Spring 2018 Lecture & Performance Series

From the meditations of Ralph Ellison's classic novel, Invisible Man, to the lack of individuation of the varied and variable countries that make up the African continent in the public imagination, the realities of erasure — the disappearance of black identities, black selfhood, black lives, black histories, black countries, black freedoms, black accomplishments and more — has been a pervasive feature of black experience for hundreds of years. Erasure is, perhaps, one of the most virulent forms of racist oppression.

In the spring of 2018, the Griot Institute for Africana Studies will engage the topic of erasure from multiple disciplinary, artistic, and intellectual perspectives. Centering Percival Everett's novel Erasure as a focal point, the series will bring to campus a wide array of scholars and artists to consider the impacts of this eviscerating phenomenon of erasure.

Series Guest Speakers & Artists

Rebecca Moore

Rebecca Moore"The Erasure (and Re-inscription) of African Americans from the Jonestown Narrative."
Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018, 7 p.m.
Gallery Theatre, Elaine Langone Center (ELC 301)

Rebecca Moore is Professor Emerita of Religious Studies at San Diego State University. She has written and published extensively on Peoples Temple and Jonestown, including her most recent book Understanding Jonestown and Peoples Temple (Praeger, 2009), and an extensive description on the Temple appears at the World Religions & Spirituality Project at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Percival Everett

Percival Everett "Erasure"
Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, 7 p.m.
Gallery Theatre, Elaine Langone Center (ELC 301)

Percival Everett is Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Southern California and the author of nearly thirty books, including Percival Everett by Virgil Russell, Assumption, Erasure, I Am Not Sidney Poitier, and Glyph. He is the recipient of the Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, the Believer Book Award, and the 2006 PEN USA Center Award for Fiction. He has fly fished the west for over thirty years. He lives in Los Angeles.

C. Riley Snorton

C. Riley Snorton "Violence, Erasure, and the Invisibility of the Black Trans Community"
Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018, 7 p.m.
Gallery Theatre, Elaine Langone Center (ELC 301)

C. Riley Snorton earned his PhD in Communication and Culture, with graduate certificates in Africana Studies and Gender and Sexuality Studies from the University of Pennsylvania in 2010. He is a recipient of a predoctoral fellowship at the W.E.B. Dubois Institute at Harvard University (2009), a Mellon postdoctoral fellowship at Pomona College (2010), and a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (2015).

Snorton's research and teaching expertise include cultural theory, queer and transgender theory and history, Africana studies, performance studies, and popular culture. He has published articles in the Black Scholar, the International Journal of Communication, Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy, and Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture, and Society. Snorton's first book, Nobody Is Supposed to Know: Black Sexuality on the Down Low (University of Minnesota Press, 2014), traces the emergence and circulation of the down low in news and popular culture. His second book, Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity is forthcoming with the University of Minnesota Press in the fall of 2017.

He has also been listed as one of "Ten Transgender People You Should Know" by BET.

A Band Called Death (Bobby Hackney and Dannis Hackney)

Bobby and Dannis Hackney Film Screening: A Band Called Death
Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018, 7 p.m.
Gallery Theatre, Elaine Langone Center (ELC 301)

"A Band Called Death and Black Erasure"
Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018, 7 p.m.
Gallery Theatre, Elaine Langone Center (ELC 301)

Bobby and Dannis Hackney’s talk will examine the accounts of being an all-Black Rock band of three blood brothers, David Hackney, Dannis Hackney, and Bobby Hackney calling themselves “DEATH” in Detroit in 1975 during the heyday of the Motown era, playing what was considered at the time “white Rock music”. How the three brothers faced harsh rejection, criticism, and ridicule from both Black and White communities for playing Rock music instead of Black Soul music and Motown. Having been released from a prominent independent Producer’s contract because every major label turned them down, the three brothers self-released their studio recordings in 1976 which also received rejection, and now over 35 years later, their music is getting worldwide recognition and the three brothers are now being credited by Rock music historians with having pre-dated the sound of Punk Music by over 5 years. The two remaining brothers Bobby and Dannis Hackney are currently enjoying the success and recognition that DEATH is receiving today and are recording, producing, and touring, performing historic DEATH songs as well as new material. A major film/documentary was released in 2014 called A Band Called Death, and in 2016, DEATH has been inducted into the new African American History Museum at Smithsonian in Washington DC.

