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Pulitzer Prize-Winning Playwright Suzan-Lori Parks: On Social Justice, Race and Health


Nov 28, 2018 - 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.


College of Physicians & Surgeons, Columbia University Medical Center

We invite you to the inaugural event of the Department of Medical Humanities and Ethics of the Vagelos College of Physicians & Surgeons of Columbia University as we welcome Pulitzer-prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks to speak on race, justice, and health. A MacArthur “Genius” Award recipient, Parks was the first African-American woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize in Drama, which was awarded for her Broadway hit Topdog/Underdog. She has just been named winner of the Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award, awarded to “established playwrights whose body of work has made significant contributions to the American theatre.”

Parks will speak about her plays as they relate to the topics of race and justice. She will help us to address issues critical to the fields of medical humanities and the ethics of health care—racial justice, bias in health care, and cultural and political polarization. Her presentation will be followed by a dramatization by two actors of scenes from her recent work. Afterwards, we will engage with Parks in an audience talk-back where we'll continue to explore questions of inequity in health and society. Her creative art—and her own compelling narrative presentation—will allow us, as words alone would not, to face deep issues of justice and care within our national and professional cultures of health.

Suzan-Lori Parks studied writing with James Baldwin and has written screenplays for Spike Lee and Oprah Winfrey. Author of 22 plays and screenplays and one novel, her most recent plays are an adaptation of Gershwin’s Porgy & Bess and Father Comes Home from the War, set in the Civil War. She teaches playwriting at New York University and serves as the Master Writer Chair at New York’s Public Theater. She is at work on her second novel and is writing an adaptation of the film The Harder They Come for a live stage musical. Parks has just finished a new film adaptation of Richard Wright’s Native Son and is working on a film script about legendary singer Billie Holiday. The World Premiere of her new play, White Noise, opens at the Public Theater on February 19, 2019.

We are honored to have her speak at the first event of the new Department of Medical Humanities and Ethics at Columbia.

This event is free and open to the public. For more information, please visit narrativemedicine.org.