Editorial December 2014

On Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and Mothering in the Academy

The recent slayings of unarmed Black men and children in the US has rendered the country breathless. I can’t breathe. The world has heard and replayed these words millions of times over the last few weeks. The people can’t breathe. As a university faculty member and mother of two burgeoning teenagers, real life and current events inform my public and private lectures on race, class, gender, and sexual bias in this country. As a faculty member at a public liberal arts institution with a checkered past when it comes to race relations, my work to teach my students to identify the visceral ways race and socio-economic status punctuate about our individual and collective identities is that more poignant. While examining notions of race and gender from Black feminist and social justice frameworks, I encourage my students to be both self-reflective and cognizant of the ways in which negative and destructive narratives about Black people are inculcated in media coverage of poor, Black–urban life. In recent weeks, my work has taken on a surreal meaning—discussions about the Black liberation struggles of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s take place in real time as similar multi- racial and multi-generational protests push back against state-sanctioned demonization of Black people and violence against Black men, women, and children.

Indeed this is an important moment in our history. On Saturday, December 13th, thousands of Americans from across the country lined the streets of major urban centers and rural cities like Charleston, South Carolina to demonstrate their outrage at the flagrant disregard for Black life by those who are sworn to serve and protect us. The throngs of protestors came from every walk of life to declare a collective mandate that all people be treated justly and with dignity and respect.

Ironically, just as thousands of Americans were protesting, Congress was busy passing a $1.1 trillion spending bill that will continue to bankroll Wall Street and bankrupt Main Street,–for example the $300 million cut to Pell Grant—will make it even more difficult for parents to send their children to college. I can’t breathe.

Just as Eric Garner uttered these last few words as he lay dying, the people have spoken. In words.  In actions. In collective sentiment. This is a watershed moment. Now we must wait to see what the end’s gon’ be.


Patricia Williams Lessane;

The College of Charleston’s Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture

Editorial October 2014

Dear all,

this month’s guest editorial has been written by Concepción Parrondo Carreter. A native of Malaga, Spain, she is an academic scholar whose focus of research centers on Contemporary African American Literature, an area in which she explores the theory of difference from an intersectional perspective. Ms. Parrondo lived for twenty seven years in the USA where she taught Spanish and Latin to high school students. Upon returning to her native country, she has obtained a degree in English Philology and pursued a Master’s in Advanced English Studies with an interest in North American Literature. Since 2008, she has been actively participating as a speaker and moderator in several international conferences regarding African American studies. Ms. Parrondo is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Malaga, Spain, where she continues working as a secondary school teacher. She is deeply involved in the development and implementation of Bilingualism for secondary schools in the area.

Sebastian Weier (Editor CAAR Website)


On the other side of the tracks: reflections upon the Old South.

To be a stranger in a strange land has its advantages. Having moved to the US at the age of 21, I had the opportunity to take in experiences with an open mind and a full heart. At the beginning, we went to California, and later moved from state to state working our way back to the East Coast where life felt similar to the Old continent of Europe. Arizona, Maryland and Washington D.C. were next on the list until we finally landed in Georgia, one of the most representative states of what is known as the Old South.

I still remember as it were yesterday my first impression of this state. Luscious green covered the peanut fields on each side of Interstate 75 as we rode down to a small town USA three hours south of Atlanta. Being awarded with the title of “The Reading Capital of the World,” such place sits conveniently located right on the freeway, the main artery that connects all small population centers to the real world. Though some of the town’s authorities were against being so exposed to civilization, others deemed it extremely important to be in close contact with those playing a decisive role in the state’s affairs: the politicians up north (for everything beyond Macon’s gnat line is considered, in that neck of the woods, the North).

Life stands still in the Old South. Besides its climate, this land down south offers numerous perks to the outsider. Housing is affordable, schools (especially the private enterprises) tend to focus on the human side of learning, and the people do offer you “southern hospitality.” Being a foreigner and (as I found out later on) belonging to the white elite granted me the opportunity to move about town with the eyes of an unintended flauneress who quickly caught on with the local jargon and enjoyed new expressions such as “as cute as a bug in a rug,” “tickled pink,” and “down yonder.” My learning process went on smoothly and uneventfully. Not only did I learn a new English code of communication but I was almost immediately invited to participate in the most popular events of the area. A new world opened up before my eyes while attending garden club meetings, taking the kids to BSA (Boy Scouts of America), learning karate, and joining book clubs.

