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.

The​ ​Griot​ ​Spring​ ​Series​ ​is​ ​supported​ ​by​ ​the​ ​generous​ ​assistance​ ​of​ ​the​ ​University​ ​Lectureship Committee.

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)

This​ ​event​ ​is​ ​co-sponsored​ ​by​ ​the Department of Religious​ ​Studies.

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, ​the​ ​Novel:​ ​A​ ​Reading​ ​and​ ​Conversation​ ​with​ ​Percival​ ​Everett​ ​and​ ​Anthony​ ​Stewart"
Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, 7 p.m.
Gallery Theatre, Elaine Langone Center (ELC 301)

This​ ​event​ ​is​ ​co-sponsored​ ​by​ the ​Department of English.

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)

This​ ​event​ ​is​ ​co-sponsored​ ​by​ ​the​ ​Office​ ​of​ ​LGBTQ​ ​Resources​ ​and​ ​the​ ​Africana​ ​Studies Program.

C. Riley Snorton earned his Ph.D. 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 Dennis 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)

These​ ​events​ ​are​ ​co-sponsored​ ​by​ ​the​ ​Department​ ​of​ ​Music.

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.

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)

This​ ​event​ ​is​ ​co-sponsored​ ​by​ ​the​ ​Department of History​.

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.

Dr. Ellsworth 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.

Dr. Ellsworth’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. Dr. Ellsworth currently teaches in the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan.

Jason Osder

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

This​ ​event​ ​is​ ​co-sponsored​ ​by​ ​the Film/Media​ ​Studies​ ​Program and​ ​the​ ​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.

Ramona Africa

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

Ramona Africa will be talking about the need for people to stop looking to politicians, to this system, for solutions.

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.

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 seven 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

Artist Talk: "Dread ScottActivism 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)
Reception with artist to follow in the Samek Art Museum

This​ ​event​ ​is​ ​co-sponsored​ ​by​ ​the​ Department of Art & Art ​History​ ​and​ ​the​ ​Samek​ ​Art​ ​Museum.

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. 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.

Pamela Newkirk

Pamela Newkirk "Erasure and the Tale ​​of​​ the ​​Captivity,​​ Display,​​ and​​ Death​​ 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. 

Newkirk 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.


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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