Spring 2019 Lecture & Performance Series

In Spring 2019, we invited the campus and community to participate in a lecture/conversation series entitled, "The Black Unfamiliar in the 21st Century."

In 1990, film critic Lisa Kennedy coined the phrase "the black familiar" to describe elements of black culture that she maintains are readily identifiable and, therefore, familiar. In the spring of 2019, Bucknell’s Griot Institute for Africana Studies invited the campus community to participate in a series that considers, in the face of the new century, the ways that scholars, artists, and practitioners have reconsidered familiar aspects of black culture, intellectual inquiry, and artistic production and have troubled traditional notions of black familiarity. These endeavors ranged from a reimagining of black theological traditions in terms of secular humanism, demythologizing of the realities of contemporary black immigration and asylum policy, and a rewriting of Confederate histories in light of black experience.

Series Guest Speakers & Artists

Christy Coleman
"Reclaiming Black History in the American Civil War"
Wednesday, Feb. 6, 7 p.m. in the Great Room, Hildreth-Mirza Humanities Center

Christy S. ColemanChristy S. Coleman began her career as living history interpreter at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation while a college student. She rose through the ranks to become the Director of the African American Interpretations and Presentations (1994-1996). It was during this time that she and her team gained international acclaim for their bold and evocative programming. During a reorganization in 1996 Colonial Williamsburg gave Ms. Coleman even greater responsibility by naming her Director of Midtown Operations, (1996-1998) which included Women's History, Religious Studies, African American History and several historic trades, houses and other interpretive programs. In the fall of 1998, Ms. Coleman named Director of Programs, making her responsible for all daily and special public programming at Colonial Williamsburg.

From 1999 to 2005, Ms. Coleman served as President and CEO of the nation's largest African American museum, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, MI. During her tenure, the museum's membership grew from 3500 to over 15,000. She also envisioned and launched a successful $43 million Legacy Campaign created to grow audiences, build an endowment, address capital and programming needs, and build a new $12 million, 22,000 square foot permanent exhibition entitled "And Still We Rise." In 2008, Ms. Coleman accepted the position of President and CEO of the American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar. The Center was the nation's first museum to explore the causes, course and legacies of the Civil War from Union, Confederate and African American perspectives.

During her tenure, the museum launched a successful capital campaign raising over $8 million; earned revenues have grown by over 30% and attendance has increased by over 60%. She has lectured extensively and consulted with some of the country's leading museums, written a number of articles for scholarly and public history publications as well as being an award winning screenwriter for educational television. Her most recent work Freedom Bound won an Emmy in 2009 for Outstanding Educational Programming for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Ms. Coleman was raised in Williamsburg, VA. She received her Bachelor and Master degrees from Hampton University. She is married and has two children.

Co-sponsored by the Department of History.

Edwidge Danticat - Rescheduled Date
Q&A: Wednesday, Feb. 27 at noon in the Great Room, Hildreth-Mirza Hall. RSVP was required.

"(Re)Writing the Black Immigrant Experience"
Wednesday, Feb. 27, 7 p.m. in the ELC Forum

Edwidge DanticatEdwidge Danticat is the author of several books, including Breath, Eyes, Memory, an Oprah Book Club selection, Krik? Krak!, a National Book Award finalist, The Farming of Bones, The Dew Breaker, Create Dangerously, and Claire of the Sea Light. She is also the editor of The Butterfly's Way: Voices from the Haitian Dyaspora in the United States, Best American Essays 2011, Haiti Noir and Haiti Noir 2. She has written six books for children and young adults, Anacaona, Behind the Mountains, Eight Days, The Last Mapou, Mama's Nightingale, Untwine,as well as a travel narrative, After the Dance. Her memoir, Brother, I'm Dying, was a 2007 finalist for the National Book Award and a 2008 winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for autobiography. She is a 2009 MacArthur fellow. Her most recent book, a work of nonfiction, The Art of Death: Writing the Final Story, was published in July 2017.

Co-sponsored by the Stadler Center for Poetry & Literary Arts and the Departments of Creative Writing and Literary Studies.

DeShuna Spencer
"​Black Representation"
Wednesday, March 6, 7 p.m. in the Great Room, Hildreth-Mirza Humanities Center

DeShaunaSpencerDeShuna Spencer, a social entrepreneur, is the Founder/CEO of kweliTV, an interactive video streaming network for the global black consumer. kweliTV is dedicated to the stories, issues and culture of the global black community. The platform offers a vast selection of on-demand independent films, web shows, news and historical programming, and documentaries specifically of the black experience from the US and across the globe. It will be accessible on smart TVs, internet TV devices (such as Apple TV and Roku), smartphones, game consoles, computers and tablets through a video app. KWELI (KWEH lee) means "TRUTH" IN SWAHILI. In December 2014, Spencer won a $20,000 grant from the NewU/Ford Foundation to develop her new venture, kweliTV, which is currently in beta.

