Elijah E. Cummings Democracy and Freedom Festival 2024

Civic Education

Reginald F. Lewis Museum, Baltimore

Highlights from the Festival

Join the SNF Agora Institute for the fourth annual Elijah E. Cummings Democracy and Freedom Festival—a free event bringing together scholars and practitioners from across the country to join with the Johns Hopkins and Baltimore communities as we grapple with some of the most urgent challenges facing democracy, model civic engagement across divides, and celebrate democratic resilience and opportunity.

Through this year’s theme, civic education, we will explore how and where civics education should occur as well as the innovations being made to strengthen civics in their fields and communities of practice. The festival also includes an interactive art installation by Graham Projects and Rosy Sunshine Galvan and a dinner hosted by The People’s Supper.

All programming takes place at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum, 830 E. Pratt Street, Baltimore, MD 21202. Johns Hopkins students can take advantage of a free Lyft pass to and from the museum.

Festival Program 

 1-1:30 pm:  Welcome and Introductions  

1:30-1:50 pm:  Keynote Remarks on the Future of Civics

2–3:00 pm:  Opening Plenary: Where Should Civics Education Occur?

We often focus on civics education in schools, but that leaves out the important role other key institutions play in shaping and sustaining our civic understanding – from government agencies to news and media outlets to museums and cultural centers. Erica L. Green, White House correspondent for The New York Times, moderates this discussion among leaders from the media, government, nonprofit and educational sectors, including Ashley Rogers Berner, Director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy, Terri Lee Freeman, President of the Reginald F. Lewis Museum, Sarah Godlewski, Wisconsin’s Secretary of State, and Frank Langfitt, NPR’s Global Democracy correspondent.

3–3:30 pm:  Networking Break 

3:30–4:15 pm:  Breakout Session #1  

  • Impactful Civic Learning – Measuring what counts when it comes to cultivating the next generation of citizen leaders can be a complicated business. Janet Tran, Director of the Center for Civics, Education, and Opportunity at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute, and Kelly Siegel-Stechler, senior researcher at CIRCLE, explore ways civic learning and engagement providers can rigorously examine metrics and ensure that we are authentic in our impact and reach.
  • How to Steal the Election: Disinformation and the 2024 Presidential VotePeter Pomerantsev, SNF Agora Senior Fellow, investigates the dangers posed by foreign and domestic disinformation campaigns, media distortions, and the reality-show-like TV debate rules, and asks how we can imagine a better information environment that increases confidence in our most important democratic process.
  • School Boards as Civics Decisionmakers – Who does the school board serve, and how does this affect decisions on civics education? How do we weigh the concerns and desires of parents around their children’s civics education? Tiara Booker-Dwyer and Maggie Litz Domanowski, school board members from Baltimore County, and Aaron Poynton, school board member from Harford County, will examine how school boards exercise authority in decisions regarding civics education–and whether they should be involved at all–from their differing perspectives as elected and appointed officials. Kristen Horgan, Johns Hopkins University graduate student and educator, moderates.

4:15–4:30 pm:  Networking Break  

4:30–5:15 pm:  Breakout Session #2  

  • Equity in CivicsAndrew Wilkes, Chief Policy and Advocacy Officer for Generation Citizen, and Rashid Duroseau, Civics Program Director at Democracy Prep School, will share common challenges and best practices for advancing racially equitable democracy education, based on a new Generation Citizen report.
  • Local Opinion Sections and CivicsKevin Loker, Director of Strategic Partnerships & Research at the American Press Institute, will lead a discussion with Mark Williams, Opinion Editor at the Baltimore Banner, on how local opinion sections can and are becoming better sites for civic education.
  • Civic Seals as a Tool for Student EngagementGenie Massey with the Maryland Civic Education Coalition and Lisa Boudreau, Director of State Policy for CivXNow, lead an engaging panel on the proposed Maryland Seal of Civic Excellence, delving into how increased support for students’ civic engagement will nurture the next generation of engaged and informed citizens in Maryland.

5:15–5:45 pm:  Networking Break  

5:45–7:15 pm:  People’s Supper   

A shared meal with conversation, guided by The People’s Supper, meant to build trust and connection among people of different identities and perspectives. (Registration required)

Those who choose not to participate in the People’s Supper can have dinner on their own nearby or enjoy art in the museum’s lounge. 

7:30–9:00 pm:  Debate (Doors open at 7 pm)  

According to the Pew Research Center, nearly 75% of all Americans use social media in some capacity, with an increasing number of millennials and Gen Zers using these platforms as their primary source for news and information. But what does that mean for democracy – especially in an era of increasing polarization and rising disinformation? Join tech experts Joan Donovan of Boston University, Jennifer Granick of the ACLU, Mike Masnick of Techdirt, and Ramesh Srinivasan of UCLA as we explore the roles and responsibilities of social media companies in our democracy in a debate moderated by veteran White House correspondent April Ryan.


Thank you to our promotional sponsors and content partners

About the Elijah E. Cummings Democracy and Freedom Festival

Dr. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings created the festival in 2021 in honor of her late husband. Congressman Cummings was a staunch defender of democracy and used his voice to advocate tirelessly for the equal opportunity of under-represented and marginalized Americans, especially at the ballot box.