothers' stories, and is part of Ortiz' Familias Separadas public art project that presents the stories of families affected by detention and deportation in Pennsylvania. The screening will be followed by a conversation with the artist.

This event is sponsored by the Minor in Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation (CAST) and cosponsored by the Fine Arts and English departments. 

Las Madres de Berks

Familias Separadas/Stories of Families Affected by Detention

November 19, 2019

Time: 3:00 - 4:30 pm 
Location: Alumni Lounge, Usdan

Visual artist, muralist, community arts educator and immigrant rights activist Michelle Angela Ortiz will introduce the Brandeis community to her Familias Separadas  project  -- a series of public art installations in Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, about the horrific impact of family separations and detention. 

This event is sponsored by the Minor in Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation (CAST) and cosponsored by the Fine Arts and English departments. 


Tuesday, November 19

Time: 5:00 – 6:30 pm
Location: ASAC Atrium

Michelle Ortiz

Artists of Social Change logo
Performance: “Eddie’s Perejil”

November 7, 2019

Professor Edward Paulino, CUNY/John Jay College, transforms his scholarship on the 1937 massacre of Haitians on the Haitian/Dominican border into a theatrical production exploring borders, race, sovereignty, oral histories, archives and the theater.

John Paul Lederach with book
2019 Joseph B. and Toby Gittler Prize: John Paul Lederach 

October 30, 2019

Time: 4:30 - 6:00 pm
Location: Rapaporte Treasure Hall, Goldfarb Library

 Join the Brandeis community in welcoming the 2019 Joseph B. and Toby Gittler Prize recipient, John Paul Lederach. 

Professor Emeritus of International Peacebuilding at the University of Notre Dame, Lederach has worked extensively as a practitioner in conciliation processes. Lederach is widely known for the development of culturally appropriate approaches to conflict transformation and the design and implementation of integrative and strategic approaches to peacebuilding. The Joseph B. and Toby Gittler Prize was created by the late Professor Joseph B. Gittler to recognize outstanding and lasting scholarly contributions to racial, ethnic and/or religious relations.

Poetry as a Space for Activists to Recharge and Replenish

October 28, 2019

Discussion and Writing Group led by Elizabeth Bradfield

Time: 6:00 pm
Location: Abraham Shapiro Academic Complex (ASAC) Atrium

"the process of paying attention to poetry, listening to a voice that seems to come from nowhere in the midst of turbulent inner seas, is very much like sorting through the storms of protracted conflicts." - John Paul Lederach

The internationally recognized peace builder John Paul Lederach will come to campus to receive the Joseph B. and Toby Gittler Prize. Lederach talks quite a bit about how, for him, poetry -- haiku in particular -- has been a place to recharge and reflect for his more political work. In this hour-long discussion preceding Lederach's visit, we will read excerpts from his book, The Moral Imagination, take time to write together, and share our experiences of how the focus of writing poems can refill the wells that often get drained through activist work of all kinds.

We will think about "writing as respite" -- as a place where activists can recharge and reflect and consider things through a different lens.

Elizabeth Bradfield, a professor of creative writing at Brandeis, will lead the discussion and writing exercises.

Sophiline Arts Ensemble Performing Phka Sla; Choreography by Sophiline Cheam Shapiro

Sophiline Arts Ensemble Performing Phka Sla; Choreography by Sophiline Cheam Shapiro

Photo Credit: Nobuyuki Arai

Dance in the Aftermath of Mass Violence 

October 22, 2019

Time: 2:30 - 4:30 pm; Reception to follow 
Location: Shapiro Campus Center Theater

This two-part lecture/demonstration features Cambodia-based award-winning choreographers. Sophiline Cheam Shapiro, part of the first generation to learn and revive Cambodian classical dance following the genocide in her country, will discuss choreography in late-20th and early-21st century Cambodia, and the relationship between legacies of violence and contemporary expressive culture. She'll focus on a dance-drama she developed as a reparations project of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia - the specially-constituted court trying Khmer Rouge leaders for crimes against humanity and genocide. Prumsodun Ok - a former student and protégé of Sophiline's, born to Khmer refugees in the U.S. - will share his story of countering enduring forces of conflict through the founding of the first all-male gay classical dance company in Cambodia. 

This event is sponsored by the Minor in Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation (CAST) at Brandeis University and cosponsored by the Master's Program in Conflict Resolution and Coexistence and the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Free and open to all! 