Spencer is the founding publisher of emPowermagazine.com where she launched the emPower Players Awards honoring community activists of color. Spencer is also the producer and radio host of emPower Hour on DC's 89.3 FM WPFW. Before becoming an entrepreneur, Spencer served as the Director of Communications for EdMarket, a trade association in Silver Spring, MD. In that role, Spencer ran the organization's communications department and all media properties from its award-winning magazine, e-newsletters, social media efforts, ad sales, video initiatives and annual budget.

Co-sponsored by the Career Development Center.

Margo Natalie Crawford
"Black Post-Blackness"
Wednesday, March 20, 7 p.m. in the Great Room, Hildreth-Mirza Humanities Center

Margo Natalie CrawfordMargo Natalie Crawford argues that "black" and "post-black" meet in the experimental art of the 1960s and '70s Black Arts Movement and the early years of the 21st century. Black Post-Blackness: The Black Arts Movement and Twenty-First-Century Aesthetics, examines many genres: outdoor murals, paintings, installation art, editorial cartoons, experimental forms of art, as well as books, plays, and poetry.

The 1960s and '70s Black Arts Movement has been "flattened," Crawford insists, and she sets out to "complicate" that narrative."The tradition of black experimentalism must include the Black Arts Movement; the Black Arts Movement is not the movement that must be repudiated as we move to experimental blackness," she says. Crawford grew up in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, attended Swarthmore College for her bachelor's degree, and Yale University for her master's and doctorate. She taught at Vassar College and Indiana University, Bloomington, before Cornell. African-American literature and culture, and global black consciousness, have been the focus throughout her career. "A principal part of my work at this point is thinking about how we begin to frame these very first years of 21st century African-American literature, this emergent literature."

Rochelle Spencer
"Afro-Surrealism"
Wednesday, March 27, 7 p.m. in the Great Room, Hildreth-Mirza Humanities Center

Rochelle SpencerRochelle Spencer is co-editor of All About Skin: Short Fiction by Women Writers of Color, an acclaimed anthology published by University of Wisconsin Press. Novelist Junot Diàz hails it as "electrifying and absolutely necessary." Spencer is co-editing a second anthology, STEAM: Women on the Intersections of Science and Art, with Professor Jina Ortiz and writer and engineer Manjula Menon.

Spencer's work also appears in several publications including Poets and Writers, Callaloo, The African American Review, Publishers Weekly, The Rumpus, Mosaic Literary Magazine, Solstice, The East Bay Review, The Carbon Culture Review, and the Crab Creek Review. She is included in the Nasty Women Poets anthology and an excerpt from her novella The Rat People has just been published by The Fantasist. A Pushcart Prize nominee, Rochelle is the founder of the AfroSurreal Writers Workshop, a former Board Member of the Hurston-Wright Foundation and a member of the Wintergreen Writers Collective and the National Book Critics Circle. Rochelle is currently completing a dissertation on AfroSurrealism.

Co-programmed with "Surrealism: Yesterday and Today," Bucknell Humanities Center.

Baz Dreisinger, Ph.D.
"Black Incarceration Narratives"
Wednesday, April 3, 7 p.m. in the Great Room, Hildreth-Mirza Humanities Center

Baz DreisingerBaz Dreisinger works at the intersection of race, crime, culture and justice. She earned her Ph.D. in English from Columbia University, specializing in American and African-American studies. At John Jay she is the Founding Academic Director of John Jay's Prison-to- College Pipeline program, which offers college courses and reentry planning to incarcerated men at Otisville Correctional Facility, and broadly works to increase access to higher education for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals. Dr. Dreisinger's book Incarceration Nations: A Journey to Justice in Prisons Around the World (2016) was heralded by the New York Times, NPR and many more, and was named a notable book of 2016 by the Washington Post.

Professor Dreisinger moonlights as a journalist and critic, writing about Caribbean culture, race-related issues, travel, music and pop culture for such outlets as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal, and producing on-air segments about music and global culture for National Public Radio (NPR). Her first book Near Black: White-to- Black Passing in American Culture (2008) was featured in the New York Times and on NPR and CNN. Together with Oscar-nominated filmmaker Peter Spirer, Professor Dreisinger produced and wrote the two nationally aired documentaries about hip-hop, criminal justice and the prison industrial complex. She regularly speaks about justice reform and prison issues on popular news media and in international settings.

Carol Wayne White - Rescheduled Date and Location
"Black Lives and Sacred Humanity"
Wednesday, April 10, 7 p.m. in the Willard Smith Library

Carol WhiteCarol Wayne White is Professor of Philosophy of Religion at Bucknell University, and the author of Poststructuralism, Feminism, and Religion: Triangulating Positions (2002); The Legacy of Anne Conway (1631-70): Reverberations from a Mystical Naturalism (2009); and Black Lives and Sacred Humanity: Toward an African American Religious Naturalism (2016). She has published articles on process philosophy, religious naturalism, and critical theory. White has also received national awards and fellowships, including an Oxford University Fellowship in Religion and Science, a Science and Religion Course Award Program Development Grant (The John Templeton Foundation), and a NEH Fellowship. She is currently writing a new book that explores the tenets of deep ecology and insights of religious naturalism expressed in contemporary American nature poets and writers.

Co-sponsored by the Department of Religious Studies.


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.