October 25, 2005

Africana Ctr Holds Conference

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Topics ranging from “African and Africana Studies in Russia” to “Women in the Black Panther Party,” were presented and discussed during the African Heritage Studies Association’s (AHSA) 38th Annual Conference this past weekend. The national event, sponsored by Cornell’s Africana Studies and Research Center for the second time in AHSA’s history, was attended by scholars and students from around the world.

Prof. Molefi kete Asante, African American studies, Temple University, one of the foremost scholars in Africana studies, gave the keynote address. Introduced by Prof. Kenneth McClane, the W.E.B. DuBois Professor of Literature, his talk was entitled “Pan-African Movement in the Context of Contemporary World History.” Asante spoke about the necessity of creating unity within not only the African countries, but with people of African descent world-wide.

“In the 21st century,” he said, “our objective should be the total liberation of the minds of African people from Eurocentricity and the destruction of the idea that white privilege is natural in the world.”

Academics and politicians, he stressed, must play a role in shaping a unified and progressive vision for all African people.

Casey Johnson, a graduate student at Virginia Tech, traveled to Ithaca to present a paper on “Situating Virginia Hip Hop: Politics of Identity and Place.”

“Getting to hear people’s diverse perspectives is great,” she said, “especially when everyone is still working toward similar goals.”

The conference also included events discussing the history of Africana studies at Cornell. On Thursday evening, a small group of students and community members honored three residents who played a vital role in the center’s creation and for their support of African-American students during the last 50 years. Lucy Brown, who worked as a secretary in Stone Hall – where Trillium now stands – during the Straight takeover, remembers many of the students that participated in those formative events.

“Those young men were not terrible criminals,” she explained in response to a question about community reaction to the takeover, “they were really nice guys.”

The most intense discussion of the entire conference occurred during a presentation on the correct approach for the discussion and critique of sexuality and gender roles within the discipline and modern culture. Robert Johnson Jr. JD ’77, chair of Africana studies at University of Massachusetts at Boston, commented that “the discussion on sexuality is really important. It directs us toward an area of scholarly discourse that is fascinating and important.”

The planning committee for the conference included two graduate students in Africana Studies, La TaSha Levy and Taj Smith.

“The conference has been wonderful and a great inspiration,” Levy remarked. The best part about the event, she said, was “giving people the fire they need and remembering that scholarship needs to be connected to activism.”

Archived article by Scott Rosenthal
Sun Contributor