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  • NYS Writers Institute

Video conversation with Professor Derik Smith

A featured presentation of our Time for Reckoning Symposium

Derik Smith is Associate Professor of English specializing in the study of twentieth-century and contemporary African American literature and culture at Claremont McKenna College and author of Robert Hayden in Verse: New Histories of African American Poetry and the Black Arts Era (University of Michigan Press).

Smith also has special interests in prison studies and prison pedagogy and is on the Board of Directors for Albany’s Center for Law and Justice and a former English professor at the University at Albany.

Watch the conversation:

In 2017, Derik and Paul accompanied Pulitzer Prize winning poet Tyehimba Jess to Greene Correctional Facility, a medium-security state prison in Coxsackie, where they met with prisoners and talked poetry. Read story.

About The Time for Reckoning

The recent killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and numerous other unarmed Black people at the hands of white police officers touched off a volatile period of racial unrest across the Capital Region, the nation and the world. This moment of collective outrage and action against systemic racism feels as powerful and potentially transformational as the civil rights movement of the 1960s. What important lessons can we learn from the Black Lives Matter movement and ongoing protests? We are all asking ourselves: Where do we go from here? The symposium and its website -- -- offer a multi-media, interactive and collaborative forum for all voices to be heard and a portal to distribute informational materials and resources that can change the hearts and minds of our communities while offering suggestions for further study and calls to action.

The Time for Reckoning is a production of The NYS Writers Institute and The Center for Law and Justice and collaborators WMHT, the Times Union, the Justice Center of Rensselaer County, All Of Us, Youth FX, Amnesty International USA, and other community partners.

Themes for the Time for Reckoning series

Week 1:

The impact of systemic racism in Capital Region communities.

Week 2:

Highlight issues of trust between community members and the government officials who serve them -- particularly police.

Watch video: Susan Burton, the founder and executive director of A New Way of Life, and co-author, with Cari Lynn, of Becoming Ms. Burton: From Prison to Recovery to Leading the Fight for Incarcerated Women.

Watch video: Amnesty International USA's Roger-Mark De Souza in-conversation with Paul Grondahl

Week 3:

Explore possible avenues of reform to ameliorate systemic racism.

Watch video: Main Street: How a City’s Heart Connects Us All with Mindy & Robert Fullilove and Alice Green

Week 4:

The final week will address accountability --- how can the community monitor government actions to guard against further injustices due to systemic racism?

9 p.m. Monday, Oct. 26: A New York NOW special edition: Time for Reckoning panel discussion.

Featured guests include Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins, Albany Common Council President Corey L. Ellis, along with members of the Albany community, Paul Collins-Hackett, Morgan Jones-Marinia, Jamaica Miles, and Shawn Young. Albany County District Attorney David Soares choose to not participate. Visit

Video premiere 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 28: Derik Smith, executive board member for Albany’s Center for Law and Justice, in conversation with Paul Grondahl



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