            Allow me to describe the social hierarchy of this little town. There was the good-old-boy network that tacitly showed the rest of us the rules of social conduct. We were all neatly placed in different “zones” just for the benefit of acquiring our own sense of belonging; perfectly manicured neighborhoods shied away from the interstate and found refuge in secluded residential areas where a sort of “Tom Sawyer” lifestyle could safely come true. Downtown was reserved for businesses and government buildings, yet as you stepped out of that handful of streets, a different atmosphere took hold of the immediate surroundings where more modest housing was seen everywhere. Life was, indeed, orderly and peaceful.

After the excitement of moving into a new place wore off, I found myself picking up on things never noticed before. For example, why did the statue of the confederate soldier in the park have a legend reading “Lest we forget?” and why, when lining up at the bank, would people make way for me to go first? And what was more, why did everybody always refer to the other side of the tracks as the forbidden land where respectable and honorable folks ought not to go to? The “other side of the tracks,” I sadly learned, was inhabited by those less privileged in the community. Home to temporary farm workers, the unemployed and the forgotten, the other side of the tracks was a reminder of how society still categorizes class, gender and race. For, having come a long way, the journey to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is yet to come for all. In this little place Mexicans, African Americans, and other races and genders did their very best to make it into society. Among them, there were whites of very low economic means. They were regarded by their own as the lowest class of all, “dirt poor and ignorant.”

Until recently very little has been known about the poor whites of America. Travel accounts have described them as “vaporing, disgusting, and unprofitable set of beings, devoid of education, religion or manners.” It is no wonder poor whites have been stereotyped, even well into the twentieth century, as “idle, lazy, and indolent; ignorant, uneducated, and suspicious; impoverished and malnourished; dirty and disease-ridden; as well as drunken and immoral” (Denison Olmstead 1825).

Some African American authors such as Margaret Walker have tried to give us an idea of what being white and poor would have been like in times of slavery; in the words of Vyry Brown, the protagonist of Jubilee (1966), poor whites were “po buckra, who lived back in the pine barrens and on the rocky hills” (Jubilee 50). This type suffered as much as the black slaves for there was no one to provide them with the rations of corn meal and salt pork and so people quickly learned to have contempt for this class, the “poor white trash” (Jubilee 50).

 Years later, I have come to the conclusion that prejudice is a disease that targets those who do not have the means to go on in life as part of the mainstream. Today, white authors being born in poverty are putting their best effort forward towards building social awareness about the poor whites. In this context I cannot help but think of Dorothy Allison. Dorothy Allison has been extremely vocal in vindicating the poor whites’ right to their own identity. To her, the term “white trash” contains nothing to be ashamed of; on the contrary, it is something to take pride in. Having admitted the world has changed, Allison calls out to other writers like her (such as African American authors at the forefront of the fight against social injustice) to make a change, for, “we need more people of large ambition, people who refuse censorship, denial, and hatred, people who still hope to change the world” (Allison 1994). Because of her motivation to change things for the better, Dorothy Allison understands being called “white trash” as a sign that identifies her as who she is: a poor-white female writer, born to a fifteen-year-old unwed mother, who strived to do her best to get out of her social location. If W.E.B. Dubois wished to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American without being cursed or spit upon by his fellows (The Souls of Black Folk, 1903), Allison wishes for the poor whites to be looked upon as prejudice-free Americans too. First in her family to graduate from high school, Allison was awarded a National Merit Scholarship and went on to study at Florida Presbyterian College. She writes poetry, short stories and essays, as well as novels. Allison’s first novel, A Bastard out of Carolina (1992), has been the recipient of the Ferro-Grumley Prize and was finalist for the 1992 National Book Award. Her second novel, Cavedweller (1998), depicts the story of a poor white woman in search of her identity. Allison was awarded the 2007 Robert Penn Warren Award for Fiction, and is currently working on her third novel. Dorothy Allison has joined the fight against social stigmatizing of whatever race, gender or class that may be. In so doing she understands what oppression, prejudice and social ostracism mean for any underprivileged group. It is her strive and the strive of others such as Audre Lorde, Margaret Walker, Toni Morrison, and Octavia Butler to name a few, what is changing the general public’s opinion of those who are forced to live in social isolation.

