News & Events & Meetings

Saturday, April 4th, 3:00-4:30pm

Reading: Cara Caddoo & Dina Okamoto

CARA CADDOO is Assistant Professor of American Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington.

DINA G. OKAMOTO is a associate professor of sociology and director of the Center for Research on Race and Ethnicity in Society at Indiana University.


Viewing turn-of-the century African American history through the lens of cinema, Envisioning Freedom examines the forgotten history of early black film exhibition during the era of mass migration and Jim Crow. By embracing the new medium of moving pictures at the turn of the twentieth century, black Americans forged a collective—if fraught—culture of freedom.

In Cara Caddoo’s perspective-changing study, African Americans emerge as pioneers of cinema from the 1890s to the 1920s. Across the South and Midwest, moving pictures presented in churches, lodges, and schools raised money and created shared social experiences for black urban communities. As migrants moved northward, bound for Chicago and New York, cinema moved with them. Along these routes, ministers and reformers, preaching messages of racial uplift, used moving pictures as an enticement to attract followers.

But as it gained popularity, black cinema also became controversial. Facing a losing competition with movie houses, once-supportive ministers denounced the evils of the “colored theater.” Onscreen images sparked arguments over black identity and the meaning of freedom. In 1910, when boxing champion Jack Johnson became the world’s first black movie star, representation in film vaulted to the center of black concerns about racial progress. Black leaders demanded self-representation and an end to cinematic mischaracterizations which, they charged, violated the civil rights of African Americans. In 1915, these ideas both led to the creation of an industry that produced “race films” by and for black audiences and sparked the first mass black protest movement of the twentieth century.


In 2012, the Pew Research Center issued a report that named Asian Americans as the “highest-income, best-educated, and fastest-growing racial group in the United States.” Despite this optimistic conclusion, over thirty Asian American advocacy groups challenged the findings, noting that the term “Asian American” is complicated. It includes a wide range of ethnicities, national origins, and languages, and encompasses groups that differ greatly in their economic and social status. In Redefining Race, sociologist Dina G. Okamoto traces the complex evolution of “Asian American” as a panethnic label and identity, emphasizing how it is a deliberate social achievement negotiated by group members, rather than an organic and inevitable process.

Drawing on original research and a series of interviews, Okamoto investigates how different Asian ethnic groups created this collective identity in the wake of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. Okamoto documents the social forces that encouraged the development of this panethnic identity. The racial segregation of Asians in similar occupations and industries, for example, produced a shared experience of racial discrimination, which led Asians of different national origins to develop shared interests and identities. By constructing a panethnic label and identity, ethnic group members created their own collective histories, and in the process challenged and redefined current notions of race.

The emergence of a panethnic racial identity also depended, somewhat paradoxically, on different groups organizing along distinct ethnic lines to gain recognition and rights from the larger society. According to Okamoto, ethnic organizations provided the foundation necessary to build solidarity within different Asian-origin communities. Leaders and community members who created inclusive narratives and advocated policies that benefited groups beyond their own moved their discrete ethnic organizations toward a panethnic model. For example, a number of ethnic-specific organizations in San Francisco expanded their services and programs to include other ethnic group members after their original constituencies dwindled in size or assimilated. A Laotian organization included refugees from different parts of Asia, a Japanese organization began to advocate for South Asian populations, and a Chinese organization opened its doors to Filipinos and Vietnamese. As Okamoto shows, the process of building ties between ethnic communities while also recognizing ethnic diversity is the hallmark of panethnicity.

Redefining Race is a groundbreaking analysis of the processes through which group boundaries are drawn and contested. In mapping the genesis of a panethnic Asian American identity, Okamoto illustrates the ways in which concepts of race continue to shape how ethnic and immigrant groups view themselves and organize for representation in the public arena.

Saturday, April 11th, 9pm
Rock N Roll Prom: Y2Kaos
At The Bluebird



Friday, April 17th, 7pm

Reading: Dina Elenbogen

Dina Elenbogen, an award-winning poet and prose writer, is author of the poetry collection Apples of the Earth ( Spuyten Duyvil , NY 2006) and the forthcoming memoir, Drawn from Water: An American Poet, an Ethiopian Family, an Israeli Story (BKMK Press, University of Missouri March, 2015.) Her poem "A New Year" is a 2014 recipient of the Jeff Marks Memorial Poetry Prize and appeared in the May issue of December Magazine. Her poem "A Voice" received first place in the 2014 Anna Rosenberg Award contest from Poetica Magazine, and her poem "This Year in Jerusalem" was a finalist. "Countries" was a finalist in the 2014 Raynes Poetry Competition from Jewish Currents and appeared in their forthcoming anthology on unions (May, 2014.)

Her poetry has appeared in numerous anthologies and literary magazines including City of the Big Shoulders (University of Iowa, press, 2012), Brute Neighbors: Urban Nature Poetry, Prose, and Photography ( De Paul Humanities Center, 2011), Beyond Lament (Northwestern University Press), Without a Single Answer: Poems on Contemporary Israel (Judah Magnes Museum Press), Sarah’s Daughters Sing (Ktav Publishers), and magazines such as Prairie Schooner, Calyx, Poet Lore, Rhino, Paterson Literary Review, Voices Israel and numerous others. Her poem “A Jew in Vienna” was the recipient of the Miriam Lindberg Israel Poetry for Peace Prize. She has completed a second poetry collection entitled The Language of Rivers which is in circulation.

She received two fellowships in creative nonfiction from the Illinois Arts council, as well as a grant from the Evanston Arts Council. Excerpts of Drawn from Water have appeared in the anthology Lost on the Map of the World: Jewish-American Women’s Quest for Home in Essays and Memoirs, 1890-present (Peter Lang Publishers) and the Jewish Women’s Literary Annual.

Elenbogen’s essays have appeared in magazines including Tikkun, Chicago Reader, New City, Midstream, the , Quintesstentially New Trier, Sheridan Road Magazine,JUF News, Chicago Jewish News and the anthology Word by Word: The Iowa Writer's Workshop 75 Years (University of Iowa Press, 2011). She has completed an essay collection, Another Country, which is in circulation.

Her fiction has appeared in the anthology, Nice Jewish Girls: Growing Up in America, (Penguin/​​Plume), Hadassah Magazine, Bellevue Literary Review, and the anthology Where We Find Ourselves (SUNY Press, 2009.)

Dina received a MFA in poetry from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, and a BA with honors in English and a certificate in Jewish studies from Indiana University.

She teaches creative writing at the University of Chicago Graham School where she received the 2012 excellence in teaching award and gives poetry and prose readings, leads workshops and lectures at numerous venues including universities, libraries, and cultural centers. She consults individually with creative writers, students working on college essays and other projects.

Dina lives in Evanston, Illinois with her husband Steve Siegel and their children Sarina and Ilan.


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