On August 21, 2013, we kicked off a collaboration with the Interactivity Foundation and the Freshwater Project, a
501c3 organization based in West Palm Beach, FL, which does research, development and community dialogue.
The evening began with tours at the nonprofit’s headquarters, the historic home built in 1926 by James Jerome “Cracker” Johnson, who was an area entrepreneur, bootlegger and real estate tycoon until his death in 1946. Guests arrived promptly, and were entreated to a short history lesson while they were able to mingle. Relatives of Cracker Johnson also attended and shared history about their locally famous ancestor. The journalist/historian Eliot Kleinberg of the Palm Beach Post, stopped by and later wrote up a piece about the historic elements of the evening.
After the tours and refreshments, several discussion groups gathered in various parts of the house to discuss IF’s brand new Future of the Arts & Society report. (West Palm Beach Commissioner Silvia Moffet, pictured in pink sitting next to Prof. Poole, was also an enthusiastic participant.)
Dr. Deandre Poole, a professor with Florida Atlantic University who had recently made headlines in a campus incident over a controversial classroom exercise, was a highlight of the evening. Guests crowded the living room during the freedom of academic expression talk and many conflicted viewpoints were brought out in an open forum. Dr. Poole initially grabbed their attention by reading some of the hate mail that he received.
Having a special guest is a format many of the IF…Urban discussions have been experimenting with. At times, policy ideas can seem lofty, abstract, and distant from everyday life. Here was a real person who had a real encounter with policy regarding free speech and policy-makers. Several supported the professor’s controversial classroom exercise, while others openly challenged his judgement. The discussions lasted well past the appointed time, and all in all, it was a very successful kick-off to a discussion series that will unfold over the next several months. For information about how to participate, email [email protected] or call 202-486-8217.