It has been ten years since I left South Georgia and yet I find myself, at times, thinking back of those lazy summer afternoons and wondering what ever happened to “that other side of the tracks.”


Concepción Parrondo Carretero

UMA, Spain.

Editorial September 2014

“No Writer’s House for James Baldwin”

This editorial has been inspired by some thoughts and writing I have been chasing following my return visit, last June, to James Baldwin’s house, Chez Baldwin, in St. Paul-de-Vence in the south of France. Baldwin wrote about his last abode in a short piece published in the Architectural Digest in August 1987, just months before he died. What struck me in that piece was the absence of his sexual identity as a black queer man, one who had boldly addressed desire and the body as inextricably intertwined with race in all of his works. More important, while it might have seemed that his reticence about his private life in a publication that produced “digest” pieces for middle-class coffee tables, was somewhat justified after all, I have been struck by deliberate omissions of that part of his life from public accounts that have been appearing ever since his passing.

Indeed, the absence of James Baldwin’s black queer persona in the public events about him, eulogies, and acknowledgments of his legacy following his death and funeral are glaring vis-à-vis the accounts by his friends and biographers that hail the author’s legendary parties and entourages of visitors, lovers, and family who often filled his house in the south of France. For example, Kendall Thomas writes in the important volume, The House that Race Built (1997), that during Baldwin’s funeral at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City on December 8, 1987 the silence about the writer’s sexuality “cut me to the core, because I knew that while Baldwin may have left America because he was black, he left Harlem, the place he called ‘home,’ because he was gay.” He adds, “In the years since Baldwin’s death … his testimony as a witness to gay experience has become the target of a certain revisionist impeachment… [even though] we live in a world in which individual identities are constructed in and through constructs of gendered sexual difference.” Referring to what he terms the “jargon of racial authenticity,” which excludes non-normative sexualities from the discussions of national blackness, Thomas thus sees Baldwin’s black queer homelessness as a result of deliberate efforts to claim and domesticate him as a safely desexualized black writer, which attests to the exclusion of gay people of both sexes from the African American family.

I have had a very similar, and odd given that it is now the second decade of the twenty-first century or twenty-seven years since the writer’s funeral, experience recently, during the street re-naming ceremony in Harlem, on August 2, 2014, when the part of the 128th street between Fifth and Madison was officially proclaimed “James Baldwin Place.” Coming on the writer’s ninetieth birthday, the event’s numerous speeches and accolades to the “son of Harlem” and the “great African American writer” emphasized the familial and domestic claims on him, but elided his sexual persona and the tremendous work he performed internationally as someone who celebrated same-sex desire and wrote about sexuality as inextricably connected to racial, national, and religious identities.

While a couple of performers at the reading from The Fire Next Time at the National Black Theater, which followed the street event, self-identified as queer, Baldwin was safely desexualized yet again by excluding that designation from his person, by casual anecdotes, chuckling recollections, and narrowed interpretations that rendered him safely black, familiar, and disembodied. The complex, intellectually challenging, passionate, and difficult persona of the black queer writer and international intellectual was as absent in Baldwin’s posthumous representations, as what Maria Diedrich poignantly refers to in her chapter, “James A. Baldwin: Obituaries for a Black Ishmael,” as “everybody’s Jimmy” – reigned supreme. This fact begs two questions. On the one hand, what more can we expect to assemble from the remains of his life today than a mere sum of the scattered, incomplete, largely superficial, and mismatched parts? On the other, do we not have an obligation to stay as true, critical, open, and unabashed in recalling his life as he was in his works and critiques of the American scene?

