Lecture and Performance Series, Spring 2016

In spring 2016, we invited the campus community to participate in a lecture/conversation series that marks the first major series partnership between the Griot Institute for Africana Studies and the Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity, and Gender.  The series was rooted in questions about the intersections of identity, race, gender, sexuality, aesthetics, and activism as they affect and inform a wide range of African American artistic expressions. The series had two main focal points. One was a scholarly conversation showcasing James Baldwin's astute and uncompromising analysis of institutional forms of racism, heteronormative sexuality, and anti-body sentiments found in dominant religious systems and tenets of his day.  The other was an extended conversation with leading African-American artists about their creative journeys in light of the contemporary structural realities of the United States, particularly as they concern artistic expression and racism and the intersections of aesthetic, economic, sociological, and psychological inequality.  Each of the artists presenting used Baldwin's legacy as a springboard for conversations about their own work and processes and their intersections with social justice.

Series Events

The Price of the Ticket

James Baldwin Film posterTuesday, Feb. 9, Campus Theatre 7 p.m.

The film recounts the life, works and beliefs of the late writer and civil rights activist and addresses what it is to be born black, impoverished, gifted, and gay in a world that has yet to understand that "all men are brothers." James Baldwin tells his own story in this emotional portrait. Using rarely-seen archival footage from nine different countries, the film melds intimate interviews and eloquent public speeches with cinéma vérité glimpses of Baldwin and original scenes from his extraordinary funeral service in December 1987. His close friends and colleagues - even critics - illuminate the narrative, among them writers Maya Angelou, Amiri Baraka and William Styron, plus entertainer Bobby Short.

Monica Simpson (SisterSong)

Monica Simpson Wednesday, Feb. 17, ELC Galley Theatre 7 p.m.

Monica Simpson is the Executive Director of SisterSong, the National Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective. As an activist, organizer, and artist, Monica has been widely recognized and admired for her relentless support and activism on social justice issues, especially affecting the LGBT and African-American communities. In addition to being widely recognized for her activism and philanthropic efforts, Monica founded Charlotte, North Carolina's first Black Gay Pride Celebration and Charlotte's African-American Giving Circle. She was also the first person of color to serve in the Lesbian and Gay Community Center in Charlotte. A native of North Carolina and graduate of Johnson C. Smith University, Monica continues to play an instrumental role in the fight against social injustice.

Judith Jamison (Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre)

Judith Jamison Wednesday, Feb. 24, Tustin Studio Theatre 7 p.m.

Judith Jamison joined Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1965 and quickly became an international star. Over the next 15 years, Mr. Ailey created some of his most enduring roles for her, most notably the tour-de-force solo Cry. During the 1970s and 80s, she appeared as a guest artist with ballet companies all over the world, starred in the hit Broadway musical Sophisticated Ladies, and formed her own company, The Jamison Project. She returned to Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1989 when Mr. Ailey asked her to succeed him as Artistic Director. In the 21 years that followed, she brought the Company to unprecedented heights. Ms. Jamison is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, among them a prime time Emmy Award, an American Choreography Award, the Kennedy Center Honor, a National Medal of Arts, a "Bessie" Award, the Phoenix Award, and the Handel Medallion. She was also listed in "TIME 100: The World's Most Influential People."  In 2004, under Ms. Jamison's artistic directorship, her idea of a permanent home for the Ailey company was realized. Ms. Jamison continues to dedicate herself to asserting the prominence of the arts in our culture, and she remains committed to promoting the significance of the Ailey legacy - using dance as a medium for honoring the past, celebrating the present and fearlessly reaching into the future.

(Co-sponsored with Theatre and Dance and supported with funding from the University Lectureship Committee)

Clarence Hardy (Yale Divinity School) 

Clarence Hardy Wednesday, March 2, ELC Gallery Theatre 7 p.m.

Clarence Hardy is a professor at Yale Divinity School, and author of an important book that has garnered national attention: James Baldwin's God: Sex, Hope and Crisis in Black Holiness Culture. He has also written articles that have appeared in The Journal of Religion and The American Quarterly. Professor Hardy is especially interested in the evolution of black religious rhetoric in the United States during the interwar and postwar periods.  Hardy received his Master of Divinity and Doctor of Philosophy degrees at Union Theological Seminary.

Michael L. Cobb (University of Toronto)

Michael Cobb Wednesday, March 23, ELC Gallery Theatre 7 p.m.

Cobb is Professor of English at the University of Toronto and has written on Baldwin's oeuvre.  His essays on race, sexuality, and literature have also appeared in Callaloo, GLQ, and the University of Toronto Quarterly. His recent work is Racial Blasphemies: Religious Irreverence and Race in American Literature. Michael Cobb holds an MA in Religion and Literature from the University of Chicago and a Doctor of Philosophy in English from Cornell University.

Caryl Phillips (novelist)

Caryl Phillips

Wednesday, March 30, Bucknell Hall 7 p.m.

Born in the West Indian island of St. Kitts and raised in Great Britain, Caryl Phillips explores and chronicles the experiences of peoples of the African diaspora through his work. In addition to his prolific writing career, Phillips has also taught at various universities throughout the United States and internationally including Amherst College, Barnard College, and Yale University. Phillips was named Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year in 1992 and listed as one of the Best of Young British Writers in 1993. He has received multiple prestigious awards including Martin Luther King Memorial Price, Guggenheim Fellowship, and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize.

(Co-sponsored with Stadler Center for Poetry)

Adrian Matejka (Indiana University in Bloomington)

Adrian Matejka

Tuesday, April 5, Bucknell Hall 7 p.m.

Adrian Matejka is an African-American poet born in Nuremberg, Germany. He moved to Indiana where he earned his BA in Creative Writing from Indiana University and MFA from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. His poetic works include The Devil's Garden, Mixology, and The Big Smoke. He has been the recipient of many prestigious awards including the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, Julia Peterkin Award, and a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship. Matejka is currently a professor in the Master of Fine Arts program at Indiana University in Bloomington.

(Co-sponsored with Stadler Center for Poetry)

Carlton Mackey (Emory University)

Carlton Mackey

Wednesday, April 6, ELC Gallery Theatre 7 p.m.

Carlton Mackey is a professional photographer, filmmaker, and advocate. He is currently Director of the Ethics and the Arts Program and the Assistant Director of the D. Abbott Turner Program in Ethics and Servant Leadership at Emory University. He is most recently recognized for his unprecedented and engaging project titled 50 Shades of Black where Mackey explores the intersection and complexities of skin color, sexuality, and black identity using multiple forms of artistry such as essays, poems, photographs, personal narratives, and paintings. Carlton Mackey was born in Georgia and attended the historical Tuskegee University. He then went on to earn his Master of Divinity degree at Candler School of Theology.

Roundtable Discussion on Baldwin’s Influence on Contemporary Scholarship in the Humanities (Queer Theory, Religious Naturalism, Philosophy of Race, Literary Studies)

Wednesday, April 13, Carnegie Reading Room 7 p.m.

Participants: Carol Wayne White (Philosophy of Religion), James Haille (Philosophy), and Glen Retief (Susquehanna University (Creative Writing).* White has a chapter devoted on Baldwin in a forthcoming book on race and religion as well as a forthcoming article on Baldwin and Queer African American Religious Naturalism. Haille is currently editing a book on Baldwin. Recent works on Baldwin’s writings (e.g., The Artist’s Protest Novel) related to social activism and literature and literary criticism.