Detroit, Michigan’s DEATH FROM DETROIT are living proof that raw talent, ambition and honesty can prevail in an ever- changing music industry. By aligning their unwavering dedication with a signature sound, DEATH was conceived by leader and guitarist David Hackney (1952 – 2000) in 1973. Although no one at the time would disagree that the unique Rock-N-Roll sound of DEATH was revolutionary, the name stirred controversy and mixed reactions. Despite the fact that one of the music industry’s most well-known and powerful record label executives offered DEATH a possible deal in 1975, if they considered changing their name, David still refused, staying true to their concept, vision and inspiration. The band managed to get its master recordings back in their possession and released a 45 vinyl record in 1976, which launched the band and their music on an incredible 35 year journey.

In 2008, DEATH’s music was rediscovered and noted by rock historians as the sound that pre- dated the “punk” movement of sound by five years, “For The Whole World To See.” Among the wealth of music, happenings, cultural revolutions and changes of the 1960’s, the largest influence on brothers, David, Dannis and Bobby Hackney was a loving and supportive family that welcomed all genres of music into their home with open arms. At a time when the music industry was constantly changing and playing a huge part in shaping the then present worlds, David, Dannis and Bobby helped to define the landscape of the legendary punk rock genre.

Staying true to David’s vision and concept for the band, Bobby, Dannis and guitarist Bobbie Duncan have continued to work together to write, refine and produce the best, most honest, fun, loving and hard driving Rock-N-Roll music for their fans, young and old. They continue to present new innovations conceived by the current band and to present incredible songs written by both David and Bobby Hackney in the early days of DEATH from the 1970’s. Continuing on their original quest and David’s vision to perform around the globe, “For The Whole World To See.”

Scott Ellsworth

Scott Ellsworth "The 1921 Tulsa Riot and the Erasure of Black History"
Wednesday, March 7, 2018, 7 p.m.
Gallery Theatre, Elaine Langone Center (ELC 301)

The horrific 1921 race riot in Tulsa, Oklahoma was the largest single incident of racial violence in American history, one that resulted in an untold number of fatalities and the destruction of more than one-thousand African American homes and businesses. Yet despite its magnitude, the history of the riot — and of the flourishing black community that was destroyed — was actively suppressed and minimized. Dr. Ellsworth's talk will bring this dramatic and long marginalized story back to life.

Scott Ellsworth is a PEN Award winning writer described by Booklist as “a historian with the soul of a poet.” Born and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, he has spent nearly four decades researching, writing about, and breaking the silence over the 1921 Tulsa race riot, the single worst incident of racial violence in American History.

Scott has appeared on the TODAY Show, ABC News Nightline, National Public Radio, the BBC, The American Experience, and the History Channel, while he served with Dr. John Hope Franklin as the chief historians for the Tulsa Race Riot Commission.

Scott’s classic book on the riot, Death in a Promised Land: The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, has now been continuously in print for thirty-five years, while riot artifacts he collected are now on display at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. Scott currently teaches in the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan.

His most recent book, The Secret Game: A Wartime Story of Courage, Change, and Basketball’s Lost Triumph, was named by the Chicago Tribune as one of the Top Ten Books of 2015. Formerly a historian at the Smithsonian Institution, Scott received his B.A. in History at Reed College, and his Ph.D at Duke.

Jason Osder

Jason Osder Film Screening: Let the Fire Burn (Directed by Jason Osder)
Tuesday, March 20, 2018, 7 p.m.
Campus Theatre

On May 13, 1985, a longtime feud between the city of Philadelphia and controversial revolutionary group MOVE came to a deadly climax. By order of local authorities, police dropped military-grade explosives onto a MOVE-occupied rowhouse. TV cameras captured the conflagration that quickly escalated — and resulted in the tragic deaths of eleven people, all African American and including five children, and the destruction of 61 homes. Using only archival, LET THE FIRE BURN brings to life one of the most tumultuous and largely forgotten clashes between government and citizens in modern American history.