It seems that the fate of the writer’s house in France provides some clues towards answering these questions. While the physical topography of Baldwin’s intimate house has been lost forever—there are few preserved images from the time he lived there and the site remains unmarked, lost to developers—like me, many readers and scholars have visited St. Paul-de-Vence in hopes of glimpsing the structure that housed the famous writer. These trips come about because those who read and study this complex writer crave material reminders of his life, especially given that so few of them are present in the United States. We, the privileged few who have managed to travel to Chez Baldwin, have been trying to envisage what in its surroundings might have fed the imagination of the author’s late years.

As Quentin Miller writes, “I had read all of his books until the bindings fell apart, but I wanted something else, some intangible feeling for where he had been.” Writing about a recent visit to the site in The Times Literary Supplement, the visit that compelled him to jump over a fence, Douglas Field expresses dismay at seeing the writer’s study and comparing it to real and imagined scenes from the writer’s life, “It was hard to reconcile this bare and derelict room with the pictures I’d seen of Baldwin sitting at a rustic table, surrounded by photographs and personal, homely objects: a painting by his old friend Beauford Delaney; an exhausted looking typewriter; a drink …; cigarette packets; and a sheaf of papers – a manuscript – but which? There was little to see in his study except for flaking plaster.” Ed Pavlich had gone to see the house days before I made my own most recent journey there, and sent me a photograph that helped me find my way onto the grounds without having to jump fences. Pavlich’s reaction to the state of Chez Baldwin was more upbeat than mine, as he thought the house sturdy and solid and only needing “lots of love.” The house of James Baldwin, which, again, has been irrevocably lost to developers by his family in the early 2000’s, whether still standing or not, and regardless of its legal ownership remains an important access point – literal and literary – to Baldwin’s legacy.

After two visits to the house, in 2000 and 2014, and obsessive re-reading of Baldwin’s house-tour-narrative in the Architectural Digest, I have realized that the only way to deal with the material on hand was to attempt to excavate, if you will, what remains of Chez Baldwin despite its gradual erasure, to write into being its material and metaphorical stories as a black queer domestic space that was key to the writer’s later works, such as his last two novels, If Beale Street Could Talk (1974) and Just Above My Head (1979), the essay volume The Evidence of Things Not Seen (1985), and the unpublished play, The Welcome Table (1987). As Toni Morrison claims in the essay, “The Site of Memory,” writing is a form of “literary archeology,” where memory, imagination, and language all come together to create continuities in black lives past and present. Morrison emphasizes that, in contrast, the traditional task of a “trustworthy” literary critic or biographer is to trace the “events of fiction” to some “publically verifiable fact”; it is to excavate the “credibility of the sources of the imagination, not the nature of the imagination.”

Given my dual task of writing a story of my visits to James Baldwin’s house in the south of France and arguing for literature and architecture as inseparable bedfellows in my reading of his house as a transnational black queer domestic space, my goal falls somewhere in between the two approaches Morrison has delineated. Although as a critic and biographer, I appear to be merely a collector of “publically verifiable fact[s],” I still insist on the right to claim access to the “pictures” and “feelings” inspired by the on-site research of Baldwin’s house and close readings of his works. As Trinh T. Minh-ha reminds us, “writers of color … are condemned to write only autobiographical works. Living in a double exile – far from the native land and far from the mother tongue – they are thought to write by memory and to depend on a large extent on hearsay. … The autobiography can thus be said to be an bode in which … [they] take refuge.” While Baldwin fits this description to some degree as the writer rendered symbolically and literally homeless by his identity, he also expands it by demonstrating that building one’s abode in language and writing goes hand in hand with establishing domestic spaces, however temporary, that can accommodate a rare and unique subject, a black queer American who has chosen to dwell in the world. It is a great loss that his house in St. Paul-de-Vence can serve as such a space only symbolically, only as a memory and elusive material reminder of things past.

(This piece is related to my two chapters on Baldwin’s house forthcoming in The Cambridge Companion to James Baldwin, ed. Michele Elam and in Spatial Perspectives: Essays on Literature and Architecture, ed. Terri Mulholland and Nicole Sierra.)

