ForumThinks programs are hosted by our community partners to provide a deeper understanding of Forum topics. Events include book groups, discussion panels, photography exhibits, documentary screenings, and more.

This fall, we are focusing our ForumThinks programs on activities surrounding the keynote event “The Half-Life of Freedom: Race and Justice in America” with Jelani Cobb. With the exception of the Healing Racism Institute session, all programs are free and open to the public.  Please email to register for a program.


Springfield Public Forum Community Conversation on Race and Justice
Presented in Partnership with the Healing Racism Institute of Pioneer Valley

Screening of “13th”
In this thought-provoking documentary, scholars, activists and politicians analyze the criminalization of African Americans and the U.S. prison boom. This piercing film earned an Oscar nomination and won Best Documentary at both the BAFTAs and the NAACP Image Awards.
Each screening will have a facilitated discussion following the film.

Monday, October 16, 2017
Springfield Technical Community College
Showings at 11:15 a.m. 1:35 p.m. and 4:00 p.m.
A facilitated dialogue will be offered after the 11:15 a.m. showing.
Scibelli Hall Theater
1 Armory Sq, Springfield, MA

Monday, October 23, 2017 
American International College
6:30 p.m.
Campus Center Auditorium
1000 State Street, Springfield, MA

Elms College
6:00 p.m.
Veritas Auditorium, Berchman’s Hall
291 Springfield Street, Chicopee, MA

St. John’s Congregational Church
6:00 p.m.
45 Hancock St., Springfield, MA

Screening of A PBS FRONTLINE Special: Policing the Police
Tuesday, October 24th
Springfield Library, Sixteen Acres Branch
6:30-7:45 p.m.
1187 Parker St, Springfield, MA

In recent years, few topics have dominated the American conversation like the debate over race, policing, and civil rights. This documentary investigates a police force which was found to have a pattern of civil rights abuses against the city’s black residents and has been ordered to reform by the Department of Justice.

In Policing the Police, writer and historian Jelani Cobb gives viewers a raw and complex look at the challenge of changing how cops operate in a place like Newark, NJ: a poor city plagued by violent crime, where the victims and the perpetrators are usually black, and the police force itself is largely black and Latino. The documentary examines the difficulties of fixing a broken relationship with the community after decades of mutual mistrust, and includes candid interviews with Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, who is now trying to shake up the department from the inside.

“The Half-Life of Freedom: Race and Justice in America” with Jelani Cobb
Wednesday, October 25, 2017
6:00 p.m.
Springfield Symphony Hall
34 Court St., Springfield, MA
Jelani Cobb is a staff writer at The New Yorker and writes about the enormous complexity of race in America. In 2015, he received the Sidney Hillman Prize for Opinion & Analysis Journalism for his New Yorker columns, in which he combined “the strengths of an on-the-scene reporter, a public intellectual, a teacher, a vivid writer, a subtle moralist, and an accomplished professional historian.” He has penned a remarkable series of articles about race, the police, and injustice. His articles include “The Anger in Ferguson,” “Murders in Charleston,” and “What We Talk About When We Talk About Reparations.” Cobb teaches in the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and is the recipient of the 2017 Walter Bernstein Award from the Writer’s Guild of America for his investigative series “Policing the Police,” which aired on PBS Frontline in 2016. He was also featured in the Oscar-nominated documentary “13th.”

Healing Racism Institute of Pioneer Valley Fall Session
Thursday, October 26 – Friday, October 27, 2017
The Institute’s signature program is its two-day Healing Racism sessions, which provide a safe environment to learn about the impact of racism on our nation and community in a process that is engaging and transformative. More information on future programs can be found at

Stakeholder Follow-Up Breakfast
Thursday, November 2, 2017
Sponsored by the Community Foundation of Western MA
In partnership with the Healing Racism Institute of Pioneer Valley, the Springfield Public Forum is providing an opportunity for organizations and groups who are addressing issues of race and justice in our community to gather together to build on existing efforts, explore ways to collaborate in the future, and continue the conversation begun at the Springfield Public Forum’s event “The Half-Life of Freedom: Race and Justice in America” on 10/25 at 6:00 p.m. at Symphony Hall. If your group is interested in being included in this session, please contact

Book group recommendations
“The New Jim Crow”
“Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption”
“Between the World and Me”
“White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide”