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Social movements for democracy subject of talk

by Jeanne Baron

March 28, 2011 | WMU News

Photo of Dr Jackie Smith.
Dr. Jackie Smith
KALAMAZOO--An expert on the relationships between globalization and social movements will be the featured speaker during Western Michigan University's 2011 Whitney Young Scholars Award Celebration at noon Thursday, March 31.

Dr. Jackie Smith will present "Social Movements for Democracy: Global, National and Local" on campus in Room 4020 of the Health and Human Services Building. Smith is an associate professor of sociology and peace studies at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame.

Whitney Young Scholars lecture
Thursday, March 31

Later the same afternoon, Eric Byler, an award-winning director of documentaries, will speak on "We The People: Social Networking, New Media and Inclusive Democracy" at 4 p.m. in 1028 Brown Hall. In addition, one of Byler's films will be shown Wednesday, March 30.

This year's young scholars celebration events are free, open to the public, and being sponsored by WMU's School of Social Work and Lewis Walker Institute for Race and Ethnic Relations.

Jackie Smith is known for her research on the transnational dimensions of social movements, which explores how global economic and political integration influence the ways people engage in politics. Most recently, her work has focused on transnational social movements for global economic justice, and the World Social Forum process in particular.

She is author of "Social Movements for Global Democracy," published in 2008, and coauthored 2007's "Global Democracy and the World Social Forums" as well as a forthcoming book on transnational organizations and global change.

Smith also has co-edited five books on transnational activism, including "Coalitions Across Borders: Transnational Protest and the Neoliberal Order" (2005), "Globalization and Resistance: Transnational Dimensions of Social Movements" (2002), and "Transnational Social Movements and Global Politics: Solidarity Beyond the State" (1997). In addition, she has written or co-written more than 45 articles and book chapters.

Eric Byler, the second March 31 speaker, is a Chinese-American writer-director and founder of Coffee Party USA, a grassroots, nonpartisan organization that charges participants to "Wake up and Stand Up." The party is using Facebook, YouTube and other social media to promote what it calls responsible, informed and involved political discourse and civic participation that is based on problem-solving, factual information and democratic principles.

Most recently, Byler and Annabel Park co-produced the documentary "9500 Liberty," which scrutinizes an immigration policy adopted by Prince William County, Va. That county became ground zero in America's explosive battle over immigration policy when elected officials adopted a law requiring police officers to question anyone they have "probable cause" to suspect is an undocumented immigrant.

Whitney Young Scholars film presentation
Wednesday, March 30

"9500 Liberty" will be shown at 10 a.m. in Room 2010 of the Health and Human Services Building. The film includes a behind-the-scenes portrayal of Park and Byler's challenge with citizen journalism and civic duty in the midst of a divisive culture war.

The Whitney Young Scholars Award is named for Whitney Young Jr., an internationally known social worker, civil rights leader and director of the Urban League who spoke at the dedication of WMU's School of Social Work in 1968.

The award recognizes one undergraduate and one graduate social work student whose service and scholarship fit the ideals Young represented. This year's recipients will be announced during the March 31 award celebration.

For more information about the 2011 Whitney Young Scholars Award Celebration events, contact Don Cooney at or (269) 387-3190.