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Conference to focus on Black life in America

TAMPA, Fla. -- A national conference, “Race and Place: Cultural Landscapes of Black Life in America,” sponsored by the USF Institute on Black Life will be held at USF Tampa Feb. 19-21.

“Relationships between race and place are historically, socially and culturally powerful. These relationships are dynamic and do change over time,” said Associate Professor Cheryl Rodriguez, who directs the USF Institute on Black Life and also chairs the Department of Africana Studies. “Yet, despite the post-racial discourse that permeates global media, we are still affected by legacies of racial segregation that impact housing, mobility, community development, education and many other important aspects of life.

“This conference focuses on place as a geographic, political and socially-constructed concept. The speakers and panelists will offer many creative and fascinating perspectives on this theme which emerged from our ongoing engaged research and partnerships with residents in local historically-Black communities.”

“But aside from explorations of socio-spatial race histories, IBL also endeavors to provide a forum for interdisciplinary discussions about the ways that community, citizenship, resistance and resiliency intersect in relationships of race and place” she said. “So, we have invited social scientists, humanities scholars, faculty in education, as well as visual artists, actors, playwrights, musicians, genealogists, archivists and others to this gathering.”

The opening session of the conference runs from 2-5:30 p.m. Feb. 19 in the Marshall Student Center’s Palm Room (2708) and starts with a welcome from Rodriguez with USF Provost Ralph Wilcox and College of Arts and Sciences Dean Eric Eisenberg. It will be followed by a presentation of select scenes from and a discussion of the play “the road weeps, the well runs by” with playwright Marcus Gardley, USF English Professor Gary Lemons and Assistant Professor Fanni Green. Green is directing the play for a production that opens April 13 in USF Theatre II. The afternoon program ends with a reception and refreshments.

After registration at 8:30 a.m. on Feb. 20 at the Patel Center for Global Solutions, Rodriguez will welcome attendees to the plenary session, “Contested Places and the Invisibility of Black History: Recent Investigations at Boot Hill, a Segregation-era African-American Burial Ground in Northwest Florida.” Panelists include Associate Professors Antoinette Jackson, Erin Kimmerle and E. Christian Wells. They will discuss the findings of their project at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys. This headline-making research effort underscores the invisibility of Black history and conflicts about heritage, civil rights and juvenile justice in Florida.

Following the plenary, concurrent panels are scheduled throughout the afternoon. The lunch period features guest speaker Marshall University Professor Luke E. Lassiter. He teaches anthropology and the humanities and directs the graduate humanities program. Lassiter is the author of the ethnography, “The Other Side of Middletown: Exploring Muncie’s African American Community.”

A poster presentation “The Freedom Summer Oral History Digitization Project: Making Hidden Collections Visible” will be held from 2-2:30 p.m. along with book signings by Lassiter, several USF faculty and Friday’s featured guest speaker, N. Y. Nathiri.

The final morning at the Patel Center, author, activist and folklorist Nathiri will speak on the topic “Zora! Zora Neale Hurston: A Woman and Her Community,” the title of a book she edited. She is executive director of the Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts in Eatonville, Fla., and director of multidisciplinary programs at the Association to Preserve the Eatonville Community.

The plenary session that follows is moderated by Maurice Harvey, president of the Carver City-Lincoln Gardens Civic Association. This panel will feature research on local African-American communities, including Tampa’s historic Carver City-Lincoln Gardens and Progress Village.

Two pairs of concurrent panels follow lunch: from 1-2:15 p.m.: “Florida as a Raced Place” and “Complicating Race and Place” and from 2:30-3:45 p.m.: “The Anthropology of Race, Gender, Poverty and Place” and “Culture and Politics: Present and Past.”

“These discussions all revolve around place-making, memory, identity and resiliency in Black communities,” Rodriguez said. “I especially hope to see student participants take away an understanding of the importance of these concepts to the fabric of this country.”

For more information on the conference please see the IBL website. For registration and information, click here or go to


Filed under:Arts and Sciences Africana Studies Events Anthropology English 
Author: Barbara Melendez