CUESEF 2023: Twenty Years of the Center for Urban Education: Memory, Futures, and Freedom

CUESEF 2023 will be held on Tuesday, June 20 - Saturday, June 24, 2023


This year’s theme — “Twenty Years of the Center for Urban Education: Memory, Futures, and Freedom” — emphasizes the significance of memory, futures, and freedom to life, educational practice, and collective work and communal responsibility. As we remember our histories during our 20th year, we invite a constellation of thinkers, some of whom have been with us before, into this year’s forum guided by overarching questions: 

— Memory: What do you remember about the knowledge you shared (if a previous panelist for the Center’s events)? How, if at all, would you revise your thinking based on the current moment? 

— Futures: How do various actors make meaning of educational possibilities amid catastrophe? What kinds of practices forge freer futures? How do youth, in particular, story their lives with schools, each other, and broader ecologies? What are the tensions, and how does identifying these help map possibilities for struggle and change? 

— Freedom: How might movements convey hopes, aspirations, mourning and efforts to end suffering? How do they articulate and organize for freedom and self-determination?

Gathering virtually and in-person this year, June 20-24, we engage local and national audiences intentionally inviting youth to design and dialogue. We invite registered participants across a wide range of educational settings (e.g., homes, neighborhoods, schools, families) into spaces of learning to inform justice-based intervention and education transformation. 

We ask our participants to closely study the ideas, research and perspectives shared, to track themes and patterns, form questions, and then join smaller, facilitated study groups to share questions and work across sites mapping possibilities for transformative institutional practice and change. Some sessions will take place in an accessible community park with neighborhood residents, youth, and a range of educational and geographic communities into dialogues and youth creative projects expressing aspirations as well as the violent contexts that trouble these. Together, we will map educational coordinates for justice and freedom beyond their usually narrow framings. 

Agenda and Speakers

Tuesday, June 20

9:30 - 10 a.m. ET
Welcome Remarks

10 - 11:30 a.m. ET
Embodied Pedagogies: Memory, Mothering, and Making through Grief

Mothers who have lost children to state violence draw upon the educational work of remembering to support mapping freer futures. How do we learn from their grief and work? How do their various experiences with carceral institutions help us think about how we might pursue relationalities for self-determination and freedom?

Facilitator: Dorothy Roberts, University of Pennsylvania

Panelists: Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton (mother of Hadiya Pendleton), Michelle Kenney (mother of Antwon Rose), Tamika Palmer (mother of Breonna Taylor), Samaria Rice (mother of Tamir Rice)

1 - 2:30 p.m. ET
Freedom now: A dialogue on abolition and education

Facilitator: Sabina Vaught, University of Pittsburgh

Panelists: Erica Meiners (Northeastern Illinois University), Connie Wun (Transformative Research: An Institute for Social Transformation)

2:30 - 4 p.m. ET


Wednesday, June 21

10 - 11:30 a.m. ET
Breakout 1: Practices of Freedom: Memories of Study, Planning Educational Futures

Facilitator: Rachel Hopkins, University of Pittsburgh

Breakout 2: Early Excellence Project

Facilitator: DaVonna Graham Shannon

11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. ET
Practices of Freedom: An abolitionist dialogue with Kevin Mosley and Sabina Vaught

1 - 2:30 p.m. ET


3 - 4:30 p.m. ET
Youth Panels 2019-2022: A Retrospective

What are the features of school and state violence as articulated by youth? How do they think and work toward freer futures, and how do they describe the problems of school and schooling?

Thursday, June 22

Please check back for details.

Friday, June 23

Please check back for details.

Bonus Workshop: Friday, June 23 and Saturday, June 24

Two-Day Workshop on Archival Research
Friday, June 23 and Saturday, June 24
10 a.m. - 3 p.m. ET

The workshops will be a mix of lectures and interactive engagement. More details will be announced soon.

About the Art:

“In crafting this year’s forum, we engaged the work of Pittsburgh artist, Ernest Bey, whose trilogy – 'INI, INI II, and The Shame of INI' indicts the modern world and its (educational) institutions for the criminal project of indoctrination in which we actually access and advance within systems of domination, but do not restructure or transform them. 'The Shame of INI' (middle image) portrays hands in circus patterns within the buttoned-down suit sleeves conveying the absurdity and the normalized lure of antiblackness and white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. Are the hands our own? Are they someone else’s? Does it matter if the effect is still the same? In dialogue with bell hooks’ book, Where We Stand, this year’s forum painting also asks a critical question: In order to learn, why must we forget? 

"The images recall the induced amnesia reified in generation after generation of conquest and enslavement. Masks cover the truth of our faces. In one part of the trilogy, hands cover our mouths; in the others, digital codes (instead of a mouth) critique 'artificial intelligence' trends with a warning to beware of what these tools will mean for domination and freedom, both within and beyond schools. The coded mouth reminds us that in a speculative world created by and for a human project, there is a speculator and a speculated. Despite these realities, the eyes are deeper and piercing, the foreheads are prominent, and the masks are indigenous, reminding us that masks do not have to conceal us from ourselves but can conceal our plans. They do not have to convey extraction; they can convey shared traditions. The world we seek will not come easy. The will to change is elusive, but faithful collectives must study to remember, study for our future, and study the praxis of freedom." - T. Elon Dancy II, CUE Executive Director

“The inspiration for INI was a trip that I took to Jamaica, and the local Jamaicans referred to us as INI and I was curious what that meant so I asked them, and they said, 'You don’t know me, man, I don’t know you, but we are INI. We are same culture! We are same people!' And, immediately, I was inspired with the thought of if we’re the same people, then why do we mask our feelings, and I’m curious why we treat each other this way. So the checkered background is why we should check out our feelings towards each other. The first painting was completed. I also saw a second one, and when I did 'INI II', I was inspired to do a third, making it a trilogy. That’s where 'The Shame of INI' was born, and the shame is why have we turned on each other in such devastating ways, the violence that we have felt has damaged our community.” - Ernest Bey, artist


  • Gwen's Girls
  • Heinz Endowments
  • Kinloch Commons for Critical Pedagogy and Leadership
  • Western Pennsylvania Writing Project