The Frances Tarlton “Sissy” Farenthold Endowed Lecture Series in Peace, Social Justice and Human Rights

To ensure the continuation of Sissy Farenthold’s legacy, this lecture series — in line with Sissy’s own history of exposing and responding to injustices and inequality as both a public servant and citizen — brings to Austin and Houston internationally renowned scholars and activists to inspire their audiences to think and act creatively to respond to some of the greatest challenges of the 21st century. The lecture is co-presented by, and alternates between, the Rapoport Center at UT-Austin and the Rothko Chapel in Houston.

This series is made possible by many of Sissy’s supporters from across the country (see list on the right) who have donated nearly $130,000 of our $200,000 goal for the endowment for the lecture series and related programming in issues of peace, social justice and human rights in Sissy’s name. Gifts and pledges may be made here.


Charles M. Blow: “Is this really a racial reckoning?” (watch now)

The 2020 lecture featured Charles M. Blow, an Op-Ed columnist at The New York Times, where his column appears on Mondays and Thursdays. Mr. Blow’s columns tackle hot-button issues such as social justice, racial equality, presidential politics, police violence, gun control, and the Black Lives Matter Movement. Mr. Blow is also a CNN commentator and was a Presidential Visiting Professor at Yale, where he taught a seminar on media and politics. Mr. Blow is the author of the critically acclaimed New York Times best-selling memoir, Fire Shut Up in My Bones. The event, hosted by the Rothko Chapel in Houston, took place virtually on October 1, 2020. Houston’s own Melanie Lawson of ABC 13 moderated a lively Q&A session following the lecture. For more information, please click here.


Ruth Wilson Gilmore: “Meanwhile: Making Abolitionist Geographies” (watch now)

The 2019 lecture featured Ruth Wilson Gilmore, a renowned activist and public scholar known for her work on prison abolition.  Gilmore is professor of earth & environmental sciences and American studies, as well as director of the Center for Place, Culture, and Politics at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. In addition to her scholarly work, Professor Gilmore co-founded several grassroots organizations, including the California Prison Moratorium Project, Critical Resistance, and the Central California Environmental Justice Network. The event took place on September 26, 2019 at the University of Texas School of Law. For more information, please click here. (Photo © Don Usner.)


Elizabeth Yeampierre: “Climate Justice: The Time is Now, The Place is Here” (watch now)

The 2018 lecture featured Puerto Rican attorney and climate justice activist Elizabeth Yeampierre, Executive Director of UPROSE, Brooklyn’s oldest Latino community-based organization, and the co-chair of the Climate Justice Alliance. Yeampierre spoke to a large audience at the Rothko Chapel in Houston about the urgent need for radical, community-led action to counter the mounting forces of climate change, which disproportionately impact poor communities of color. The event took place on November 29, 2018 and featured an interview with Bryan Parras, co-founder of Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services and a Dirty Fuels Gulf Organizer with the Sierra Club. For more information, please click here.


Ai-jen Poo: “Immigration and the Future of American Families” (watch now)

The 2017 lecture featured labor organizer and activist Ai-jen Poo, Executive Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and Co-Director of Caring Across Generations. Her presentation focused on the role of immigrant women in the American care economy, which is increasingly a central part of our entire economy. Her talk began with her personal story, and wove in the stories and solutions of immigrant women and the movement for a more caring economy and democracy. The event took place on October 19, 2017 at the University of Texas School of Law. For more information, please click here.


Darren Walker: “Yes Justice, Yes Peace: The Role of Art in Confronting Inequality” (watch now)

The 2016 lecture featured Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation. The event took place on October 3, 2016 at the Rothko Chapel in Houston. The lecture explored the intersection of the arts and human rights, and the need for artists and non-artists alike to engage more fully with the power of artistic expression in the instigation of social change. Mr. Walker was in conversation with Sarah Lewis, professor, curator, and bestselling author. A reception on the plaza followed in celebration of Sissy’s birthday. For more information, please click here.


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Mark Danner: “Spiraling Down: Human Rights, Endless War” (watch now)

The 2015 lecture featured writer, journalist, and professor Mark Danner. For more information, please click here.