community · diaspora · scholars

renewed in an aswad-kinda way

Me and Independent Scholar Siima Itabaaza at ASWAD

Still basking in the light of the Association for the Worldwide Study of the African Diaspora (ASWAD) meeting, which was held this past week in Williamsburg, VA.

There are few words to capture how uplifted one feels at this event.

Me with my wonderful sister-scholars Deirdre Cooper Owens, Guerline Jozef and another strong soul whose name I missed! Arrgh!

While at the airport, preparing to return home, I spoke to Siima Itabaaza, an independent scholar from Uganda who said she is a member for life.

I will be as well!

It was great seeing Dr. Courtney Pierre Joseph, member of my University of Illinois doctoral cohort and Lake Forest College Assistant Professor, again. Her research on the history of  Haitian people in Chicago where she was born was powerfully delivered. She reminded me of how so much of our research can emerge as an origins story.

My interest in racial and spatial politics in Florida and explorations of Zora Neale Hurston’s understudied time in Miami in 1950, as presented in my ASWAD paper and an in-progress manuscript, arrive in a similar manner. In my case, I am definitely interested in exploring the history of the across time experiences of people of African descent on the Florida peninsula. I am also very interested in drawing attention to our ability to survive our desperate circumstances. One way we survive is via community, something I always find at ASWAD. The highlights:

  • the salute to the ancestors at a Jamestown event. Chadra Pittman, one ASWAD leader, warmly passed out cowrie shells. Her light brightly shone wherever she was during our time in Williamsburg. It was so wonderful meeting her and so many others including the new president as well as Dr. Erik McDuffie, one of my favorite professors at the University Illinois, who make this group run smoothly.IMG_7535.JPG
  • the stewed greens and jollof rice at one of the many receptions, which brought thoughts of our ancestral past. Conference organizers and several groups Colonial Williamsburg and American Evolution, as well as  Williamsburg Lodge Autograph Collection were so attentive to the many details of the conference experience.IMG_7497.JPG
  • listening to the many scholar-elders present including Carol Boyce Davies, Margaret Washington and Deborah Gray White. We truly stand on their shoulders. White’s pivotal text on the experiences of enslaved women in the plantation south certainly inspired my path toward my doctoral studiesIMG_7516.JPG
  • listening to the conversation with author Ta-Nehisi Coates whose love for Howard University and HBCU was seen in many other conference attendees. He said something along the lines of never be louder than the sound.”
  • IMG_7532.JPG I’m still reflecting on what all that means. His book The Water Dancer is on my must-read pile. I am a bit late to Coates’ work period as his rise to fame coincided with my tenure track run. I look forward to catching up.
  • seeing a beautiful dance performance at the College of William and Mary, which reminded me of how dance was part of my educational journey. I long to create in this way again by merging my training on other fronts with creative expression.IMG_7511.JPG
  • seeing Chibok, a virtual reality documentary on the Nigerian girls kidnapped from their school in Chibok. Meeting the filmmaker was a huge affirmation of my own desire to incorporate VR into my research

  • seeing 79, a moving film

I also enjoyed meeting Kim Nesta Archung of the African Diaspora Consortium, my fellow panelists, Robin Brooks, Claire Garcia and Alexandria Smith and Garcia’s sister Eve Maria.

Being in Williamsburg period was moving. I spent part of the summer of 2008 in the area while between graduate programs. I remember sitting on the James River, reflecting on primary sources, working at a Hallmark store and just trying to sort through so much as an older student trying to make her way into academe. I also met some cool people on planes and in the airport, coming and going. All of them give me more faith in the human spirit during these difficult political times.

Now, the march to the end of the semester. Alabama lost to FSU. But the Miami Hurricanes had another win during a homecoming celebration weekend. And how about the Illinois Illini over Michigan State?! Whaaaaat! Yay!




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