Free Speech Conference: ‘Finding Expression in Contested Public Spaces’

Posted on October 16, 2019

UNCG’s Department of Communication Studies presents “Finding Expression in Contested Public Spaces” Oct. 24-25.

This Free Speech Conference 2019 will be held in the Virginia Dare Room, Alumni House. It is free admission and open to the public. It is designed to affirm principles of free speech, highlight scholarly contributions, and feature community presentations addressing current day concerns about, debates on, and promises for free expression.

Dr. Eric King Watts

The conference opens Thursday evening with Keynote Speaker Dr. Eric King Watts (UNC Chapel Hill) on the topic “Tribalism, Voicelessness, and the Problem of Free Speech.” The event is Thursday, Oct. 24,  7 p.m.

The evening will begin with a brief remembrance of the 1979 Greensboro Massacre (the name itself a source of public debate in past years).

On Friday, Oct. 25, 8 a.m. – 3 p.m., there will be several discussions and performances:


8-8:50 a.m: Pedagogy and the 1st Amendment

Moderator: Dr. Spoma Jovanvoic, UNCG Department of Communication Studies

  • Welcome Remarks: Dr. John Kiss, UNCG Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences
  • Music as Communication Activism: Educating for Freedom Through an Interdisciplinary Service-Learning Projec” – Mark Congdon Jr. and Lamera Palmer, The College of Saint Rose
  • Video Games as Free Speech: Reproducing Inequalities and Pushing Justice to the Margins – Marina Lambrinou, UNC Greensboro, and Yacine Kout, University of North Georgia

9-9:50 am: Academic Freedom & Campus Free Speech

Moderator: Michael Frierson, UNCG Chapter of AAUP

  • The Freedom to Listen – Lisbeth Lipari, Denison University
  • The First Amendment and the NC Campus Free Speech Act: Their Application to Public Universities in North Carolina – Jerry Blakemore. UNC Greensboro
  • Circumventing the Clear and Present Danger Test – Craig Smith, California State University, Long Beach

10-10:50 a.m: Contested Public Spaces

Moderator: Anna Fesmire, League of Women Voters of the Piedmont Triad

  • Legislating Memory: Accommodating Contestations of Public Monuments – Laura Ricciardi, State University of New York at Purchase College
  • Social Power and the Right to the City: Homelessness, Access to Public Space, Activism and the First Amendment – Marcus Hyde, UNC Greensboro, and Gary Kenton and Zalonda Woods, Community Members
  • Activists Video of Greensboro grassroots leaders funded by UNCG-Mellon Foundation

11-11:50 a.m: Boundaries of Free Speech and Expression

Moderator: Dr. Roy Schwartzman, UNCG Department of Communication Studies

  • Greensboro, 1963: Mass Nonviolence at the Boundaries of Free Speech – Thomas Jackson, UNC Greensboro
  • Money, Speech, and Power: Participatory Budgeting as a Path to Free Expression in Public Spending – Vincent Russell and Therese Gardner, University of Colorado, Boulder
  • Speakers’ Corners Around the World – Spoma Jovanovic, UNC Greensboro

1-1:50 p.m.: Violence, Hate, Control of Free Speech

Moderator: Holly Williams, UNCG Department of Communication Studies

  • Identity and Free Speech: African-American Women’s Social Justice Rhetoric – Sarah Hollingsworth, Oklahoma State University
  • Balancing the Goods of Speech In a Postmodern Historical Moment – David Errera, Duquesne University
  • A Safe Space for the White Race: An Interrogation of White Nationalist Propaganda on College Campuses – Gabriel Cruz, High Point University, and Patrick Sawyer, UNC Greensboro

2-2:50 p.m.: Talking about Race

Moderator: Doris Wesley, UNCG Department of Communication Studies

  • Performatively Unpacking the Race Talk – Sonny Kelly and Elizabeth M. Melton, UNC Chapel Hill

The event received major funding from the National Communication Association. Co-sponsors include UNCG Office of the Provost, UNCG College of Arts & Sciences, League of Women Voters of the Piedmont Triad, Lloyd International Honors College, UNCG Association of Retired Faculty, African American & African Diaspora Studies, Democracy Greensboro, UNCG Office of Leadership and Civic Engagement, Homeless Union of Greensboro, UNCG AAUP, UNCG Speaking Center, UNCG Institute for Community & Economic Engagement, and Transforming the Humanities/Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The conference organizer, Dr. Spoma Jovanovic, is a professor of Communication Studies and a 2019-2010 Fellow with the University of California’s National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement.

For conference details visit or email

Jovanovic and Dr. Omar Ali will participate in Greensboro History Museum’s “History & Reconciliation: A Community Symposium” on Oct. 26, 10 a.m., 130 Summit Avenue. Community members and academics will share perspectives on investigating difficult history and identifying paths forward.

Photograph courtesy Creative Commons.


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