Boston Public Library Lowell Lecture - Angela E. Oh

MON, MAR 21, 2022 (1:26:37)

A nationally recognized expert on race relations, Zen Buddhist priest, and high-profile attorney who served on President Clinton’s One America Initiative Advisory Board, Angela E. Oh in conversation with Boston Public Library President David Leonard will reveal how communities in crisis can turn tragedy into opportunities for healing. An audience Q&A session will follow the discussion.

Angela E. Oh came to prominence in 1992 after the civil unrest that followed the acquittal of four Los Angeles police officers charged with the beating of Rodney King. As a second generation Korean American born in Los Angeles, trained as a criminal defense lawyer, active in civil rights and civil liberties organizing, Oh found that her experiences gave insight into the causes of what was recorded as the worst civil disaster of the century. In speaking out, her clarity about the political, economic, social, and institutional failures that contributed to the implosion of 1992 resonated with communities across the region. Over 2000 small family owned businesses owned by ethnic Koreans were destroyed and Oh challenged the mainstream media narrative that the crisis in Los Angeles was due to Korean and African American conflict.

+ BIO: David Leonard

David Leonard, President of the Boston Public Library, leads the 170-year old institution, one of Boston’s great educational, cultural and civic treasures. David began working at the BPL in 2009, bringing a wealth of experience from the technology, management and consulting fields. Appointed president by the Library’s Board of Trustees and Mayor Martin J. Walsh in June 2016, David’s focus is on developing the BPL as a twenty first century institution providing dynamic library experiences to the residents of Boston, of Massachusetts and beyond.

Prior to his appointment as President, David served as Interim President for one year. During that time he focused on the completion of the $78 million renovation of the Central Library in Copley Square, which opened in July 2016, as well as a significant number of branch and collections management improvement projects, enhancing access and the customer experience; collaborating with city departments and with local cultural institutions; and supporting Mayor Walsh’s arts and culture vision. During his time at the Boston Public Library David has also served as Director of Administration & Technology, acting Director of Administration & Finance, acting Chief Financial Officer, and Chief Technology Officer. He led the Library’s capital improvement project for the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center, worked to modernize the library’s technology infrastructure - including the migration to the new Integrated Library System, and deployment of new Pay-for-Print Systems system wide - and oversaw master planning and design for the renovation of the Central Library in Copley Square.

David initially pursued an academic career, transitioned to the non-profit sector, and then spent ten years in the private IT consulting world in roles that spanned business development, management, and technology consulting, working on both strategic and tactical projects and services. David is currently enrolled in a PhD program in Library Information Science at Simmons College. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy and Mathematics and a Master’s Degree in Philosophy from the University College Dublin. Photo Credit: Boston Public Library

+ BIO: Angela E. Oh

Angela E. Oh came to prominence in 1992 after the civil unrest that followed the acquittal of four Los Angeles police officers charged with the beating of Rodney King. As a second generation Korean American born in Los Angeles, trained as a criminal defense lawyer, active in civil rights and civil liberties organizing, Oh found that her experiences gave insight into the causes of what was recorded as the worst civil disaster of the century. In speaking out, her clarity about the political, economic, social, and institutional failures that contributed to the implosion of 1992 resonated with communities across the region. Over 2000 small family owned businesses owned by ethnic Koreans were destroyed and Oh challenged the mainstream media narrative that the crisis in Los Angeles was due to Korean and African American conflict.

In 1998, she was among seven presidential appointees on the President’s Initiative on Race (PIR) led by Professor John Hope Franklin, a historian who dedicated his life’s work to examining the effect of slavery on American society. The PIR sought to initiate a national dialogue on race and racism, inviting scholars, community leaders, business leaders, and faith communities to share their insights, knowledge, and experiences. Her contribution was to introduce into the conversations the idea that the United State race relations challenge is more than Black and White, foretelling the reality that human migration would shape race relations in unexpected and complex ways.

In early 2001, Oh left the practice of law to pursue more seriously a Zen practice that includes meditation in silence. Her discovery was that words were failing to provide a bridge to understanding of humanity’s common destiny. She began to regularly meditate, write, and teach about race relations, leadership, and the law. Her realization was that communities in crisis can turn tragedy into opportunities for healing and reckoning and reconciliation. Oh discovered that her legal training could be put into service through mediating civil rights cases. Her current work allows her to bear witness to how discrimination, sexual harassment, race based hate incidents emerge as potential civil lawsuits. Her focus is to create space for opposing narratives to co-exists, yet to find the thread to resolution so that parties can find peace and move forward in their lives. In short, Oh has become expert in holding space so that healing and resilience can emerge.

Oh has spent 30 years, since the 1992 unrest in Los Angeles, developing greater clarity about possible futures and pathways to unity and hope. Her search led her to realizations that both violence and “the sacred” reside at the core of all human society. Her methods for facing the future are shared in the conversations she hosts today.

Partner
Boston Public Library
Series
Boston Public Library Lowell Lecture Series