Prumsodun Ok/Photo by Nobuyuki AraiPrumsodun Ok
Image Credit: Nobuyuki Arai

Play: This Place/Displaced
Thursday May 2 – Saturday May 4, 2019
Times: 7:30 pm May 2, 8:00 pm May 3-4
Location: Merrick Theatre, Spingold

Artists’ Theater of Boston (ATB) has partnered with Boston-area residents who have experienced eviction and displacement to create a new work exploring gentrification, loss of community and local memory, and the fight to have a home. This Place/Displaced weaves together stories of advocacy, change, and resistance by eight playwrights including Kirsten Greenidge (Obie winning Milk Like Sugar), David Valdes Greenwood (IRNE nominated Bully Dance), and MJ Halberstadt (Eliot Norton Award winning Losers, or The Launch Prize), with original music by composer Max Kennedy. Directed by Josh Glenn-Kayden, Artistic Associate and Casting Director at Company One Theatre, This Place/Displaced is a timely reflection of Boston’s need to prioritize equity and justice for all its residents. Following its August run at the Charlestown Working Theater, ATB brings the production to Brandeis, accompanied by conversations with anti-displacement activists, playwrights, and company members, and opportunities to advocate for just communities. 

Sponsored by the Minor in Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation (CAST) with financial support from The Max and Sunny Howard Memorial Foundation (through the support of Naomi Sinnreich, P’13).

Applied Theatre and Its Tensions: Community-Based Devising with British Muslim Youth
Asif Majid
Monday, April 8, 1:00 pm
Location: Mandel Center for the Humanities Reading Room (303)
Drawing on the author’s theatre-making fieldwork with British Muslim youth in Manchester and excerpts from the radio play that resulted from it, this presentation will consider the tensions that applied theatre practice must negotiate as it engages various communities.
She’s Acting Up, Again: Creating Activist Performances with Teenage Girls
Dana Edell
Monday, April 15, 1:00 pm
Location: Mandel Center for the Humanities Reading Room (303)
Dana Edell will share selected challenges, strategies, and ethics of creating anti-racist, feminist theater with girls of color and will present a theoretical, ethical and personal analysis of how girls use theater for social, political, and personal transformation
Critical Artist-Scholar Collaborations in the Aftermath of War and Displacement
Toni Shapiro-Phim
Wednesday, April 17, 1:00 pm
Location: Mandel Center for the Humanities Reading Room (303)
Cultural anthropologist Toni Shapiro-Phim discusses artists as public intellectuals, and scholars as creative contributors, in efforts to counter the shattering of self and community that results from mass violence.

April 2, 2019

12:30-2:30 pm

Slosberg Recital Hall, Brandeis University

Newly Released: Let’s Make a Better World: Stories and Songs by Jane Sapp

songbook launchAn open session of AMST/MUS 39B - Protest Through Song: Music that Shaped America

Featured speakers:

  • Daniel Kryder, Louis Stulberg Chair in Law and Politics, Brandeis University
  • Maria Madison, Associate Dean for Equity, Inclusion and Diversity, Heller School for Social Policy and Management
  • Sandra Nicolucci, Associate Professor Emerta in Music Education, Boston University

Co-sponsored by the Minor in Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformat, Brandeis University Library, the Office of the Dean of  Arts and Sciences, the Heller Office of the Dean and Sankofa Events, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, the Division of Creative Arts, the Department of African and African American Studies, and the Department of Politics.


Let’s Make a Better World: Stories and Songs by Jane Sapp is a new resource for music educators, chorus leaders, activists and cultural workers,. In it, the nationally admired cultural worker, musician, educator, and activist, Jane Wilburn Sapp, shares her approach to social transformation and its roots in African-American musical traditions. In the book, Jane tells the story of her childhood, nurtured by the Black community while living in the brutal world of the Jim Crow South. She describes her participation in the Black Power movement and introduces us to her mentors. She shares 25 songs she has written with young people and sung with people of all ages, and tells the stories behind each song and offers suggestions or teachers and chorus leaders. The book also includes scores, and all of the songs can be heard on podcasts where Jane’s approach to cultural work is illuminated through conversations with activists, cultural workers, and music educators.

Purchase the book now!



