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Panel discussion: Julio Cano Villalobos (Spectrum Health-Healthier Communities), Paul Haan (Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan), Kelsey Perdue (Grand Circus), Chris Smit (Communication Arts & Sciences), and Kevin Timpe (Philosophy). Moderated by Gail Gunst Heffner (Director of Community Engagement)

When it comes to the major social issues of our day, most people care, but few people act. What does action look like? When does caring require more of you than a vote or a monetary donation? What are some effective ways of advocating for particular causes? This panel will feature several voices of experience.

About the panelists

Julio Cano Villalobos is an anthropologist, a local activist and a part-time musician living in the Grand Rapids area for the past 20 years. He was born and grew up in Chile under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in the Chilean Patagonia. Because of this, Julio witnessed from an early age how both repression and organized acts of resistance took place in the lives of Chileans in times where a new economic model was being imposed upon them. Through these experiences, Julio seeks to use his otherness in order to serve as a social and cultural mirror; a place where the audience through the act of listening can find a common place and reflect about their own experiences. Currently, he works as a community health advocate for a local hospital in the Grand Rapids area.

Paul Haan is the Executive Director of the Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan. Prior to his work with healthy housing, Paul spent 12 years doing grassroots community organizing on neighborhood issues, mostly land use and housing. Since then, much of Paul’s work has be filtered through a community organizing lens. Paul sees community organizing and activism as two distinct activities and believes that community organizing can provide the strategic backbone that activism needs, especially in 2017. While his approach to community organizing does not feign away from calling out injustice and strategically identifying targets to be held accountable, Paul believes that ultimately this work is about reconciliation.

Kelsey Perdue has served as a child advocate, program director, researcher, and teacher with stints in Washington, DC, the Dominican Republic, and most recently in her hometown of Grand Rapids, MI. She currently works as the Program Manager for Grand Circus (Grand Rapids campus), serves as a Board Member at the Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan and Equity PAC, and is looking to turn a passion into a small business through Power to the Princess.

Christopher Smit, PhD (University of Iowa) has spent his career writing, lecturing, and teaching about the curious and compelling relationship between media, art, and the body. Beginning with his first book, Screening Disability, an edited collection of essays about cinema and disability, Smit has shown a deep interest in the ways that we imagine and represent people with physical and cognitive differences. This interest in cultural representation has taken him into popular culture venues, in particular into the lives of pop stars like Britney Spears (The Exile of Britney Spears: A Tale of 21st Century Consumption) and Michael Jackson (Michael Jackson: Chasing the Spectacle): both celebrities found their different bodies/minds at the center of their careers, a phenomenon Smit argues is becoming normalized in 21st century American culture. His essays on disability, art, popular culture, new media, and cultural spectacle can be seen in a wide variety of academic and popular journals, online, and in many collected works. Smit is also the Executive Director of DISART, an arts and culture organization committed to changing perceptions about disability one piece of art at a time. Smit lives in Grand Rapids Michigan where he is an associate professor of Media Studies at Calvin College. He lives there with his wife and son and is an active member of the disabled culture in his town. Smit is a Disabled person. 

Kevin Timpe presently holds the William Harry Jellema Chair in Christian Philosophy at Calvin College. He has written or edited 8 books and contributed to 16 books. His scholarship focuses primarily on the metaphysics of agency, virtue ethics, and issues in the philosophy of religion, but he’s recently begun writing on the philosophy of disability. He is also the president of 22 Advocacy, a 501c3 non-profit advocacy company focusing on inclusive education.

Gail Gunst Heffner (Moderator) is Director of Community Engagement at Calvin with a PhD in Urban Studies and Resource Development. Her academic interests include urban sustainability, reconciliation ecology, environmental justice, and American racism. 

About the Just Citizenship series

This series has been organized by the Dean for Research and Scholarship under the Provost's Faith and Citizenship Initiative

What does it mean for Christians to think deeply and act justly in this time of political uncertainty? Just Citizenship is a weekly series of interdisciplinary lectures and panel discussions addressing current issues and asking how Christians can work for renewal in society. Join us in the Chapel each Monday at 3:30 during the spring semester; all of these events are free and open to the public. Find out more about the series and related events.

The Just Citizenship series has been approved for State Continuing Education Clock Hours (SCECH) in the state of Michigan. For every forum you attend, you can earn one clock hour of SCECH credit for certificate renewal. For more information and a SCECH application form, please visit our homepage for the series.

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