After the screening, director Jason Osder will lead an extended discussion of issues raised by the film, including historical relevance, systemic racism, collective memory and erasure.

Jason Osder is the director and producer of the award-winning documentary Let the Fire Burn, assistant professor at The George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs, and a partner at Amigo Media, a color-correction, postproduction, and training company. Let the Fire Burn premiered at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival where it was awarded the prize for best documentary editing and a jury special mention for best new documentary director. It went on to play theaters across the U.S. and festivals around the world, receiving accolades including three International Documentary Association Award Nominations, the Cinema Eye Honor for Best Editing, and the Independent Spirit Truer than Fiction Award. The U.S. broadcast premiere was on PBS in 2014.

Jason was named one of Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 Top New Faces of Independent Film in 2013. He is co-author of Final Cut Pro Workflows: The Independent Studio Handbook and creates online training courses for Lynda.com. Let the Fire Burn is a 2013 documentary film about the events leading up to and surrounding a 1985 stand-off between the black liberation group MOVE and the Philadelphia Police Department. The film is directed and produced by Jason Osder and is being distributed by Zeitgeist Films.

Ramona Africa

Ramona Africa "MOVE and Black Erasure"
Wednesday, March, 21, 2018, 7 p.m.
Gallery Theatre, Elaine Langone Center (ELC 301)

Ramon Africa will be talking about the need for people to stop looking to politicians, to this system, for solution and realize that we have to rely on ourselves.

My name is Ramona Africa, I’m 61 years old and am a committed MOVE member for 37 years now. I spent 7 years in prison as a MOVE political prisoner, from 1985 through 1992; I was imprisoned after the May 13, 1985 Holocaust where MOVE members, 6 adults and 5 babies were murdered, burned alive. I am the only adult to survive, along with one little boy.

I grew up in a middle class Black family in west Philadelphia and went to Catholic school from first to eighth grade. I went on to graduate from Temple University in Philadelphia where my aspiration was to become a lawyer. I was set to go to law school in the fall of 1979, but I encountered MOVE in the spring of 1979 and my whole life changed. It was my interest in the legal system that led me to MOVE trials and ultimately to MOVE. During those trials I saw the blatant injustice in the courts. I saw innocent MOVE people railroaded by judges, prosecutors and so-called defense attorneys. I also saw MOVE people fearlessly and expertly confront the criminal bias of court officials using the wisdom of John Africa, MOVE’S loved Founder, a wise and righteous Black man. I personally talked to committed MOVE members and was genuinely impressed with their wisdom, righteousness and unwavering commitment to fighting injustice. I ended up in MOVE instead of in law school because fighting injustice was more appealing to me than being a part of it.

I’ve been in MOVE 36 years now and spent 7 of those 35 years in prison, not because I’m a criminal, but rather because I’m a committed MOVE member and because I survived the murderous police attack on me and my family in 1985. I served my entire 7 year sentence, without being paroled because I, like several other MOVE family members, refused to agree to a “special condition of parole” that I have no contact at all with any MOVE member, whether they have a police record or not. We were being told to denounce our Religion and our family: We all refused to do that, so we were forced to serve our entire sentence.

Since my release from prison in 1992, I have traveled far and wide, talking to people about MOVE, our Belief, MOVE political prisoners and about John Africa.

Dread Scott

"Dread Scott Activism and the Erasure of Subversive Art: Imagine a World without America"
Wednesday, April 4, 2018, 7 p.m.
Gallery Theatre, Elaine Langone Center (ELC 301)

Dread Scott’s talk will look at a sampling of his art from the past 25 years. He works in a range of media including installation, photography, screen printing, video and performance. The works he will present will look at themes including:

  • American identity and patriotism
  • American democracy's roots in slavery and how that sets the stage for our present.
  • The criminalization of Black and Latino youth
  • The continuum connecting the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s to contemporary Black Lives Matter resistance to murder by police
  • Imagining a world free of oppression and exploitation

This is a world where a tiny handful of people control the wealth and knowledge humanity as a whole has created. It's a horror for most of humanity: a world of profound polarization, exploitation and suffering. Billions are excluded from intellectual development and full participation in society. We don't have to live this way and Dread Scott makes art as part of forging a radically different world. He will present and discuss revolutionary art to propel history forward.

