Speakers engaged in renewed conversation over contemporary racism against black people in the Western hemisphere at a lecture series Wednesday.
The event marked the kickoff of the annual Lozano Long Conference, a three day series of speakers, scholars and artists focused on issues facing people of Latino and African descent.
This year’s conference is a collaboration of the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies (LLILAS) and the John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies (WCAAAS). Other sponsors include the School of Social Work, the Office of Graduate Studies and the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection.
According to Paloma Diaz, senior program coordinator at the Long Institute, the annual conference has had a history of tackling political, economic and social issues relevant to Latinos for the past six years.
But 2013’s conference, entitled “Refashioning Blackness: Contesting Racism in the Afro-Americas,” aims at reconceptualizing race issues facing black people throughout the Americas, Diaz said.
“We’re committed to a hemispheric discussion on blackness,” director at WCAAAS Frank Guridy said.
Juliet Hooker, associate director of the Long Institute, further defined the conference’s purpose.
“We wanted it to be a conference that reckoned with where we are now, both scholarly and socially,” Hooker said.
Wednesday’s event was introduced with a lecture by photographer Tony Gleaton, who presented his photo exhibition called “Tengo Casi 500 Anos: Africa’s Legacy in Mexico, Central America, and South America,” focusing on people of African descent in the Western hemisphere.
Gleaton related his experiences shooting photos across the Americas, which included hitchhiking through Mexico with a group of horsemen from Los Angeles. After Gleaton’s exhibit, the hosts introduced the keynote speaker, Ta-Nehisi Coates.
Coates, a writer and editor for The Atlantic, is a Martin Luther King visiting associate professor at MIT and the author of a memoir titled “The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood.”
Coates’ speech concentrated on the current state of racial equality in the U.S. after the Emancipation Proclamation 150 years ago. He cited historical examples of racism in American policy to illustrate the struggles of black Americans.
“If you look at any social safety model like the New Deal, it was passed in a way that did not empower black people,” Coates said.
Later, Coates critiqued the idea of the U.S. as a post-racial society, claiming that American policy is still intertwined with racism that harms the black population. Coates concluded by saying reluctance to acknowledge racism renders the public unable to tackle larger problems.
The Lozano Long Conference will continue through Friday.
Printed on Thursday, February 21, 2013 as: 'Refashioning Blackness' begins