Poetry Reading & Choreopoem Performance – Ashley-Rose and Melissa Alexis

April 8, 2019

5:00-6:00 pm reading and performance;
6:00 pm food and workshop
Location: Brandeis University, Mandel Center for the Humanities Atrium

An award-winning Haitian-American educator, organizer, and poet from Boston, Ashley-Rose’s poetry has been featured in The Anthology of Liberation Poetry, alongside the work of Tony Hoagland and Black Arts Movement co-founder Askia M. Touré. She gave one of the first TEDex talks in Boston based on her poem “The Other Side of Ruggles.”As a storyteller, she’s also been featured on PBS’s Stories from the Stage. Ashley-Rose was honored by Mayor Marty Walsh with the OneIn3 Impact Award as one of the most influential people under age 35 in Boston. In 2016 she was awarded Boston’s Extraordinary Woman Award for her work with arts, education, and community development in Boston.

A dance artist/educator, certified yoga teacher, and writer, Melissa Alexis (M.F.A. Dance, Sarah Lawrence College) founded Cultural Fabric & The Healing Arts Institute to foster mindfulness through movement in service of healing justice and inclusion. A first-generation Trinidadian-American, her movement research is rooted in exploring the intersection of African, Eastern, and Western perspectives, as well as psychology, social justice, sustainability, and mindfulness studies. 

Please bring something to write with, paper, and a writing surface (a book or notebook).

Sponsored by the Minor in Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation (CAST) and cosponsored by the English department.

January 25, 2019

Presentation: "From University to Pluriversity: The Fair-Trade/Decolonial Education Model"


3:30 - 5:00 pm
Shapiro Campus Center Multipurpose Room, Brandeis University

Come listen to Daniel Bryan, executive director of The Pachaysana Institute and resident director of Rehearsing Change: Empowering Locally, Educating Globally. Bryan will be discussing the work of Rehearsing Change, which responds to the need for more participatory dialogue - such as theatre and performance - to engage with education about fair trade and decolonization. 

These events are sponsored by the Minor in Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation (CAST). Co-sponsored by the Minor in Peace, Conflict, and Coexistence Studies.


Flawless: More than a Single Story

November 16, 2018

6:00 - 8:30 pm
Location: Intercultural Center (ICC), Swig Lounge

Come eat, listen, and mingle at our annual coffeehouse event in celebration of this year's issue of Ebony Axis. This community journal features the creative work of self-identifying black women in the Brandeis community. Make sure you come to hear from this year's contributors and special guests Poetic Justice, Brandeis' Slam Poetry Team, eat great food from Flames Restaurant, and receive a copy of the journal (while supplies last!).

Sponsored by Brandeis Pluralism Alliance, CAST Minor, AAS Department, and PARC.


Listen. Share. Create. Connect.

November 8, 2018

6:30 - 8:00 pm

Location: ICC Lounge

You're invited to join in an evening of creative response and resilient community building in the face of our traumatically divisive political moment. 

Refreshments will be served.

This event is sponsored by the UDRs for the minor in Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation (CAST).

She Begat This
20 Years of the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill: A Conversation with Joan Morgan

November 7, 2018

Time: 3:30 pm

Location: Rapaporte Treasure Hall, Goldfarb Library

Joan Morgan is an award-winning cultural critic, feminist author and pioneering hip-hop journalist. Morgan coined the term "hip-hop feminism" in 1999, when she published the groundbreaking book, When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost: A Hip-Hop Feminist Breaks it Down, which is taught at universities globally. Regarded internationally as an expert on the topics of hip-hop, race and gender, Morgan has made numerous television and radio appearances. She has been a Visiting Scholar at The New School, Vanderbilt, Duke and Stanford and is currently a doctoral candidate at New York University. Her most recent book is She Begat This: 20 Years of the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.

This event is sponosored by the Department of African and African American Studies and cosponsored by the Dean of Students and the minor in Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation (CAST).

Liberian Chorus for Change

Photo Credit: Toni Shapiro-Phim

Because of the War

November 6, 2018

2:00 - 3:30pm

Location: Wasserman Cinematheque, Sachar, Brandeis University

The minor in Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation (CAST) welcomes the community to a screening of the award-winning film Because of the War, by Toni Shapiro-Phim, produced in conjunction with the Philadelphia Folklore Project.

