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Released January 13, 2003

By David Tisdale

HATTIESBURG - A prominent Chinese human rights activist will share his experience as a political prisoner in his homeland Feb. 11 in one of five University of Southern Mississippi University Forum events set for the Spring 2003 semester.

Harry Wu spent 19 years incarcerated by the Chinese government in the "Bamboo Gulag" as a political prisoner, which he describes in his international bestseller, Bitter Winds. He will recount his experience in a presentation, "Made in China: Human Rights, Politics and the Global Marketplace."

A variety of topics are included in the spring forum series, which begins Jan. 21 with a presentation by Michael Shermer, said forum director Dr. Amy Chasteen Miller. The Tuesday evening programs are sponsored by the Southern Miss Honors College.

"We are very pleased to be able to host a wide range of speakers this semester," Miller said. "I'm sure that all students and faculty, as well as people in the community, will be intrigued by our lineup of speakers this semester. Whatever your interest is, whether it be science, human rights, music, gender and family issues, Native American issues, or all of the above, this forum series should be very appealing."

The spring lineup includes:

Jan 21 – Michael Shermer, "Why Do People Believe Weird Things? Science and Pseudoscience in America." Shermer is the author of numerous books on science, history and culture, and is one of the more highly visible figures in public discussions of science and society in America today. He is the founding publisher of Skeptic magazine and a monthly columnist for Scientific American. In his work, Shermer explores a wide range of topics – including paranormal beliefs, Holocaust denial movements and science lessons for children. Shermer received a bachelor's in psychology from Pepperdine University, an master's in experimental psychology from California State University, Fullerton, and a doctorate in the history of science from Claremont Graduate School. Since his creation of Skeptic magazine, the Skeptics Society and the Skeptics Lecture series at Cal Tech, he has appeared on such shows as 20/20, Dateline, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and other programs as a skeptic of unusual and extraordinary claims.

February 11 – Harry Wu, "Made in China: Human Rights, Politics, and the Global Marketplace." Since his release as a political prisoner, Wu has returned to China to document human rights atrocities in prison camps, and he has twice testified before the U.S. Congress on these abuses. In his international bestseller, Bitter Winds, Wu describes his own imprisonment, from scavenging for food to enduring nightmarish solitary confinement. Throughout these experiences, Wu made a commitment to retain his dignity and furthered his commitment to improving the lives of those working in China's forced labor camps. In his most recent book, Troublemaker: One Man's Crusade Against China's Cruelty, Wu explains his willingness to return to China and his efforts to promote human rights.

February 25 – Three Generations, "A Historical Look at African-American Spirituals and Traditional Music." Three Generations is a group of three men representing three distinct generations and three perspectives of American folk songs and spirituals. Benjamin Matthews, founder of Opera Ebony, is recognized as one of the leading interpreters of African-American religious folk music today. Robert Sims, an American Traditions Gold Medal Winner, is highly regarded for his moving interpretations of African-American spirituals in concerts around the world. The third "generation," Kenneth Overton, is a young baritone who has performed in numerous operas around the nation. The lecture by the Three Generations is featured as part of Southern Miss's African-American History Month celebration and is co-sponsored by the College of the Arts and Partners for the Arts. This project is supported in part by funding from the Mississippi Arts commission, a state agency, and in part, from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.

March 18 – Stephanie Coontz, "The Way We Really Are: Coming to Terms with America's Changing Families and the New Roles of Women." Coontz teaches history and family studies at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, and is the national co-chair of the Council on Contemporary Families. She is the author of six books on the history of the family – including The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap (1992) and The Way We Really Are: Coming to Terms With America's Changing Families (1997). Coontz has written for the Washington Post, the New York Times and popular magazines such as Vogue, and she has appeared on many television programs, including The Oprah Winfrey Show and CNN's Crossfire. Coontz also has testified about her research before the House Select Committee on Children, Youth and Families in Washington, D.C., and has addressed audiences across America and Europe. Coontz currently is working on a book on the history of marriage. Coontz's lecture is part of a series of events in recognition of Women's History Month. April 15 – Michael Yellowbird, ""Cowboys and Indians: Images of Indigenous Peoples in Popular Culture." Yellowbird, a citizen of the Sahnish and Hidatsa First Nations, is an associate professor in the School of Social Work at Arizona State University. He has written extensively on political and cultural issues related to indigenous peoples in North America. He also teaches classes on various topics related to diversity in social work practice. Yellowbird's assessment and evaluation practice has been in health, social service and educational programs that serve First Nation communities. He has been employed by the Ho Chuck Nation in Wisconsin to assess and evaluate their tribal child welfare programs (1999). He also was employed by the CRESPAR Project to assess retention of students, and service and relationship congruence between service providers in the Gila River Indian community, Haskell Indian Nations University (Lawrence, Kansas) and Pennsylvania State University.

The University Forum is a lecture series designed to provoke intellectual thought and discussion in the university community and in the Hattiesburg area. The presentations, all at 7 p.m. on Tuesdays in Bennett Auditorium, are free and open to the public. For more information on the series, call (601) 266-5762.


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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM