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October 20, 2011

Smith College to Examine Race, Medical Ethics, Identity on Otelia Cromwell Day

Award-Winning Medical Writer Harriet Washington to Deliver Keynote Address Nov. 10

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. — For many years, the statistics have remained unchanged: white Americans, on average, live five years longer than black Americans.

The alarming incongruity is not coincidence, but the result of an ongoing system in which access to quality health care remains skewed against African-American citizens, argues Harriet Washington, an award-winning medical writer.

Washington will visit Smith on Thursday, Nov. 10, to give the keynote address at this year’s Otelia Cromwell Day symposium, beginning at 1 p.m. in Sweeney Auditorium, Sage Hall.

The unfortunate history in the U.S. of using black patients as subjects for detrimental medical experimentation has instilled distrust for the medical establishment among that population, according to Washington, who is the author of Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present.

The Otelia Cromwell symposium, named for the first African-American graduate from Smith College, is an annual opportunity to reflect on issues of social justice and injustice with particular focus on diversity and racism in the U.S.

The daylong event, for which afternoon classes are cancelled, will also include a series of workshops related to the theme, following the keynote talk. An evening performance by The P.L.A.Y.E.R.S. (Participating in the Lives Among Youth to Educate and Restore Society) Club Steppers, a step club from the Bronx, N.Y. (See complete schedule below.)

After graduating from Smith in 1900, Cromwell went on to be the first African-American woman to earn a doctorate at Yale University. She was a professor and chair of the English Language and Literature Department at Miner Teachers College in Washington, D.C. The author of three books and many articles, Cromwell received an honorary degree from Smith in 1950.

Otelia Cromwell Day 2011

Thursday, Nov. 10

1 p.m., Sweeney Auditorium, Sage Hall

Keynote address given by Harriet Washington, award-winning medical writer and author.

Washington’s talk will be preceded by a performance by the Smith College Glee Club, and a recitation, by Novana Venerable ’12, of Maven, a poem commissioned by Smith in honor of Otelia Cromwell, written by award-winning poet Nikky Finney.

3 p.m. (following keynote event), various campus locations

Related workshops

I. “Race, Research, and Ethics: an Open Forum”—Earle Recital Hall, Sage Hall

II. “Remembering Difficult Histories: A Panel Presentation and Conversation”—Ford Hall 240, Case Study Room. * Note this session will begin at 4 p.m.

III. “Naming and Claiming: A Conversation about Racial Terms and Self-Identification”—Sage Hall 215

IV. “Finding Your Groove with Stepping: An Interactive Session”—Scott Gym

7:30 p.m., John M. Greene Hall

The P.L.A.Y.E.R.S. Club Steppers

Friday, Nov. 11

8 p.m., Mwangi Cultural Center

“Weaving Voices”
A student-led spoken-word/open mic



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Kristen Cole
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