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Speakers to examine social justice issues

Peter Harvey kicks off series Oct. 7

WVU Today

Protecting the rights of others, exposing discrimination through entertainment venues, sharing the anxiety of recovering from substance abuse disorder and recounting the personal experience of escaping a war-torn country through refugee camps are the social justice themes woven among the four speakers at West Virginia University’s 2020 Hardesty Festival of Ideas lectures.

Peter Harvey kicks off the series Oct. 7. A past Attorney General of New Jersey and a former federal prosecutor, Harvey has been a central player in civil and criminal trials, government investigations and consumer fraud matters, as well as an Independent Monitor for the Newark Police Department, responsible for overseeing its compliance with a consent decree. His legal experience includes protecting intellectual property rights, representing a national civil rights organization in federal and state courts throughout the country and defending a major art dealer against breach of contract claims. Harvey is on the board of directors of Futures Without Violence, focusing on domestic violence, sexual assault and childhood trauma policy issues. He is also on the National Planned Parenthood Advocacy Board and a member of the National Association of Attorneys General.

Harvey is hosted by Andrew L. Herz, a member of the American College of Real Estate Lawyers and a 17-year member of the National Council of the WVU College of Law.

In the midst of Diversity Week, W. Kamau Bell, a sociopolitical comedian and the host of the Emmy-winning United Shades of America, will share his “gimmick,” the intersectional progressivism with which he treats racial, gay and women’s issues as inseparable (according to “The New Yorker”) Oct. 14. Bell is an author, director and host of three critically acclaimed podcasts. He is on the board of Hollaback!, Donors Choose and is the ACLU Celebrity Ambassador for Racial Justice. Bell often performs at college campuses around the country performing his one-man show that inspired “Totally Biased, The W. Kamau Bell Curve: ending Racism in About an Hour.” His writing has been featured in “The New York Times,” “Vanity Fair,” “The Hollywood Reporter” and “Salon.”

Bell will be hosted by WVU Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Meshea Poore.

Next up on Oct. 21 is Chris Herren, an extraordinary basketball player who spent two seasons in the NBA, and who has been sober since 2008 and now shares his story with the goal of making a positive difference in the lives of others. Herren’s journey is documented in his best-selling book “Basketball Junkie” and in the Emmy-nominated ESPN Films documentary “Unguarded.” He grew his vision of support for others by founding the non-profit Herren Project. Through the organization, Herren and his team empower schools and communities to make healthy choices, while also guiding families through recovery. He also founded Herren Wellness, a residential health and wellness program that helps guests lead healthy, substance-free lives.

Herren will be hosted by Frankie Tack, a clinical assistant professor and coordinator of the Multidisciplinary Studies Program and minors in the Department of Counseling and Learning Services.

Clemantine Wamariya rounds out the Hardesty Festival of Ideas speakers on Oct. 28. Wamariya is the author of New York Times bestseller “The Girl Who Smiled Beads” A Story of War and What Comes After,” the WVU 2020 Campus Read. Her personal account of her childhood in Rwanda and her displacement through war-torn countries and her experiences through refugee camps have encouraged myriad people to persevere against great odds. With no formal education before she was 13, Wamariya went on to graduate from Yale with a degree in comparative literature. She has been a guest on “The Oprah Show” and a speaker at the Forbes Summit and TEDx, as well as numerous universities. President Obama appointed her to the board of the United States Holocaust Museum, making her the youngest board member in history.

Wamariya is hosted by Kirk Hazen, professor of linguistics and director of the West Virginia Dialect Project.

All events begin at 7 p.m. using the Zoom link on the Hardesty Festival of Ideas website that will go live 30 minutes prior to each event. Questions can be submitted ahead of each event by emailing

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