Magdalena J. Zaborowska

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA

Editorial August 2014

For many colleagues at German universities, the month of July brings the end of our teaching and presence in our classrooms because our summer term is over. July includes also the subsequent marathon of grading papers and exams. I am sure that many of you can relate to the thoughts that go through one’s mind when one is reading these exams and papers and one is asking oneself whether one had actually indeed said certain things like that or whether one had missed the chance of addressing some important ideas. As educators of mostly future teachers, journalists, and cultural production workers, we often wonder: What are we actually doing in our classrooms? And how much are we able to compete with knowledge that our young people gain from popular sources and the media?

I taught an upper-level seminar during the last term about U.S. protest movements, civil rights, and visual culture as a tool for protests and criticism. Especially in regard to film, we often had discussions about the role of art and aesthetics and their connections to reality, about the right of art to be independent, about didactic (non)sense, and about civic responsibility and its sometimes stifling limitations. In one of these discussions, the question came up whether Twelve Years a Slave is a film that is too didactic. Is it too obvious in its approach to teach young people about one of the most brutal and inhumane systems in modern history? So, if the majority agrees that it is, then…, well, then it must be the case. But then, after all these discussions about young generations and didactic (non)sense, how is it possible that I read in a (female) student’s paper that the slave owner Epps had a sexual relationship with Patsey because this was his way of rewarding her for being the best cotton picker. He had what? Does ‘rape’ have a multi-generational definition in 2014? Did the film leave out important aspects of slavery that should have been part of the script? But does a film really have to do this—spell out everything and cover everything–like a history textbook?

We also watched Fruitvale Station, the 2013 film that is based on the story of the fatal shooting of Oscar Grant in one of Oakland’s BART stations on January 1, 2009. For a variety of reasons, we moved our discussion to the online space of our otherwise face-to-face classroom. For an entire week, the students posted additional material about police brutality, about the situation of young black men in contemporary U.S. society, and about other cases such as Trayvon Martin’s. The film generated a very engaged and very sophisticated discussion about persistent racism in all its different, often nowadays camouflaged forms, and several students connected the dots for us for our own country. Was this discussion also an indicator of generational approaches and differences?

Thoughts that I will take with me into my next term…

POSTSCRIPT: In the discussion of Oscar Grant’s case, most of the students agreed that such cases will happen again and again. Sadly, the students were right. Just last Saturday, on August 9th, another African American teenager, Michael Brown, unarmed, hands in the air, died because a white police officer shot him. How many more cases will it take?

Heike Raphael-Hernandez

University of Würzburg, Germany

Editorial July 2014

La Rochelle, Liverpool, and the World

On the occasion of the world soccer championship, I could not but pay attention to the French newspaper L’Equipe’s headlines which use history as the main metaphor and marker to talk about the balance of power between the nations involved in the competition. The presence of teams from Old Europe on the one hand, and Africa and South America on the other hand, triggered such expressions as “History repeats itself” or “Now, they are history.”

I was reminded of the relationship between history and sports when, on a short trip to La Rochelle, France, I came into contact with a journalist and historian who uncovered the role and influence of George-Henry Jackson on the growth and development of the local rugby team. An African American who was the American Consul to La Rochelle from 1898 to 1914, Jackson got involved in the social and economic activities of the athletic association and became its president in 1902. He was instrumental in getting the club its first practise field and stadium and is remembered as a charismatic leader who led a campaign among local citizens to support rugby as a new form of athletic activity. The Atlantique Stade Rochelais, as the team is now called, just entered League One, the elite division of the top fourteen rugby teams, and is a major economic contributor to the local and regional economy.

History in La Rochelle is closely linked to the New World, as one of the museums there, the Musée du Nouveau Monde, clearly reminds us. In 2015, the French Association of American Studies will hold its annual congress there looking at “Movement, place, and fixity” in the construction of a national American identity. But the history of La Rochelle is one that also includes, and is closely linked to, the Atlantic slave trade, its legacy and memory. Remembering the past occasionally involves discovering and researching long-forgotten and sometimes overlooked individuals, events, and sites that can enlarge and challenge our conception of how memory, history, and discursive practices within the academy are constructed.

