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Diversity Lecture Series

The Diversity Lecture Series is intended to give insight and understanding of multicultural issues to the West Michigan Community. It is designed to help audiences consider perspectives other than their own, encouraging civil debate, broadening the basis for critical thought and promoting cultural understanding.

February 21, 2018


"Defending America in the Age of Mass Incarceration"


Dawn Porter


Dawn Porter: Criminal justice system reformer, attorney, and "Gideon’s Army" filmmaker


Dawn Porter is the founder of Trilogy Films as well as the director and producer of Spies of Mississippi and Gideon’s Army, the latter of which was nominated for both a Spirit and Emmy Award and won the Best Editing Award for a U.S. Documentary at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. The film also received numerous criminal justice awards, including the American Bar Association’s 2014 Silver Gavel Award. 


Porter’s most recent work includes Rise: The Promise of My Brother’s Keeper, a film chronicling President Obama’s work helping young men of color achieve success. Prior to becoming a filmmaker, Porter was the director of news standards and practices at ABC News and vice president of standards and practices at A&E Networks.


A graduate of Swarthmore College and the Georgetown University Law Center, Porter initially pursued a career in law, serving as a practicing attorney at the law firm of Baker & Hostetler for five years before finding her calling as a filmmaker.




March 14, 2018


"Fighting Islamophobia, Bigotry, and What Have You with Comedy"


NegNegin Farsadin Farsad: Author, social justice comedian, director of "The Muslims are Coming!"


Negin Farsad is a writer, director, and stand-up comedian whose work blends social justice with comedy. With a dual Masters degree in African-American Studies and Public Policy from Columbia University’s School of International & Public Affairs, she once worked as a policy advisor for the city of New York but left for a career in the arts.


A TED Senior Fellow, author of How to Make White People Laugh, and one of the few Iranian-American Muslim female comedian/filmmakers, Farsad uses humor to defuse tensions on issues of race, religion, and immigration. In her award-wining feature film, The Muslims Are Coming!, Farsad took a group of Muslim-American comedians across America to perform, connect with local people, and counteract Islamophobia through humor.


Her work includes hosting the Fake the Nation podcast, writing and directing films such as 3rd Street Blackout and Nerdcore Rising, and winning the first ever YouTube Visionary Award for her work combating Muslim stereotypes.

Diversity Lecture Series