Dread Scott makes revolutionary art to propel history forward. He first received national attention in 1989 when his art became the center of controversy over its use of the American flag while he was a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. President G.H.W. Bush called his art “disgraceful” and the entire US Senate denounced this work and outlawed it when they passed legislation to “protect the flag.”

His work has been included in recent exhibitions at MoMA PS1, the Walker Art Center, the Brooklyn Museum and the Pori Art Museum in Finland as well as on view in "America is Hard to See", the Whitney Museum's inaugural exhibition in their new building. In 2012, BAM, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, presented his performance Dread Scott: Decision as part of their 30th Anniversary Next Wave Festival.

Jack Shainman and Winkleman Gallery in New York have exhibited recent work and his public sculptures have been installed at Logan Square in Philadelphia and Franconia Sculpture Park in Minnesota. His work is in the collection of
the Whitney Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Akron Art Museum.

He is a recipient of a grants from the Creative Capital Foundation, the MAP Fund, the Pollock Krasner Foundation and has been awarded a Socially Engaged Artists Fellowship from A Blade of Grass Foundation. He works in a range of media including performance, photography, installation, screen-printing and video. His works can be hard-edged and poignant. Dread plays with fire — metaphorically and sometimes literally — as when he burned $171 on Wall Street and encouraged those with money to burn to add theirs to the pyre.

He is on the board of the New York Foundation for the Arts and is an Academician in the National Academy.

Pamela Newkirk

Pamela Newkirk "Erasure and the Astonishing Tale of Ota Benga"
Wednesday, April 11, 2018, 7 p.m.
Gallery Theatre, Elaine Langone Center (ELC 301)

In 1906 a young African man was prominently exhibited in the Bronx Zoo monkey house with an orangutan, a shameful episode that years later zoo officials dismissed as urban legend. This historical case raises troubling questions about what we know, and what we think we know, about our past and invites us to consider prevailing attitudes of that era that linger still.

Pamela Newkirk, PhD, is a media scholar, author and award-winning journalist whose work highlights the historical omission of multifaceted portraits of African descendants in scholarship and popular culture. Her latest book Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga, (HarperCollins) revisits the exhibition in 1906 of a young Congolese man in the Bronx Zoo monkey house and illuminates how prevailing racial representations enable and sustain oppression. Spectacle was listed among the Best Books of 2015 by NPR, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Boston Globe, The Huffington Post Black Voices and The Root, and won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Non-Fiction Literature and the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation Legacy Award.

Newkirk is the editor of Letters from Black America (Farrar, Straus & Giroux 2009) and A Love No Less: More Than Two Centuries of African American Love Letters (Doubleday 2004), which present a multidimensional portrait of African American life through hundreds of letters penned over the past three centuries.

Newkirk's book Within the Veil: Black Journalists, White Media, (NYU Press 2000), won the National Press Club Award for Media Criticism. Newkirk holds undergraduate and masters degrees in journalism from New York University and Columbia University, and a PhD in Comparative and International Education from Columbia University. She is professor of journalism and director of undergraduate studies in New York University's Arthur Carter Journalism Institute and previously worked at four successive news organizations, including New York Newsday where she was part of a Pulitzer Prize-winning team.

Her articles on media, race and African American art and culture have appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Nation and Artnews.


About the Griot Institute’s Annual Lecture & Performance Series

Each academic year the Griot Institute offers the Bucknell community a series that focuses on a question or issue of concern central to Africana Studies. The series seeks to explore and examine various questions in terms of their historical and contemporary resonances and significances. The series interrogates these questions from multiple disciplinary perspectives and employs the expertise and artistry of guest lecturers and performers in order to navigate their intellectual nuances and moral and ethical dimensions. The series is free and open to the Bucknell community, as well as the general public.

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