Liverpool, like La Rochelle, is another site for the active engagement of memory and rediscovery of the past. Liverpool, the largest slave port in Britain, will host CAAR’s 11th biannual conference on “Mobilizing Memory: Creating African American Identities” at Liverpool Hope University, on June 24–28, 2015. The conference will examine how the concepts of mobility and mobilisation shape the formation and the mapping of black communities and individual black subjects in Britain and the African Atlantic Diaspora. It will emphasize the role of memory and memorialisation in the creation of identities and cultures, and of new forms of local and global political activism. The call for papers can be read on the CAAR website and proposals for papers are expected by September 30, 2015.

Contrary to L’Equipe’s declaration that history simply repeats itself, the present moment can, and does, grow larger, and richer when we investigate the past.

Arlette Frund

University of François – Rabelais, Tours

Guest Editorial May /June 2014

Dear all,

this month’s guest editorial has been written by Yannick Blec. Yannick is a PhD student at the Université Paris-Est – Marne-la-Vallée, presently writing his dissertation about the visions of African American identities in William Melvin Kelley’s works. It consists of an analysis of phenomenological, ontological and black existential conceptualizations entitled Le Blafringo-Arumerican dans l’oeuvre de William Melvin Kelley: l’afro-américanité entre concept et experience vécue (The Blafringo-Arumerican in William Melvin Kelley’s Works: African American Blackness between concept and lived experience). His dissertation follows two previous essays for his Master’s degree; one compares race stereotypes in Kelley’s dǝm and William Styron’s The Confessions of Nat Turner; the other one concentrates on identities and existential realities in Kelley’s first and last novels: A Different Drummer and Dunfords Travels Everywheres.

Samira Spatzek (editor CAAR Website)

From a minority to another

Two weeks ago, I was triflingly listening to some of my students’ conversation in high school. Because it was at the end of the last class before the spring break, I allowed myself to drift away into one of those lengthy and amusing talks that are so dear to teenagers. As I was listening to their chatters, one of them suddenly spoke about “that queer brand.

It must be known that I teach in one of the disadvantaged suburbs of Paris, and that a great majority of my pupils are of North African descent. Their disadvantages are monetary, cultural, and above all, social. In addition to working hard to help them graduate, I also strive to make them think and get away from their stereotypes, representations and other platitudes — which is not so simple a task.

Because many of these students are part of the North African community and since most of them are Muslims, they generally suffer both from Islamophobia and a certain hostility from a part of the French population that is growing larger and larger: they are those who are unknown, those who “take our jobs” or those who “only take advantage of our welfare system.” Thus they feel concerned about their integration in the French society, and generally speaking, they respond to such attacks with a stronger communitarianism and a well-felt and understandable pride as for their origins.

It was not the first time that I had heard this kind of slur among these pupils. On account of the emulation that exists among them, homophobia is part of their favorite conversations, along with misogyny. They even sometimes rely on their social, religious and cultural background to explain those stances, which is another matter. But what all of this makes me think about, and what I try to make them think about, is that very relationship between members of and from different minorities. Indeed, as a member of said minority, it is evident that one has inevitably suffered from discrimination in a way or another. It is therefore of paramount importance to transpose oneself in the other’s shoes. Only in this way have things evolved. And this is where for instance I do not agree with certain thoughts that other scholars have had. This empathy seems to be necessary for, in my sense, if as a member of a smaller group you hate the members of another minority you are using the same arguments as those you hate your own group in return.

Of course, it is easy to understand that by loathing another group, there is also this unspoken intention of fitting in the dominant group by acting like them concerning another community. But that is what I made my student understand about her assertion. When I transposed her argument and replaced “gay” with “Arab” so that she could understand my point, she thought about the meaning of her previous sentence. She became aware that she could not discriminate against another minority group since what she said could be turned against her. She also realized that by diminishing the value of people from the homosexual community, she recognized that they were not human and by doing so, she accepted that the people who saw her as a non-human were right.

