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SP2 highlights Disability Visibility book and Penn & Slavery tour as 2023-2024 begins

Members of the SP2 community engage in a discussion of the 2023-2024 One Book selection

Authored by: Carson Easterly

Photography by: Carson Easterly

Student Life


One Book, One SP2 discussions emphasize community, intersectionality, & disability justice

This year’s choice is Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century edited by disability rights activist Alice Wong. An anthology of essays by 35 individuals with disabilities, the book describes the complexities of their everyday life experiences, presenting a diverse perspective often missing in conversations in and out of the classroom.

A main objective of the One Book initiative is to build and strengthen connections within the SP2 community through opportunities for dialogue. As part of this aim, SP2 alumni, staff, and students have the opportunity to serve as facilitators for the small-group discussions and engage with individuals across the School. The book and ensuing discussions brought visibility to the community, culture, and daily life of the disability community.

 “What stands out for me is the complexity of experiences for individuals with both visible and invisible disabilities,” says Mazzola. “Also, how difficult it is to navigate various ‘systems’ to access services that are far from plentiful.  Advocacy is essential but often frustrating.”

Facilitator Daniel Price, NPL’23, echoes Mazzola’s conclusions from the experience, “My biggest takeaway was the detail and nuance the authors went [in] to explain how disability has a profound impact on their lives and how they handle and process those moments.”

In addition to propelling discussions during New Student Orientation, the One Book initiative will continue to facilitate dialogue and community connections throughout the year. 

Penn & Slavery tours shed light on hidden history & showcase student research 

Stop number one — the Benjamin Franklin statue in front of College Hall — focuses on “Caesar’s Story.” Enslaved by Penn’s first English professor Ebenezer Kinnersley, Caesar worked on Penn’s early campus from around 1757 to 1770. His labor included building fires and ringing the school bell that alerted students it was time for class. By using the app to scan the back panel of the statue, users can view a painting featuring Caesar standing alongside Kinnersley and his wife. Caesar comes to life in the painting to tell his story and give an introduction to the Penn & Slavery tour. 

Other topics highlighted on the tour include the role of Penn and its alumni in the production of scientific racism, the erasure of African American medical professionals on campus, the founders’ financial connections to wealthy enslavers, and monuments to enslavers on campus. 

For SP2 student Jalen Belgrave, MSSP ’24, the tour was essential “to understanding the impact of white supremacy within the community and campus of Penn.” Following the tour, Belgrave concluded that acknowledging and owning this history is an important and long journey for the University. 

“I think it’s crucial for the people who committed to learning at and from Penn [to] learn about Penn as well. And there’s something uniquely revelatory about the experience of standing in a space while learning its history,” says Gladney, who appreciated that P&SP was part of new SP2 students’ introduction to campus. “One thing I kept hearing the students say was, ‘Everyone on campus should take this tour!’” 

The project’s mobile app launched in 2021, and P&SP began offering guided, in-person campus tours this year. Since beginning tours, the P&SP team has had the opportunity to engage a number of Penn students and plans to continue expanding their reach.