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Announcing “This is Your Democracy”

Clemente Course students reflect on the meaning of civic engagement.

Mass Humanities is honored to announce the publication of This is Your Democracy, a new collection of writings from students in three special Clemente Course classes offered in spring 2021. Featuring essays by 29 writers, the essays focus on the writer’s experiences, and interpretations of civic engagement.

In spring 2021, fifty-five past Clemente participants enrolled in a special course exploring civic engagement. The focus of the course was apt for a nation grappling with political conflicts and a global pandemic; in fact, the first online classes began the day before the January 6 attack on the Capitol. That week, scholars hailing from seventeen Massachusetts communities read excerpts from the memoir of a civil rights legend, Congressman John Lewis. Over five weeks, the classes studied the movements for LGBTQ+ rights, rights for people with disabilities, Indigenous rights, criminal justice reform and other issues. Readings and class discussions required each scholar “to read widely, think critically, and write ethically about different movements” for equality and justice.”

“These essays connect personal histories to a fuller understanding of the history of our nation, the decisions of a family with the conditions in a city,” said Brian Boyles, Mass Humanities Executive Director. “Their embrace of our responsibilities to one another recalls the words of John Lewis, who said, ‘Democracy is not a state. It’s an act.’

Mass Humanities was fortunate to work with Lucia Knoles, Gina Ocasion and Ousmane Power-Greene, longtime members of the Clemente faculty who led three classes that took unique approaches to the subject of civic engagement. Journalist and editor Iris Adler also worked with students on their writings.

Clemente Courses take place in Brockton, Dorchester, Holyoke, New Bedford, Springfield, and Worcester. Mass Humanities continues to seek new opportunities for Clemente scholars across the commonwealth.

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