Elizer Darris, who experienced the dehumanization of prison as a juvenile offender, spoke to our March chapter meeting about strategies to “Disrupt, Dismantle, and Destroy” mass incarceration. Darris, now a field organizer for ACLU of Minnesota, was sentenced to life in prison at age 15 but worked to educate himself and successfully fought to get his sentence reversed on appeal. But his experience as an inmate, where “every day you have to fight to preserve your humanity,” continues to inform his work.
The explosive growth in genetic research and testing is creating a host of ethical and practical concerns, Bonnie LeRoy, professor and director of the Graduate Program of Study in Genetic Counseling at the University of Minnesota, told our February chapter meeting. Things are moving so fast, much of it driven by commercial testing companies, that the medical community is having a hard time keeping up, she said.
A panel at our December 2018 chapter meeting discussed the challenges that people with mental illness face and offered tips for supporting them. Larry Ellis and Humanists of MInnesota member Mick Anderson discussed their experiences with Guild Incorporated, a nonprofit that offers community services to people with mental illness—Larry as a client and Mick as an employee.HofMN Mary McLeod, whose son has schizophrenia and who volunteers for the National Alliance on Mental Illness Minnesota, gave suggestions on how to interact with people with mental illness.
A panel at our November chapter meeting discussed the challenges of long-term urban and regional planning in our area as the population grows and issues like racial disparities and climate change loom.
Atheism, humanism, and naturalism are related but different ways of expressing nonbelief in gods and the supernatural, Bill Hart, professor of religious studies at Macalester College, told our October chapter meeting. But Hart has a clear preference for one of them: naturalism.
A panel of experts discussed ways to curtail the influence of big money in politics at our September chapter meeting, kicking off a new program year. They included Vicki Barnes, Minnesota state coordinator for both American Promise and Take Back our Republic; State Senator John Marty; and Kathryn Pearson, associate professor of political science at the University of MInnesota.
The speaker at our April chapter meeting and Earth Day program was Leslie Mackenzie, a community organizer with Transition Twin Cities and a founding member of Transition Longfellow. Transition is a grassroots movement of people around the world who are shifting their lifestyles away from dependence on fossil fuels toward a lower-carbon, more sustainable and resilient future.
Ben Lilliston, Director of Rural Strategies and Climate Change at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, discussed the way globalization has contributed to climate change by increasing trade, thus the use of greenhouse gases.
Humanists of Minnesota member Susan Schaefer planned our February chapter meeting on The Impact of the Arts on Social Justice and Politics. Speakers included Susana di Palma, founder and artistic director of Zorongo Flamenco Dance Theater, and arts critic Will Harris. Di Palma discussed and showed video excerpts from the company's upcoming production of "Garden of Names," which explores the impact of terror and torture as experienced in Argentina during the political upheaval of the 1970s. Susan made the following introductory remarks:
The gap between the number of people across the world who are trying to migrate and the number of spots available to them is staggering. And the United States under the Trump Administration has become increasingly unwelcoming. Michele Garnett McKenzie, who spoke at the November chapter meeting, has seen the devastating consequences through her work at The Advocates for Human Rights.
As we gear up for critical 2018 state and national elections, it’s a good time to think about how to improve our electoral system. Three speakers at our October chapter meeting suggested ways to make our votes count more and diminish the harm special interests inflict on our democracy.
More than 60 humanists and friends attended our first chapter meeting of the new season on September 16 to hear Chris Stedman give an impassioned speech on “Why We Need Humanism Now.” He has been a humanist chaplain at Harvard University, is the founding executive director of the Yale Humanist Community, and has moved to the Midwest to build a new Humanist Center of Minnesota. Stedman started by reminding us that a world without religion is not necessarily “good."