Each year the Oak Institute hosts a series of events highlighting human rights in relation to the particular theme of the fellowship. The 2021 theme is Incarceration and Human Rights.

Oak Fall 2021 Events Calendar

September 15

“The Legal Fight Against Torture” Olga Sadovskaya, 2021 Oak Fellow

Wednesday, September 15 / 7:00 pm / Ostrove Auditorium, Diamond Building 

Wine and snack reception at 5:30 in Diamond Atrium 


The 2021 Oak Fellow for the theme of Incarceration and Human Rights is Russian human rights lawyer Olga Sadovskaya. Olga is vice-chair of the Committee Against Torture, the largest and most notable anti-torture organization in Russia, which she and other activists began in 2000.

Join us in welcoming Olga to Colby’s campus and learning about her groundbreaking work on torture in Russia and its global implications. 

Live stream link available here: https://www.colby.edu/front-page/live-events/



October 6

“The Torture Letters, Reckoning with Police Violence” Laurence Ralph, Professor of Anthropology at Princeton University

Wednesday, October 6 / 7:00 pm / Ostrove Auditorium, Diamond Building 

6:00 pm Opening Reception for States of Incarceration Exhibit in Diamond Atrium – food and refreshments provided


This is a screened virtual lecture by Laurence Ralph, Professor of Anthropology at Princeton University. His research and writing explore how police abuse, mass incarceration, and the criminalization of the drug trade naturalize disease, disability, and premature death for urban residents of color, who are often seen as expendable by “polite” society. Theoretically, his research lies at the nexus of critical medical and political anthropology, African American studies, and emerging scholarship on disability. Combining these literatures, he shows show violence and injury play a central role in the daily lives of Black urban populations.

His most recent book, Torture Letters, is about torture as an open secret in Chicago. Between 1972 and 1991, at least 125 black suspects were tortured by Chicago police officers working under former Police Commander John Burge. For more than fifty years, police officers who took an oath to protect and serve have instead beaten, electrocuted, suffocated, and raped hundreds—perhaps thousands—of Chicago residents. The Torture Letters chronicles the history of torture in Chicago, the burgeoning activist movement against police violence, and the American public’s complicity in perpetuating torture at home and abroad.

Streaming link: https://colby.zoom.us/j/97828602909

Cosponsored by the Center for the Arts and Humanities

October 13

“The Global Fight Against Torture” Gerald Staberock, Secretary General of the World Organization Against Torture

Wednesday, October 13 / 7:00 pm / Ostrove Auditorium, Diamond Building


Gerald Staberock serves as the Secretary General of the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT). Previously, he served over eight years with the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), including as Director of its Center for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers (CIJL) and as Director of its Global Security and Rule of Law Initiative.

Gerald is a lawyer from Germany, who has published on issues of the rule of law in transition countries, the domestic implementation of international standards, and human rights, including on the lack of accountability over intelligence agencies.

From 1998-2002 he worked at the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) in Warsaw coordinating rule of law and anti-torture projects, including prison reform projects in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

Streaming link: https://www.colby.edu/livestream/


October 21

Reading with Penobscot author Morgan Talty

Thursday, October 21 / 7:00 pm / Virtual

Join us as we celebrate Penobscot author Morgan Talty’s forthcoming book of stories, Night of the Living Rez.

Morgan Talty is a citizen of the Penobscot Indian Nation where he grew up. He received his BA in Native American Studies from Dartmouth College and his MFA in fiction from Stonecoast’s low-residency program. Named one of Narrative’s “30 Below 30,” his story collection Night of the Living Rez is forthcoming from Tin House Books (2022). His work has appeared in The Georgia Review, Shenandoah, TriQuarterly, Narrative Magazine, LitHub, and elsewhere. A current Lit Event Fellow for Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance as well as a recent recipient of a grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation, Talty teaches courses in both English and Native American Studies, and he is on the faculty at the Stonecoast MFA in creative writing. He lives in Levant, Maine.

Part of the Critical Indigenous Studies Initiative’s Indigenous Peoples’ Day Event Series 2021, in partnership with the University of Maine’s Native American Programs.

Register here: https://colby.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_4dM_LdgMTZum0u92Q2al2A

Sponsored by the American Studies Program’s Critical Indigenous Studies Initiative, Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program, the Oak Institute for Human Rights, the Center for the Arts and Humanities, and the University of Maine’s Native American Programs.


October 21

Freedom and Captivity on the Border: A Conversation with Amber Ramirez ‘14

Thursday, October 21 / 7:00 pm / Chace Community Forum, Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons

The Center for the Arts and Humanities and the Oak Institute for Human Rights are cosponsoring the first event in our Freedom, Captivity, and Human Rights Alumni Series. Assistant Professor of Spanish Nicolás Ramos Flores will host a conversation with Amber Ramirez ‘14, who will be speaking about life on the El Paso/Juárez border, her translation work since graduation, and her legal advocacy for detainees and asylum seekers.







