Frank Islam Athenaeum Symposia Speaker Series

Welcome to the Frank Islam Athenaeum Symposia speaker series at Montgomery College.

Our distinguished speakers offer timely, stimulating topics delivered by today's leading experts in international affairs, social science, the humanities, arts, politics, and economics. These events encourage meaningful conversation, critical thinking, and intercultural understanding around our collective experiences.

Through a generous gift from philanthropist and civic leader Mr. Frank Islam, all events are free and open to the community.

Fall 2019 Speakers - Street Art, Public Voice, and Democracy

Looking for stimulating lectures that are free and open to the public? Attend our spring speakers series! All events are held at the Germantown campus, Globe Hall. 

Michelle Angela Ortiz

Amplifying Community Voices: Public Art and Social Change, Michelle Angela Ortiz

Michelle Angela Ortiz's presentation focuses on the power of transforming public spaces with imagery and messages that reflect the power of community stories. She will speak on her work as an artist engaging different communities for 20 years in the United States and abroad.


Michelle Angela Ortiz is a visual artist/ skilled muralist/ community arts educator who uses her art as a vehicle to represent people and communities whose histories are often lost or co-opted. Through community arts practices, painting, and public art installations, she creates a safe space for dialogue around some of the most profound issues communities and individuals may face. Her work tells stories using richly crafted and emotive imagery to claim and transform spaces into a visual affirmation that reveals the strength and spirit of the community.

For 20 years, Ortiz has designed and created over 50 large-scale public works nationally and internationally. Since 2008, Ortiz has led art for social change public art projects in Costa Rica & Ecuador and through the US Embassy in Fiji, Mexico, Argentina, Spain, Venezuela, Honduras, and Cuba.

Ortiz is a 2018 Pew Fellow, a Rauschenberg Foundation Artist as Activist Fellow, a Kennedy Center Citizen Artist National Fellow, and a Santa Fe Art Institute Equal Justice Resident Artist. In 2016, she received the Americans for the Arts' Public Art Year in Review Award which honors outstanding public art projects in the nation.

View Michelle Angela Ortiz event flyer (PDF, Get Adobe Acrobat PDF Reader.-Link opens in new window.)

L. Llmar Wilson

More Than a Metaphor: The Ethics of Writing Through a Legacy of Racialized Violence, L. Lamar Wilson

L. Lamar Wilson teaches creative writing and literature at Wake Forest University and The Mississippi University for Women. His documentary poetics has been featured in two poetry collections, a stage production, and a film: Sacrilegion (2013); Prime (2014); The Gospel Truth (2017); and The Changing Same (2019), a documentary co-produced with Rada Film Group.

Over the past year, L. Lamar Wilson’s economically depressed hometown, Marianna, Fla., has been the center of national dialogue in stories of resilience in the wake of Hurricane Michael’s devastation, meditations on the fallout of a federal government shutdown, a National Book Award-nominated novel by Pulitzer winner Colson Whitehead, and a PBS documentary short film Wilson co-produced with Rada Film Group’s Sundance-winning directors. It’s become a metaphor for the legacies of racism & white supremacist violence, & yet for him, it’s home, one where his roots & love run deep. In addition to screening the film, Wilson will discuss the ethics that undergird his documentary poetics and the ways he hopes the attention on Marianna will make the nation reexamine the tropes it abjects onto rural America.

View L. Lamar Wilson Event Flyer (PDF, Get Adobe Acrobat PDF Reader.-Link opens in new window.)

Edith Mayer Cord

Finding Edith: Surviving the Holocaust in Plain Sight, Edith Mayer Cord

Finding Edith: Surviving the Holocaust in Plain Sight is the coming-of-age story of a young Jewish girl chased in Europe during World War II. Like a great adventure story, the book describes the childhood and adolescence of a Viennese girl growing up against the backdrop of the Great Depression, the rise of Nazism, World War II, and the religious persecution of Jews throughout Europe. Edith was hunted in Western Europe and Vichy France, where she was hidden in plain sight, constantly afraid of discovery and denunciation.


Finding Edith: Surviving the Holocaust in Plain Sight

Born in Vienna in 1928, Edith Mayer Cord moved to Italy with her family to escape the rise of Nazism in Austria. In 1938, Italy passed the same anti-Jewish laws, similar to the Nuremburg laws, and the entire family was asked to leave. Unable to receive a visa for any country, Edith and her family entered France illegally in April 1939 where they received political asylum.

At the outbreak of World War II, her father was arrested as an enemy alien and sent to Les Milles, a camp near Marseille. Released in 1940, both he and her older brother were arrested again and sent to Gurs. After several other camps, both were deported to Auschwitz in the summer of 1942. Neither returned.

During that time, Edith and her mother remained in Nice from where they were eventually kicked out as Nice was forbidden to Jews. They received a residence permit in a small village in France where Edith and her mother did farm work. When the mass deportations began, Edith was encouraged to go underground. At fourteen, Edith accepted because she was afraid of what would happen to her if she were arrested and sent to a concentration camp.

View Edith Mayer Cord event flyer (PDF, Get Adobe Acrobat PDF Reader.-Link opens in new window.)

José Olivarez

CItizen Illegal, José Olivarez

Olivarez’s Citizen Illegal explores the stories, contradictions, joys, and sorrows that embody life in the spaces between Mexico and America. Olivarez paints vivid portraits of good kids, bad kids, families clinging to hope, life after the steel mills, gentrifying barrios, and everything in between. Combining wry humor with potent emotional force, Olivarez takes on complex issues of race, ethnicity, gender, class, and immigration.


Citizen Illegal

José Olivarez is the son of Mexican immigrants and the author of the book of poems, Citizen Illegal, a finalist for the prestigious PEN/Jean Stein Book Award. In 2018, he was awarded the first annual Author and Artist in Justice Award from the Phillips Brooks House Association.

He is a master teaching artist. In 2017-2018, he was the Lead Teaching Artist for the Teen Lab Program at the Art Institute in Chicago, IL. In the past, he has led writing workshops & diversity trainings for institutions such as The Lincoln Center, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Studio Museum of Harlem, The Adirondack Center for Writing, Inside Out Literary Arts, & many more community organizations & universities.

View José Olivarez event flyer (PDF, Get Adobe Acrobat PDF Reader.-Link opens in new window.)

These events fulfill the Multicultural Diversity Training requirement for MC employees.  

To reserve space for classes or to request accommodations for an event,
email or call 240-567-1845.  

Follow Us on Twitter and Facebook!  Sign Up for Mailing List!

Athenaeum Banner