In West Africa and North America, four Liberian women use their music to address injustice and inspire action for social change. By telling the stories of Fatu Gayflor, Marie Nyenabo, Zaye Tete, and Tokay Tomah, the Philadelphia Folklore Project aims to link Liberians of all generations and the general public with some of the most renowned traditional Liberian singers and dancers, in order to deepen understandings of the active , constructive roles artists can take in moments of crisis in the lives of families and communities. Gayflor, Nyenabo, Tete, and Tomah formed The Liberian Women's Chorus for Change in 2013 to dedicate themselves to addressing issues of Liberian immigrant women through the performance of traditional and newly-composed songs.

The screening will be followed by a Q&A with the filmmaker.

This is an open session of CAST 150b, Introduction to Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation.

James Anderson

James Anderson

Climate & The Human Consequences of Irreversible Change

October 29, 2018


Location: Schwartz Auditorium, Brandeis University

Join Harvard Professor and distinguished climate scientist James Anderson for an overview of what we know about climate change today and what this means for human life on planet earth.

Pizza will be served. This lecture is open to all.

Read more about Professor Anderson and his work.

This event is sponsored by the Mandel Humanities Working Group on Climate Change as a Threat to Human Civilization and Life as We Know It and the Environmental Studies Program (ENVS), and cosponsored by Faculty Against the Climate Threat (FACT), Brandeis Climate Justice (BCJ), Brandeis Peace, Conflict, and Coexistence Studies Program (PAX), the Department of Psychology, Sustainable Brandeis, and the minor in Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation (CAST), among others.

Book Presentation: La Batea

October 19, 2018

2:30 pm
Location: Schwartz #103, Brandeis University
Free and open to the public
with Elizabeth Emma Ferry & Stephen Ferry

la batea bookA brother-and-sister team, Stephen and Elizabeth Ferry have produced La Batea, a book exploring the varied lives of small-scale gold miners in Colombia - a group generally thought of as criminals, polluters or abject near-slaves. La Batea shows the many histories and contexts of small-scale gold mining that includes violence and exploitation but also long-lived, self-determining anchored communities. Many of the miners we document have been in conflict with transnational gold mining companies that seek to remove them to make room for open-pit projects. The graininess of Stephen’s film, along with the material and construction of the book, work to create a marked sense of texture. In their writing, Elizabeth and Stephen explore different observational genres of documentation, ethnography and poetry. With this emphasis on tactile experience and careful attention, La Batea bends the traditional genres of documentary photography and anthropological writing.

Sponsored by the Anthropology Department, the Latin American and Latin Studies Program, and Creativity, Arts, and Social Transformation Program.

La Batea

The Future of the Arts, Culture and Conflict Transformation Field

A panel discussion with leading thinkers from Argentina, Australia, Cyprus, Israel, Kenya, Pakistan

flyer Tuesday, September 4
4:00 - 6:00 pm
International Lounge, Usdan

The Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation (CAST) community welcomes students and faculty to a new semester. All are welcome to a discussion and reception featuring international artists and peace builders who are visiting Brandeis as part of the IMPACT initiative. This open session of CAST 150b features leading figures in the global Arts, Culture and Conflict Transformation field, including Babu Ayindo (Kenya); Ellada Evangelou (Cyprus); Mary Ann Hunter (Australia); Shahid Nadeem (Pakistan); Carmen Olaechea (Argentina); and Lee Perlman (Israel). Roundtable discussion followed by reception.

Theory, practice and innovation in community-oriented theatre and performance in the Eastern Mediterranean

July 2-20, 2018
In partnership with the University of Cyprus, Nicosia, Cyprus

The Summer School is international and designed for undergraduate students from the Humanities, Social Sciences and other disciplines, as well as practicing artists and community workers, interested in attaining knowledge and tools in theatre and performance, as they relate to community. It is hosted by the Department of English Studies of the University of Cyprus in Nicosia (Cyprus), in partnership with Brandeis University's Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts, USA.

There are three pillars to the program: morning lectures, covering theory and framing the discussion of theatre in (post)conflict communities, afternoon workshops, providing hands-on experience of three methodologies practiced by groups and individuals in the Cyprus, the Eastern Mediterranean and globally, and the Incubation process, through which the TPCC participants will creatively engage with the material and people of the summer school in order to produce their own creative work. This work will be showcased and TPCC participants can use it in their portfolios. There are also parallel activities, such as discussions, book presentations and play attendance.

Pre-registration deadline: March 25, 2018
Registration and payment: April 15, 2018

Visit the program website to learn more and register.

