Civil Discourse Symposium 2015


Please join us for the second annual Civil Discourse symposium, "East and West Together: Intersections of Re-Imagining the Future of Michigan," which will be held on Thursday, November 19 at 5 p.m. in the Paul A. Johnson Conference Hall at the L.V. Eberhard Center on the Robert C. Pew Grand Rapids Campus. This event welcomes all members of the GVSU community as well as local communities across the state. Light dinner food will be provided.

This year’s symposium celebrates creative, grassroots community-building work and how commitments to civil discourse in this work can strengthen communities. East and West Together:  Intersections of Re-Imagining the Future of Michigan will bring people together from both sides of the state and highlight some of the important work happening both in Detroit and Grand Rapids. From Detroit, we welcome symposium panelists Tawana “Honeycomb” Petty, award winning social justice community organizer and poet; and Marisol Teachworth, Co-Founder and Programming Director of the James and Grace Lee Boggs School. Panelists from Grand Rapids are Briana Ureña-Ravelo, Co-Founder of the GR chapter of Black Lives Matter and Community Engagement Specialist for the Rapidian; and Reverend Doug Van Doren, Pastor of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ and local leader in initiatives focused on the intersection of faith and social justice. (Please see panelists’ bios below.)

Through roundtable discussion and panelist led dialogue, the symposium will offer people opportunities to listen, learn, share and network as we collectively consider how we re-imagine the future of Michigan (and beyond). What kind of humanity do we want to cultivate? What kind of neighborhoods do we envision? How can people live differently (and how are people already living differently) to resist injustice and to be active in deepening a more just humanity? Where do we want to be in 5 years, 15 years, 30 years as a community-investing state?

Once again, the symposium expands upon the Fall term Civil Discourse course, (IDS 350)Detroit’s Public Dialogues: Listening Across Differences, Seeing Beyond Stereotypes, Talking Among Communities, which focuses on the importance of learning lessons from sustained, peace-building initiatives in the face of today's “argument culture." A special thank you to Richard Feldman and the James & Grace Lee Boggs Center for Nurturing Community Leadership, who have been incredibly helpful in coordinating meaningful Detroit-based experiences for GVSU students that encourage them to think and listen differently—which are fundamental to civil discourse work—and for their continued support and partnership in the planning of this annual symposium.

This event is approved for LIB 100 and LIB 201.


Tawana Petty

Tawana Petty is a mother, award winning activist, social justice organizer, poet and author. She is a past recipient of the Spirit of Detroit Award, Women Creating Caring Communities Award, Woman of Substance Award and was recognized as one of Who's Who in Black Detroit in 2013 and 2015. Her work and writings have been featured in the Huffington Post, the Michigan Citizen, on, on and in Red Pepper Magazine (UK), among others. Tawana has been a featured speaker and performer on numerous radio and television programs and at several colleges, universities, primary and secondary schools, festivals and concerts, as well as at many prominent events across the globe, including for Broadside Press -- the nation's oldest African American publishing house. She is also an active Board Member of the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership.

Best known as Honeycomb on stage, she is the author of Introducing Honeycomb, published in 2011 and is currently working to release her second book by early 2016. For more information about Honeycomb visit:

Tawana Petty

Marisol Teachworth

Marisol Teachworth is a Co-Founder and the Programming Director of the James and Grace Lee Boggs School in Detroit, a K-5 (but growing!) Place-Based Education Program. She has taught in the Bronx, NY, Hollywood, FL, and Detroit, teaching language arts and social studies in an inclusion model classroom, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) in a self-contained classroom and science. Marisol has worked with Hispanic Unity, the largest non-profit organization in Broward County dedicated to serving the community’s Latino population, where she designed curriculum and enrichment activities through art, music, science, dance, and nutrition. As an artist and engaged community member, she has led multi-aged youth groups in creating large murals in their schools and communities. In 2011, Marisol served as the Educational Track Instructor for Detroit Future Media, where she worked in collaboration with other teachers to design and teach education participants and skilled local media artists, exploring educational theory and teaching methodology, digital justice principles, and popular education. She also currently serves on the Detroit Food Policy Council.


Briana Urena-Ravelo

Briana Ureña-Ravelo is a 25 year old, queer and femme-identified, first generation Afro-Dominicana based in Grand Rapids. She is an anti-racist Black community organizer, intersectional feminist, freelance writer, activist, thinker, and dreamer. She is the co-founder of the Grand Rapids chapter of Black Lives Matter and is a Community Engagement Specialist for the Rapidian, a department of the Grand Rapids Community Media Center. Briana has also written for Autostraddle and feminspire. Her interests are music, shows and the all-ages/punk scene, Afro-Caribbean spirituality and culture, radical and community politics, decolonization, social justice organizing and theory, fashion and clothes, cooking, body modifications, her calico cat, Shampoo, and sweets!


Reverend Doug Van Doren

Reverend Doug Van Doren is the Pastor of Grand Rapid’s Plymouth United Church of Christ, where he has led a socially active congregation since 1978. Working and living in the intersections of faith and social justice, he has served on numerous Boards of Directors including Planned Parenthood Centers of West and Northern Michigan, Grand Rapids Urban League, Common Global Ministries and United Ministries in Higher Education, as well as serving on the Commission for Social Justice of the Grand Rapids Area Association and the Congregations Council for the Grand Rapid’s Year of Interfaith Understanding. Reverend Van Doren is a founding member of Concerned Clergy of West Michigan, formed to call churches together to advocate for the full inclusion of LGBTQ persons within the life of both the church and community. His extensive denominational and community service has been recognized through numerous awards, including the Helen Claytor Civil Rights Award (City of Grand Rapids Community Relations Commission), Award of Excellence (Lesbian and Gay Community Network of West Michigan), Ace Award for Advocacy (Grand Rapids Pride), the Claytor-Whittemore Community Service Award (Grand Rapids Urban League) and the Margaret Sanger Award (Planned Parenthood Centers of West Michigan).

Rev Van Doren

Click here to learn more about the 2014 Inaugural Symposium: Civil Discourse for Civic Engagement.

Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies


Civil Discourse Symposium 2015

Civil Discourse Symposium 2015

November 19, 2015 5:00 PM - 8:30 PM

Please join us for the second annual Civil Discourse symposium, "East and West Together: Intersections of Re-Imagining the Future of Michigan," which will be held on Thursday,...

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