How to watch

The video below is a recording of a live conversation held on Zoom on January 21, 2021.

About this conversation

“We cannot achieve racial justice and create a secure and thriving democracy without also transforming our economic systems.”
—Scholar and lawyer Michelle Alexander in the New York Times

The movement for systemic and reparative justice for Black lives must address all aspects of life in the United States: social, legal, political, and, in particular, economic. In this conversation, panelists including Walis Johnson, Betsy MacLean, Kriston Alford McIntosh, Barika X. Williams, and moderator Prerana Reddy will think critically together about the ways capitalism uses race as an oppressive and divisive tool and imagine alternative economic solutions for a more just society.

In conjunction with the exhibition Howardena Pindell: Rope/Fire/Water, this series of online discussions brings together artists, activists, and thinkers to discuss creative, alternative solutions to policy issues like the wealth divide, the injustice of the justice system, and the current crisis of representation in cultural and political life that threatens our democracy.

Rope/Fire/Water offers a unique opportunity to reflect on the past and think critically about our current national climate. In doing so, we will be able to reimagine what the future can be and build new, collective paths forward to a radically different society with equity at its heart.


This event will include CART services and ASL interpretation.


A photo of Walis Johnson wearing red eyeglasses and looking out of the frame of the image. She wears a green shirt and light falls on her face as if from a window.
Courtesy Walis Johnson.
Walis Johnson
A black-and-white photo of Betsy MacLean. In the tight close-up, MacLean grins at the camera in a three-quarter view of her face from the left. Her hair is short and wavy, she wears a scarf loosely around her neck, and blurry foliage is just discernible in the background.
Photo: Niko Miles.
Betsy MacLean
A photo of Kriston Alford McIntosh posing against a dark gray background. McIntosh smiles and has hair parted on the left side of her head with bangs in a diagonal across her forehead. She wears a heavy white beaded necklace and high collared black jacket.
Courtesy Kriston Alford McIntosh.
Kriston Alford McIntosh
A photo of Barika X. Williams facing the camera and smiling. She wears a sleeveless green blouse with lace shoulders and a bookshelf lines the wall behind her in the out-of-focus background.
Photo: Joe Hicks.
Barika X. Williams
A photo of Prerana Reddy standing against the blurry background of trees and a tall bridge. Reddy wears a geometric-print shirt, red earrings, and a long, red beaded necklace.
Photo: Manuel Molina Martagon.
Prerana Reddy
Walis Johnson
Walis Johnson is a multidisciplinary artist/researcher whose work documents the experience and poetics of the urban landscape through oral history and ethnographic film, performance and artist walking practices. She holds an MFA from Hunter College in Integrative Media and has taught at Parsons School of Design. Her Red Line Archive Project has been exhibited locally and internationally.
Betsy MacLean
Betsy MacLean has been engaged in groundbreaking community development work for more than 15 years. As the executive director of Hester Street, MacLean and her team devote urban planning, design, and development expertise to support community-led change. From fair housing to climate justice, cultural equity to public housing, to civic engagement and community facility design and development, HST creates and facilitates deeply democratic planning and policy-making to radically recreate cities shaped by low-income communities of color. Before Hester Street, MacLean developed hundreds of affordable homes and spearheaded the community-led design and construction of Brooklyn’s first green public school. Her work has included energy-efficient retrofits, green jobs, a community-operated urban farm (with chickens), expanded fresh, affordable food access, and the community-driven, large-scale redevelopment of long vacant land. Prior to her time in East New York, MacLean created and directed a community development program in Cuba and, before that, worked as a carpenter. MacLean holds master’s degrees in urban planning and international development from Columbia University.
Kriston Alford McIntosh

Kriston Alford McIntosh serves as a managing director at Hamilton Place Strategies (HPS). She joined HPS from the Brookings Institution, where she served as the managing director of the Hamilton Project. Immediately prior to joining the Brookings Institution, McIntosh served as a senior vice president of the Edelman Alliances practice in the Washington, D.C. office of Edelman Public Relations.

McIntosh previously served as the staff director of the US Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee and as a senior policy advisor to Congressman John Lewis (D-GA). Earlier in her career, she held positions at the United Nations Foundation and in the Office of Congressman John Conyers (D-MI).

McIntosh has served as an adjunct faculty member at Georgetown University’s Master of Professional Studies in Public Relations and Corporate Communications program. Her commentary has been published in outlets including CNN Business, BBC News, the Hill, the Detroit Free Press, and Real Clear Markets. She holds a bachelor of science in journalism from Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.

Barika X. Williams
Barika X. Williams is the executive director of the Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development Inc. (ANHD), a leading nonprofit focused on creating housing and economic justice for all New Yorkers. Williams previously served as the assistant secretary for housing for the State of New York under Governor Andrew M. Cuomo where she managed the state’s major housing priorities including the $20 billion housing plan and expanding tenant protections statewide. While with NYU’s Metropolitan Center for Urban Education and the Urban Institute in Washington, DC, she worked on innovative initiatives and published on topics including affordable housing practices, foreclosures, urban mobility, disaster recovery, and the links between health, education, and housing on neighborhoods. Williams is the 2020 recipient of APA-NYM’s Robert W. Ponte Award for her commitment to a more just NYC built environment that understands systemic racism’s intersection with place and community.
Prerana Reddy
Prerana Reddy is a cultural producer based in NYC. Most recently she was the director of programs at A Blade of Grass (ABOG), a nonprofit organization that supports socially engaged artists with direct financial support, vibrant public programs, and field research. She also oversaw the production of a free online Municipal-Artist Partnership Guide in collaboration with Animating Democracy/Americans for the Arts and co-edited A Blade of Grass’s biannual magazine on arts and social engagement. Prior to joining ABOG, she was the director of public programs and community engagement at the Queens Museum of Art for 14 years, where she organized screenings, performances, discussions, and community-based collaborative programs and exhibits both on- and offsite. She also developed an intensive arts and social justice program for new immigrant youth as well as a community development initiative for Corona, Queens, residents.
Weeksville Heritage Center

Weeksville Heritage Center is an historic site and cultural center in Central Brooklyn that uses education, arts, and a social justice lens to preserve, document, and inspire engagement with the history of Weeksville, one of the largest free Black communities in pre-Civil War America, and the Historic Hunterfly Road Houses.

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