Summer School

April 20, 2018

Festival 2018Shapiro Campus Center (SCC), Multi-Purpose Room

The interdisciplinary minor in Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation (CAST) will hold its annual Mini-Festival of the Arts and Social Justice on Friday, April 20, during the Brandeis University Festival of the Arts. Our mini-festival will be an interdisciplinary array of art and social change, featuring collaborations from CAST students working in the creative arts, humanities, and social sciences.

The Festival of the Creative Arts at Brandeis was founded in 1952 by the American composer, conductor, and Brandeis faculty member Leonard Bernstein. This year, from April 15th to the 28th, Brandeis will celebrate the centennial birthday of the legendary artist, showcasing music, dance, theater, film and artwork by Brandeis students, staff, and alumni.

The festival is dedicated to the belief that "the art of an era is a reflection of the society in which it is produced, and through creative endeavors the thoughts and expression which characterize each generation are revealed and transformed.” In this spirit, CAST will host installations and performances focusing on art and social change.

Please join us on Friday afternoon, April 20th, in the Shapiro Campus Center (SCC), MultiPurpose Room as we question, reflect on, and envision the meaning of social transformation through creativity and art. We think you will be thrilled with the thoughtfulness and the creativity of students’ performances and exhibitions.

Melissa Tuckey

Melissa Tuckey

Information & Inspiration: Why Art and Science Need Each Other

March 28, 2018

5:30 pm, Pearlman Hall

Without photographs, drawings, or well-written description, science can be difficult for a general audience to fully understand. Artists and writers can't explore the world's particularities without understanding them. Information and inspiration feed one another. Join us for a panel discussion of how art, science, and activism can converge. Panelists include a whale biologist trained in scientific illustration, the editor of an anthology of Eco-Justice poems, a naturalist who lectures on expedition ships, and a citizen science advocate.

Melissa Tuckey is a co-founder of Split This Rock, where she currently serves as eco-justice poetry project coordinator, and editor of Ghost Fishing: An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology (U. Georgia, 2018).

Scott Landry is the director of Marine Animal Entanglement Response at the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, MA. He has worked as a marine biologist and scientific illustrator over the last two decades, concentrating on the conservation of whales and sea turtles.

Elizabeth Bradfield, a poet and Associate Professor in the Brandeis Creative Writing program, works as a naturalist and marine educator on expedition ships around the world. Her poems and essays engaging science have been published in The New Yorker, Orion Magazine, and elsewhere.

Colleen Hitchcock is an Assistant Professor of Ecology in the Biology and Environmental Studies program and an active participant and promoter of a diversity of citizen science research. She is member of the 2018 City Nature Challenge: Boston Area steering committee which seeks to document and understand urban biodiversity through active collaboration between the public, educators, and scientists.

This event is co-sponsored by the Creative Writing Program and the Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation (CAST) Program.

Announcing: Opening of the CAST Resource Room

March 12, 2018

5:30 pm

The International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life
Abraham Shapiro Academic Complex (ASAC), Room 327

We are excited to announce the opening of our new CAST Creativity Lab, in conjunction with the 20th anniversary celebration of the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life, where it’s located. The first space of its kind for CAST and Creative Writing students on campus, the Lab will be a place to meet and collaborate on projects or work individually. Designed and implemented by CAST senior Marcelo Brociner, the Creativity Lab is filled with comfortable chairs, a computer and desk, and a bookshelf of CAST-related books, movies, and other materials for use and inspiration. It is a welcoming, calming space that offers students a place other than the library to get work done and tap into their creativity. Helping design the space, and serving as mentors, have been Elizabeth Bradfield, Associate Professor of the Practice of English and Co-Director of the Creative Writing Program, and Kristin Parker, Deputy Director of the Rose Art Museum. Both are also members of the CAST Advisory Committee.

The CAST Creativity Lab is located in Room 327 in the Ethics Center, which is on the third floor of the Abraham Shapiro Academic Complex (ASAC, the building across from the Heller School and next to the Mandel Center for the Humanities).


March 6, 2018

Kenyan conflict transformation expert, theater artist and traditional storyteller

From March 6 – March 12, Dr. Babu Ayindo engaged members of the Brandeis community in activities and conversations on questions surround decolonization and arts-based peacebuilding. In addition to sessions with members of the CAST advisory committee and students, he will lead sessions open to the Brandeis community. 

A generous gift from the Max and Sunny Howard Memorial Fund supported Ayindo's residency at Brandeis.


