Race, Politics and Identity
“We need to raise it up, we need to fight and to shout, but we also need to bring it down, to talk and to listen in order to make change”
Following the screening of I Am Not Your Negro, join former Kansas State Senator Donald Betts Jr and American history professor Michael Ondaatje in conversation about race politics and resistance from the civil rights era to present day America.
About the panellists
Donald Betts Jr
Born in Wichita, Kansas, Donald Betts Junior’s political career began in his early 20s when he was elected president of the Multicultural Student Association becoming the first African-American student body president in the University’s history. As a member of the Democratic Party, he ran for the Kansas State House of Representatives where he lead grass roots campaigns to better serve and address the needs of his community. Elected at the age of 24, Betts steared a number of successful campaigns to decrease community incarceration rates by setting up a rehabilitation program for first-time drug offenders. In 2004, he was sworn in as a Kansas State Senator, the youngest Senator serving in the history of Kansas. Donald first visited Australia on a political exchange through the prestigious ACYPL (American Council of Young Political Leaders), to study Australian federal and State Political systems. Now living in Melbourne, Betts is a frequent guest commentator on the ABC, and other local Australian media outlets.
Michael Ondaatje is National Head of Arts, and Professor of American History, at Australian Catholic University. He is the author of Black Conservative Intellectuals in Modern America (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010), and in 2012 was awarded the Max Crawford Medal, ‘Australia’s most prestigious award for achievement and promise in the humanities’. A regular commentator on US history and politics on television and radio, Ondaatje’s writing has been published in The Independent (UK), Sydney Morning Herald, Age, Australian Financial Review, Newsweek Japan, and in many other outlets. Recently, Ondaatje was selected by the US Embassy in Australia for the International Visitor Leadership Program, the premier professional exchange program of the US government.