History in the Making - the 6th Annual AADS Student Research and Engagement Conference was held on March 20, 2014.
The Sixth AADS conference showcases student research and engagement, attracts living legends
As if nearly 50 undergraduate and graduate students presenting an array of academic research and creative expressions were not enough, the 6th annual African and African Diaspora Studies Student Research and Engagement Conference on March 20 offered much more, including a few surprises.
The all-day conference packed in 10 concurrent student panels; engaging workshops and discussions with artists and community activists; excerpts from the Pulitzer Prize winning play “Ruined”; keynote talks by a noted anthropologist and a leading historian and scholar; a Caribbean buffet dinner and an awards ceremony before ending at 11 p.m. with a hip-hop after party. It was the culmination of a week of activities constituting Pan-Africa Week.
The previously unscheduled appearances at the conference of descendants of one of the leading 19th century crusaders against lynching in America and a pioneering African-American historian prompted Jesse Benjamin, conference organizer and coordinator of the Interdisciplinary Studies Department’s African and African Diaspora Studies Program, to declare an “ancestral presence.”
Benjamin introduced Alfreda Duster Ferrell and Tiana Ferrell, the granddaughter and great, great-granddaughter, respectively, of Ida B. Wells, the famous journalist and editor of the Memphis Free Speech; and Vincent Harding, historian and first director of the Atlanta-based Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Center and the legendary Institute of the Black World, which spawned an entire generation of African-American scholars, researchers and historians.
“This was all serendipitous,” Benjamin said, describing a chance meeting with Tiana Ferrell at a local research library and telling her of the conference and the designation of one of its keynote addresses as the “Annual Bishop Henry McNeal Turner and Ida B. Wells Memorial Lecture.”
“Ida B. Wells told the truth about lynching and they destroyed her press and ran her out of Memphis,” said Benjamin, an associate professor of sociology and interdisciplinary studies. “And now, Ms. Ferrell has just announced that she will re-launch the newspaper in Memphis and Atlanta, making this a historic moment for Kennesaw State University.”
The appearances and announcement of Wells’ newspaper relaunch generated a great deal of excitement among students, faculty and others attending the conference.
“To know that the descendants of the Ida B. Wells are here and that they will announce the relaunch of her newspaper here and have such a rich history with Kennesaw State through the African and African Diaspora conference makes me just overjoyed,” said Immanuel Berry, a senior majoring in criminal justice.
The guests introductions came during the conference’s evening keynote lecture by Robert “Bobby” Hill, professor emeritus of history at the University of California at Los Angeles and editor of the Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers, a research project of the James S. Coleman African Studies Center at UCLA. Hill discussed the concept of Africa for Africans, the theoretical basis for Garvey’s back-to-Africa movement in the early 1920s.
In another conference keynote address, Chapurukha Kusimba, chair of anthropology at American University, discussed “Maritime Networks and Urban-Centered States in East Africa,” which focused on the commercial and cultural relationships that developed between Africa and Asia through trade routes across the Indian Ocean.
The conference’s primary focus was a series of student panel presentations and discussions on a range of topics including: current issues in ancient Egyptian art; noncooperation, insecurity and repatriation in Africa; challenges on the African continent; critical perspectives on decolonizing, development and decolonizing the mind; new directions in civil rights movement history; race and identity in Cuba; and a black women’s “talk back” on stereotypes, patriarchy, sexuality and self-image.
Other conference highlights included:
· A session on the crisis and promise in the Congo, featuring students and faculty engaged in producing the play “Ruined,” and representatives of community organizations, such as Project South, Beyond Borders and Friends of the Congo
· An artists’ roundtable discussion presenting global perspectives on hip-hop and its influence on politics and social change and featuring artists from the U.S., Mexico City, Mali, Senegal, Haiti, Montreal and Toronto
· A roundtable discussion on community activism and education featuring activist from eight organizations from across the African diaspora.
The conference is produced through a collaboration among Kennesaw State academic units, including the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, AADS, ISD, the INCM Ph.D. program; the Center for Conflict Management and the Center for African and African Diaspora Studies; the Office of the President and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion; student organizations, including the AADS Student Organization, Graduate Student Association and Global Society; and several partnering academic institutions and community organizations.
“We are grateful for a conference like AADS,” said Robin Dorff, dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. “It gives our students a chance to see other students, faculty and returning students presenting and engaging in academic presentations. Then they begin to say, ‘I can do that.’”
-- Sabbaye McGriff
Posted: March 25, 2014