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Lowell Lecture Series dissects social justice topics

Celina Colby
Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO

Every year, the Boston Public Library presents the “Lowell Lecture Series,” a piece of programming established in 1836 to keep the public educated and informed. With this year’s theme, “Speaking Up, Speaking Out: Voices of Social Justice,” the series takes on a whole new life. BPL president David Leonard says the staff felt particularly passionate about the series this year, given the volatile political times. They wanted to create a space for discussion and change. It shows.

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Lowell Lecture Series schedule:

“We have a long history of doing author talks, but this series is a way of engaging on a much deeper, and more personal level,” says Leonard. The series, which runs through May, covers race, immigration, LGBTQ issues, sexual assault and many other prominent political topics. Beyond just a lecture series, it’s become a forum for the sharing of stories and ideas.

On March 29, Terry Tempest Williams, the Provostial Scholar at Dartmouth College, will speak about climate change and protecting our environment. Her work specifically connects people with their environments, underscoring the symbiotic relationship between the two. Her desire for an environment that thrives because of the people in it relates to everything from refugee camps and wildlife preservations to the development of housing and neighborhoods.

“I’m personally looking forward to the Bernice King lecture,” says Leonard. King, the daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., will speak on May 10. She’s a minister, attorney and chief executive officer of The King Center. As racial violence continues and increases in the United States, Dr. King’s messages of civil rights, peace and brotherhood ring more relevant than ever.

Companion programming supplements the lectures throughout the series in other areas of the library. Chicano poet and novelist Luis Rodriguez will speak on May 3. Before the event, the dance company Danza Orgánica will perform a piece based on a new work of Rodriguez’s writing in Defarri Hall.

The Lowell Institute, a charitable trust set up by businessman John Lowell, Jr. in the 19th century, sponsors the Lowell Lecture Series. Even at its establishment almost 200 years ago, the lectures were meant to be free and open to people of all genders and races. All lectures are still free and open to the public on a first-come-first-served basis. They take place in Rabb Hall at the Central BPL location. A complete list and descriptions of programs can be found online.

“This year we’ve been using a more theme-based approach to our programming,” says Leonard. “I hope people respond well to the library being a forum for these issues to be discussed.”