Kinan Azmeh and Kevork Mourad: Home Within

November 4, 2017

7:00 - 9:00 pm
Slosberg Music Center

Kevork Mourad will perform live painting during Home Within, an ongoing reflection on the Syrian revolution and its aftermath, with the acclaimed Syrian jazz clarinetist Kinan Azmeh. The performance by two socially committed master artists will be preceded by a talk by Boston Globe music critic Jeremy Eichler. CAST students who do not have a free pass as creative arts students can arrange for the $5 student price to be waived. 

Dorit Rabinyan: Book launch and signing with Iranian-Israeli author

November 1, 2017

5:00 - 6:30 pm
Rapaporte Treasure Hall

Join a riveting evening with Dorit Rabinyan, one of Israel’s most acclaimed young novelists. The author will discuss and sign copies of her international bestseller, the award-winning All the Rivers, the controversial lover story between an Israeli writer and a Palestinian painter.

Ebony Axis Launch

October 23, 2017

7:00 – 9:00 pm 

Ebony Axis is a poetry zine for Black women founded by LaShawn Simmons '18, published with help from a CAST grant. It features poetry, narratives, and illustrations that showcase the experiences and challenges of Black women, and uplift themes of self-love and joy. This year marks the third installment of Ebony Axis, and is also special because Kimberlé Crenshaw – the acclaimed scholar who coined the term “intersectionality” – will be in attendance. She will be at Brandeis and at the Ebony Axis launch as part of her Gittler Prize residency. 

Alicia Ostriker: Poetry Discussion and Reading

October 17, 2017

Alicia Suskin Ostriker, a renowned poet and critic, will be at Brandeis this month for two highly anticipated events. Ostriker has published 15 volumes of poetry, including The Old Woman, The Tulip and the Dog, the National Jewish Book Award winner The Book of Seventy, and The Book of Life: Selected Jewish Poems 1979-2011. She has received the Paterson Prize, the San Francisco State Poetry Award, the William Carlos Williams Award, and has twice been a finalist for the National Book Award, among other honors. As a critic, Ostriker is the author of the pathbreaking Stealing the Language; the Emergence of Women's Poetry in America, and other books on poetry and on the Bible.

Discussion: Writing the Holocaust
Tuesday, October 17, 5:00 pm
Pearlman Lounge

Alicia Ostriker will share some of her poems stemming from an engagement with the Holocaust (one example below). An open discussion led by Dawn Skorczewski, who is teaching "Writing the Holocaust" this semester, will follow.

Thursday, October 19, 5:30 pm
Berlin Chapel

Alicia Ostriker will read from her work. This event is co-sponsored by Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation; Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; and Hadassah-Brandeis Institute.

Open Screening of "Third Ward TX"

September 19, 2017

2:00 - 4:50 pm
A public screening of the film "Third Ward TX" will be held as part of Prof. Cohen's CAST 150b intro course. Third Ward is a historically black neighborhood in Texas where Project Row Houses is breathing new life into an inner-city community by converting the neighborhood's row houses to represent its strong legacy of history and culture. 

Meet the Minors

September 12, 2017

5:30 - 7:30 pm
ASAC Atrium

The Meet the Minors event will feature artwork and presentations by current CAST minors, and students and faculty will be available to talk about the department and enrolling in the introductory course. Anyone interested in the intersection of art and social change should attend! 

Germaine Ingram
Artists Mining/Lifting Community Identity and Capacity with Germain Ingram

March 29, 2017

A presentation on Olanrewaju Tejuoso’s residency at the Village of Arts & Humanities, a community-based arts organization in Philadelphia. This internationally recognized Nigerian artist, focuses on themes of remembrance, memorialization and transformation. Germain Ingram discussed the intentions of the project, the opportunities and challenges of this arts-driven community engagement, the short-term and potential impacts of the project, and the lessons learned.

Sponsored by the Mellon Foundation, The Rose Art Museum, SJSP and the Dean of Students

Imagining Freedom poster
Imagining Freedom | Creating Justice

Salon Series
A series of three salons were presented at The Rose Art Museum hosted by LaShawn Simmons ’18 and Artist-in-Residence Jane Wilburn Sapp

"Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired"
Thursday, October 13, 2016
The first event in the series focused on visual art. Attendees shared their impressions of the works on view in the Lee Gallery: Based on the discussion, spoken word pieces and a song were created with Jane Sapp. 

"Creating Art, Seeking Justice"
Tuesday, October 18, 2016
Part I: Lurias, Hassenfeld
Part II: Rose Art Museum
Attendees shared their art works and received feedback from other artists in our community.

"Staging Social Change"
Tuesday, November 12016
Rose Art Museum
The final event engaged participants through interactive performances of monologues and songs!
Sponsored by the Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts and the minor in Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation, the International Center for Ethics, Justice, and Public Life, the Rose Art Museum, the Division of Creative Arts, and the Arts|Race|Activism Series with the support of the Brandeis Arts Council
Brandeis Cast of Colors poster
Shout the Big Dreams | Leonard Bernstein Festival of the Creative Arts

April 14, 2017

Performing and visual arts by Brandeis community and special guests

It is the artists of the world, the feelers and the thinkers, who will ultimately save us; who can articulate, educate, defy, insist, sing and shout the big dreams.” -- Leonard Bernstein

  • Brandeis Cast of Colors posterA Cast of Colors! Visualizing and Performing Oral Histories about Encounters with Differences featuring Marcelo Brociner '19, LaShawnSimmons '19, Bronte Velez '16 and others. Shapiro Campus Center
  • A Womyn Conjured, one-womyn show by Queen White '16
  • Brandeis Early Music Ensemble, Bethlehem Chapel
Now as Then poster
Now as Then: We Who Believe in Freedom Cannot Rest

September 28, 2015

Events focusing creative attention on the struggle for voting rights

Explored were the songs and stories which surrounded the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1963, and what actions we can take in the face of the 2013 Supreme Court decision that annulled the key provision of the Voting Rights Act and "put a dagger into the heart" of the law.

Workshop with Jane Wilburn Sapp
Workshop with Jane Wilburn Sapp, cultural worker, musician, organizer and educator. Adaptation and composition of songs and spoken word poetry that advocates for voting rights today

Songs and Stories of the Struggle for Voting Rights
October 1, 2015
Sloberg 212
Understanding the struggle for voting rights in song and story presented by Jane Wilburn Sapp, with comments from Dan Kryder, Politics Department

Selma ’65
Selma '65October 8, 2015
Shapiro Campus Center Theater
Performance by Marietta Hedges of Catherine Filloux’s Selma ’65, a one-woman play retelling the complex story of Viola Liuzzo, a white voting rights activist who was killed in Selma in 1965, and the FBI informant who was with the Klan the night she was assassinated.


Recognizing that 2016 was the first presidential election in fifty years when all or part of 16 states will not be required to seek federal approval for changes in voter regulations we asked:

  • What can we learn from the songs and the stories of those who participated in struggle for voting rights in Selma in 1965?
  • What strategies are being used to suppress Americans, particularly African Americans, from voting in 2015 and 2016?
  • What can we at Brandeis do to reclaim and strengthen voting rights today?
A Mini-Festival of Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation

April 24, 2015

Presented by the program in Peacebuilding and the Arts and the minor in Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation. A Program of the Leonard Bernstein Festival of the Creative Arts "Find Your Light."  

The annual Festival of the Creative Arts showcases nationally acclaimed performers and visual artists together with music, dance, theater, film and artwork by more than 300 Brandeis students and alumni.

Acting Together on the World Stage: "Asking Toward the Light"
The screening of the award-winning, Brandeis-produced, hour-long documentary, Acting Together on the World Stage: Performance and the Creative Transformation of Conflict, which features courageous performance from conflict regions around the world, was followed by conversation with film-maker Allison Lund, Center associate Jane Wilburn Sapp and Associate Professor of English and Women’s and Gender Studies Thomas King and joined by students in the CAST minor.

Opening Eyes, Ears and Hearts: Oral Histories about Encounters with Differences from students in CAST 150b
Students from the Introduction to Creativity, the Arts and Social Transformation shared scenes, poems, songs and images based on oral history interviews with people different from themselves.

Brandeis Improve Festival
"Improvisation and Social Transformation" Brandeis Improv Festival launch

March 27, 2015

An exploration of the many ways improvisation enlivens the arts and sciences; inspires individual and group creativity; and encourages cultural innovation.   The Festivals opening discussion was on “Improvisation and Social Transformation” panelists included Tom Hall (author of “Free Improvisation: A Practical Guide”) and Cindy Cohen (director of the program in Peace building and the Arts).