November 9

Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, Gail Wolff Lecture in Environmental Studies

Tuesday, November 9 / 7:00 pm / Webinar Registration

Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson is a marine biologist, policy expert, writer, and Brooklyn native. She is a founder of the non-profit think tank Urban Ocean Lab, co-founder of the climate initiative The All We Can Save Project, and co-creator of the podcast How to Save a Planet. You’ll find her at the nexus of science, policy, and communication, building community around climate solutions.

This conversation will be moderated by Chris Walker, Pilar Fuentes, and Red Fong. The main event is one hour (7-8 p.m.) with an additional 30 minute small group discussion for those who elect to stay signed in.

Cosponsored by Colby Environmental Studies, the Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs, the Oak Institute for Human Rights, and Colby Center for the Arts and Humanities.



November 18

Zo Orchingwa ’14  – Freedom, Captivity, and Human Rights

Thursday, November 18 / 6:00 pm / Parker Reed Room, SSW Alumni Center, Appetizers and drinks provided

The Center for the Arts and Humanities and the Oak Institute for Human Rights are cosponsoring the second event in our Freedom, Captivity, and Human Rights Alumni Series.

Professor of Philosophy Jill Gordon will host a conversation with Zo Orchingwa ‘14 about Ameelio, his nonprofit app that transforms America’s correctional system by connecting incarcerated people with support networks, reducing recidivism and prison populations.

Uzoma “Zo” Orchingwa ’14 was born in Chicago to Nigerian immigrants. He spent his childhood in Aba, Nigeria, returning to the United States at the age of eight with his family. After completing his undergraduate studies at Colby College, Zo pursued a master’s degree at the University of Cambridge as a Gates Scholar, focusing on reexamining the history of US penal policy in pursuit of novel solutions. Currently, Zo is working as a researcher at Yale Law School and is involved in various projects in the city of New Haven, Connecticut.


Fall 2021

Exhibit: States of Incarceration

Diamond Atrium, Diamond Building

States of Incarceration is a collaboration of over 800 students and others deeply affected by incarceration in 18 states and counting. The United States incarcerates the highest percentage of its people, including immigrants, than any country in the world – and at any point in its history. 

How did this happen? What new questions does the past challenge us to ask about what is happening now? To find answers, this project examines local communities’ histories through courses at universities, local teams share stories, search archives, and visit correctional facilities. Together, these stories represent a diverse genealogy of the incarceration generation. It challenges all of us to remember our own past and use the insights of history to shape what happens next.

Oak Institute aims to add Maine to the exhibit over the course of the academic year. Our community’s history will add a different story that teaches us all something new. 

States of Incarceration is a project of the Humanities Action Lab, a coalition of universities led by Rutgers University-Newark working with issue organizations and public spaces to create traveling public projects on the past, present, and future of pressing social issues.


Fall 2021

Incarceration and Social Justice Lunch Series

Wednesdays at 12:00 pm  /  Dana 002 


Are you interested in meeting frontline activists from Maine?

Come to the Incarceration and Social Justice lunch series, organized by the Oak Institute for Human Rights, the Pugh Center, and the Office of Civic Engagement. You will have the opportunity to learn about and get involved with a number of different incarceration-related organizing efforts currently taking place in Maine.

The lunch series takes place every Wednesday at noon in Dana common room, featuring a front-line activist working on issues of incarceration and social justice in Maine. You will have the opportunity to learn about their life and work, ask questions, and make connections.

If you would like to be more involved, we are putting together a team of students who will work alongside our Incarceration and Social Justice programming to be a part of an incarcerated peer program, in which Colby students can be paired up with incarcerated students in order to learn together and work on a website that goes along with the States of Incarceration exhibit installed in the Diamond Atrium. Please send your interest to [email protected] or attend the first planning lunch on Wednesday, September 8th at 12 pm in Dana Common Room.

Lunch Series Guests:

Sept. 15 – Olga Sadovskaya, 2021 Oak Fellow and Russian human rights lawyer
Sept. 22 – Abdul Ali and Al Cleveland, Maine Youth Justice
Sept. 29 – Margot Fine and Bruce King, Maine Inside Out
Oct. 6 – Migrant Justice and Milk with Dignity
Oct. 13 – Gerald Staberock, World Organization Against Torture
Oct. 20 – Joseph Jackson, Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition
Oct. 27 – Leo Hylton, Maine State Prison, Warren
Nov. 3 – qainat khan ‘11, ACLU of Maine
Nov. 10 – Maple Raza, Sophie Nacht, and Bobby Payzant, Short film “The Way Life Is”
Nov. 17 – Jon Courtney and Brian Altvater, Maine Wabanaki REACH
Dec. 1 – Joy George, Restorative Justice Institute of Maine
Dec. 8 – Brainstorming lunch around incarceration in Maine

If you are interested in incarceration and abolition in Maine, take a look at the statewide Freedom & Captivity humanities initiative. Find more information about the initiative for an abolitionist future on the Freedom and Captivity website.



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