Arthur L. Johnson Urban Perspectives Lecture Series: Reginald Dwayne Betts

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Date: February 25, 2021
Time: 7:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Location: Zoom
Category: Lecture

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Join the Wayne State University Alumni Association and the Irvin D. Reid Honors College for the Arthur L. Johnson Urban Perspectives Lecture Series featuring acclaimed author Reginald Dwayne Betts on Thursday, February 25, 2021 at 7pm. This year, the event will be held virtually via Zoom.

Betts, known for his inspiring "From Jail to Yale" story, will give a performance entitled "Felon: An American Washi Tale" for the event.

Felon: A play; A discourse. Dwayne will present an excerpt of the solo show that he is developing based on Felon. The work engages with the contemporary moment, mass incarceration, and the challenges of having a complicated conversation about crime, punishment, and sorrow in contemporary America. This presentation essentially takes place in three parts. First, there is the excerpt of the solo show. Secondly, there is a brief discussion that frames the show in the broader context of literary work written that engages with the issues that feel so vital today and are so vital today but are also returnings to past poetics, particularly a return to issues essential to understanding and engaging in the work of Etheridge Knight, Lucille Clifton, and John Edgar Wideman. Finally, there will be a question and answer section that allows Dwayne to explore these issues with the audience.

Following the performance, John Corvino will facilitate a Q&A with Reginald Dwayne Betts. 

About the speaker:

A widely requested speaker, Betts often gives talks about his own experience, detailing his trek from incarceration to Yale Law School and the role that grit, perseverance and literature played in his success. In addition, he has given lectures on topics ranging from mass incarceration to contemporary poetry and the intersection of literature and advocacy. Betts has given commencement speeches at Quinnipiac University and Warren Wilson College and has lectured widely at universities and conferences, including Harvard Law School, Yale Law School, the University of Maryland, the Beyond the Bench conference, and a wide range of organizations across the country.

Between his work in public defense, his years of advocacy, and Betts’s own experiences as a teenager in maximum security prisons uniquely position him to speak to the failures of the current criminal justice system and present encouraging ideas for change. That work has led Betts to be appointed by President Barack Obama to appoint him to the Coordinating Council of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and more recently for Governor Ned Lamont of Connecticut to appoint him to the Criminal Justice Commission, the state body responsible for hiring prosecutors in Connecticut.

Named a 2018 Guggenheim Fellow and a 2018 NEA Fellow, Betts poetry has been long praised. His writing has generated national attention and earned him a Soros Justice Fellowship, a Radcliffe Fellowship, a Ruth Lily Fellowship, an NAACP Image Award, and New America Fellowship. Betts has been featured in The New York Times, The New Yorker, and the Washington Post, as well as being interviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air, The Travis Smiley Show and several other national shows. He holds a B.A. from the University of Maryland; an M.F.A. from Warren Wilson College, where he was a Holden Fellow; and, a J.D. from Yale Law School, where he was awarded the Israel H. Perez Prize for best student note or comment appearing in the Yale Law Journal. He is a Ph. D. in Law candidate at Yale and as a Liman Fellow, he spent a year representing clients in the New Haven Public Defender’s Office.

For more information on this Speaker please visit

About the series:

The Arthur L. Johnson Urban Perspectives Lecture Series began in 1992 and was named in honor of the civil rights leader and former WSU administrator upon his retirement. The series features distinguished corporate and civic leaders who speak on a wide range of important issues, from politics and business to law and the arts. 

Until his death in 2011, Dr. Johnson dedicated his life to uplifting his fellow man and the greater community. He was widely respected both locally and nationally for his work as an educator and civil rights leader. His decades of work and countless contributions to society have left a lasting legacy, celebrated by this impactful lecture series.  

February 2021