Rethinking Race: UA Students Learn about Harold Washington During Film Screening of Punch 9 and Q&A with Filmmaker Joe Winston


By Alexa Baumberger, Arts and Entertainment Editor

Students learned about Harold Washington’s turbulent journey becoming Chicago’s first Black mayor at The University of Akron’s “Punch 9 for Harold Washington” film screening and Q&A. This event on Tuesday, Feb. 28 from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. in the Jean Hower Taber Gardner Theatre was part of the Rethinking Race series on campus. 

Rethinking Race is a two-week forum of events focusing on social justice, equity and inclusion. This year marks the seventeenth year the series has been a part of the university. Students and faculty on the Rethinking Race committee join to plan events involving race-related issues in society, hoping to facilitate courageous conversations. 

During the film and subsequent Q&A event, students got insider details about Washington’s experience campaigning in Chicago. Punch 9 shed light on the extreme corruption, discrimination, and political power plays seen in Chicago in the ‘80s while Harold Washington was campaigning to become the first African American mayor in the city.   

Telling the story of Harold Washington at Rethinking Race this year felt relevant to event planners. The racial issues Washington faced still play a part in our society and politics. 

 “That’s why we still have issues today; we haven’t solved the underlying problem,” said Winston, while talking about race-related issues having roots within government institutions.  

Police brutality, one of the issues highlighted in the film, ran rampant during Washington’s time in office. It still divides our country today. One student in the audience asked Winston his opinion on the relevancy of his film to students living in today’s society. 

“Crucial, it’s tremendously important. We have support to use this film in curriculum to show to students, and get them involved,” said Winston.  

There were students in attendance who hadn’t heard of Washington’s story until that week. Winston hopes his film becoming part of curriculum will expose students to more stories than the ones widely known. Rosa Parks was one example.  

Winston expressed how he felt about highlighting stories like Washington’s. 

“None of it gets its due. There’s always more to hear,” he said. 

Students who weren’t aware of Washington’s story felt surprised by the level of racial discrimination Chicago experienced in the ‘80s.  

Ariel Torgler, a Communication and Media studies major, expressed the messages she learned from the film. 

 “How Black people were continually dismissed and treated like second-class citizens, and how they had to fight to be heard,” she said. 

Rethinking Race events are free for the public and give students and faculty opportunities to learn about and discuss issues involving race. The series ran through March 9th and the University of Akron hosted different events every weekday.  

This event with Rethinking Race was sponsored by The University of Akron’s Department of Political Science, The Drs. Gary B. & Pamela S. Williams Honors College, Ray C. Bliss Institute for Applied Politics, The University of Akron School of Law, Black Law Students Association, The Institute for Leadership Advancement in the College of Business, School of Communication, and the Department of History.