National experts to speak on structural racism in series co-presented by the Riley Institute

Katie Quine
Marketing and Communications Manager
The Riley Institute at Furman University



Structural Racism: It’s Real, It Matters, and Why Change Can Happen Now kicks off Tuesday, August 31

GREENVILLE, S.C. — A dozen notable leading voices on racial justice and public policy will share their expertise during Structural Racism: It’s Real, It Matters, and Why Change Can Happen Now, beginning August 31 at Furman University. Expert speakers include Heather McGhee, author of The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together; Jeffery Robinson, head of The Who We Are Project and former director of the ACLU’s Trone Center for Justice and Equality; and Angela Glover Blackwell, founder in residence at PolicyLink.

The 11th annual StraightTalk series, presented by Furman University’s Riley Institute and Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in partnership with South Carolina ETV, will take place on three consecutive Tuesdays: August 31, September 7, and September 14. As it does each year, the series addresses timely and complex issues facing the nation and South Carolina through compelling conversations.

This year’s series gives attendees an opportunity to better understand how we got where we are today in regards to racial inequities and how we can think about our future, said Jill Fuson, director of the Riley Institute’s Center for Critical Issues. “Some may believe that if I do something that helps you, then I have to give something up,” she says. “But that’s not how it works. We all benefit if we address racism in America. We’re all in this together.”

The first session, “Shaped by Racism: America Then and Now,” takes place on August 31 at 6:30 p.m. Jeffery Robinson, executive director of The Who We Are Project, will provide a historical context of structural racism in the United States. He will then be joined by Yale law professor Monica Bell for a conversation around what the life and death of George Floyd can tell us about the impact of structural racism on the individual and on policing. The conversation will be moderated by Furman politics and international affairs professor Brittany Arsiniega.

September 7, “Structural Racism: Impeding the American Dream for Us All” features a conversation between acclaimed author Heather McGhee and The Hon. Dick Riley, former U.S. secretary of education and former South Carolina governor, about how dismantling racism isn’t a zero-sum game. Furman Provost Ken Peterson will moderate. Following this conversation, South Carolina Public Radio reporter Thelisha Eaddy will host a panel with local leaders Lillian Brock Flemming, David Lominack, and Meghan Barp about racial equity in Greenville.

September 14, “Dismantling Racism: Why Now is a Moment for Change” poses two all-important questions: What’s next and how do we prosper together? PolicyLink’s Angela Glover Blackwell will share key principles for a common-sense approach to building an inclusive economy and equitable nation that works for all. She will be joined by John Simpkins, president of MDC, and Russell Booker, executive director of the Spartanburg Academic Movement, to discuss with SCETV’s Gavin Jackson how today’s public investments can help address racial inequities and transform communities.

Tickets are available at $10 per session and $25 for the entire series. Due to the surge of COVID-19 cases in the Upstate, the general public is invited to attend via Zoom webinar. For a detailed schedule of events and to register, visit

For more information, contact Katie Quine at 864.294.3368 or


About the Riley Institute at Furman University

Furman University’s Richard W. Riley Institute advances social and economic progress in South Carolina and beyond by building leadership for a diverse society, hosting expert speakers to broaden perspectives on critical issues, supporting public education, and creating knowledge through community solutions-focused research. It is committed to nonpartisanship in all it does and to a rhetoric-free, facts-based approach to change. Learn more at