In this year when we are celebrating what would have been James Baldwin’s ninetieth birthday, we must remember and continue to spread his ideas about the acceptance of people from the minorities. The writer of Giovanni’s Room himself knew how a group could dislike another one. Being at once gay and Black, he was not fully accepted by the regular African American who particularly viewed and still views homosexuality as a vice (even if to be fair, they have particularly seen it as a white vice). This shows a singular relationship between two minorities, and how they can demean each other. Yet, despite their individual struggles, I am quite sure that by uniting together, they can achieve great things.

Yannick Blec


Editorial April 2014

Finding VertaMae Smart-Grosvenor: American Icon. Culinary Griot. Citizen of the World

The Making of a Lowcountry Documentary 

I first met VertaMae Smart-Grosvenor in 2011 when she attended The Avery Research Center’s celebration of Julie Dash’s iconic film, Daughters of the Dust. Having seen her work in Daughters and Oprah Winfrey’s production of Beloved, I was excited to meet this larger-than-life Lowcountry native. The author of three books including the critically acclaimed Vibration Cooking and The Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl, VertaMae Smart-Grosvenor has lead a remarkably unique and complex life. Born April 4, 1938 in Hampton County, South Carolina, VertaMae—as she is affectionately known by people around the globe—has always let her imagination be her guide. Such a free spirit and forward thinking was unusual for Gullah-Geechee girls in rural South Carolina. To say that VertaMae has always been “different” would be an understatement. The daughter of Clara and Frank Smart, VertaMae’s tiny body resembled that of a “kuta,” the Gullah term for turtle. Small in stature, the baby girl was a fighter, who survived a tumultuous delivery and came into the world without her twin brother. Speaking to her son-in-law, Sula Ritter—Vertamae’s maternal grandmother remarked matter-of-factly: “Da boy da weight like ov’r a five-pound bag gah sugar (6lbs); the gal da weight like a five pound bag gah sugar gah sugar little ov’r half full (3lbs). The boy dead and the gal bout ta be dead.”

Today, at age 75, VertaMae lives in Ridgeland, South Carolina. Surrounded by photos and other historical ephemera documenting an exceptional life in the arts, Vertamae is a breathing treasure trove of stories documenting her experiences with some of the most influential artists, writers, actors and musical performers of the twentieth century. Her long-standing friendships with African American novelist and poet, Maya Angelou, and South African Jazz musician, Hugh Masekala, reflect the wide circle of people, she calls friends. Perhaps her most complex, yet fulfilling relationships were with the iconic Nina Simone, and actor Calvin Lockhart. With Simone, VertaMae shared a deep friendship that often resembled that of sibling rivalry. Their southern roots and deep love for their children and Black culture kept their friendship alive until Simone’s death. But it was her on again, off again love affair with the Bahamian actor, Calvin Lockhart, that brought her the most joy and the most sorrow. When asked about the nature of their relationship, she simply responds, “We were each other’s everything.”

While most known for her epicurean gift as a “culinary anthropologist,” VertaMae’s influence on Americana is more far-reaching than one would imagine. A singer, dancer, and writer, she came of age in the Beat Hotel on the Left Bank of Paris. In 1956, she left for Paris and found herself enveloped by the freedom-seeking Beats. Unwilling to conform to the limited possibilities imposed on Black Americans, she, too, sought freedom. Like many Black ex-pats, VertaMae was drawn to the creativity and acceptance she found amongst the colony of expat artists and writers including American writer Jonathon Kozol, the French painter Lucien Fleury, and the Scottish folk singer Alex Campbell. It was there in the Beat Hotel that she met her husband, sculptor Bob Grosvenor.

In recent years, there has been a resurgence of scholarly interest in the Beat Movement. Yet much of this literature focuses on the work of figures such as Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and Jack Kerouac. Very little is written about VertaMae’s role in and experience with this movement.

“Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl” is the working title of a feature length documentary which will chronicle VertaMae’s unconventional career as a writer, dancer, muse, actor, costume designer, broadcaster and, yes, culinary ambassador directed by Julie Dash and produced by the Avery Research Center. The film traces her journeys from the Lowcountry of South Carolina, to Philadelphia, Paris and her life at the Beat Hotel. It gives voice to this master storyteller, placing her squarely as an active participant and living witness to two 20th Century arts movements—the Beat Movement and the Black Arts Movement.  The documentary traces her journey back from Paris to New York, on the road again as a Space Goddess in Sun Ra’s Solar Myth Science Arkestra, and as associate, friend, confidant and cook to such artists as Larry Neal, Sonya Sanchez Nikki Giovanni, Charles Fuller, Hoyt Fuller Rosa and Rosa Guy and her second husband, the abstract painter, Elsworth Ausby. VertaMae’s story will come to life through her own unique storytelling style, through the voices of those who knew her, the images and sounds, and extant locales of the times, all punctuated by her recipes for both food and for living. Production on the film is set to begin in August 2014.

Patricia Williams Lessane

The College of Charleston’s Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture


Editorial March 2014

White Women Too.

The film « 12 Years A Slave » won the Academy Award for best motion picture, becoming the first movie directed by a black director to take the highest trophy at the Oscars. It also claimed best adapted screenplay for John Ridley and best supporting actress for Lupita Nyong’o. Besides the Hollywood celebration and the beautiful all-encompassing photo of the whole cast, I would like to comment on an aspect of the film that drew my attention and remained afterwards the leitmotiv novelty in the visual representation of a slave narrative.

I went to see the movie in Paris, France, after reading about the violence of some scenes and hearing puzzling observations by French critics. Though horrific and painful to watch, the beatings and the deliberate dehumanisation of enslaved characters depicted similar incidents I knew Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs and other writers described in their accounts of the lives of slaves. The film gave depth and dimension to the horrendous scenes that compose the conventions of the slave narrative writing: whippings, slave auction, description of families being separated and destroyed, sexual harassments and oppression, account of Christian slaveholders, and portrayals of cruel masters, overseers or mistresses. The picture Steve McQueen presents of that last group of figures, the mistresses, is an interesting one and one that pervades and haunts, aesthetically and psychologically speaking, the whole story.

Whereas in slave narratives mistresses appear and disappear but never take centre stage, in the film white women are in attendance and their presence can be seen as symptomatic of the constructed relations the institution of slavery determines and of the power dynamics within race, sexuality and politics. In this painful and beautiful film, white women witness, participate and victimize. There are aesthetically haunting sequences in which women first stand on balconies or porches framed by the architecture of the plantation house and the abundance of weeping willows before moving flittingly away. They emerge both as the flesh and spirit of this southern décor or as the lingering shadow in the background.

As the story unfolds, Mary Epps, who is the most prominent white woman, becomes more visible and trades places and roles with her husband navigating the full range of cinematographic exposure. Her own victimization on account of her lower social status drives her to devise plotting and manipulative schemes, and to impose harsher sanctions. When the cult of her true womanhood, hinted at by the purchase of the sewing kit at the nearest store, is demeaned and corrupted by the desires of her husband, she ends up consolidating the designs of masters and of the institution of slavery. Mary Epps offers viewers a rare look at a female gendered perspective and exploitation of the institution of slavery. She reveals a perverse disturbing portrayal of oppression that challenges any notion that gender created solidarity and understanding between white women and enslaved black people, whether men or women. Her own interest for Solomon mirrors her husband’s for Patsey. What Jacobs defines as feelings of jealousy and rage in her book is carried a step further in the film to include white women’s desires. When Mary Epps asserts an effective agency and takes full responsibility for her actions, she does not reach out to other oppressed people but struggles to maintain her deep-rooted though fleeting domination.

Though I happily join in celebrations for the Oscars, I was unsettled by beautiful images of the South that could not hide the “dirty secrets” of the institution of slavery and revealed how white women’s acts of defiance often served to secure and reinforce the existing system of slavery through which they expressed their frustration and desire.  

Arlette Frund, University of François – Rabelais, Tours

Editorial February 2014

Remembering Amiri Baraka

I met Amiri Baraka in Granada, at a conference at the university, in the early 1990s. He spoke softly, interested in the world in which he lived, attentive to the new generations of poets, whom he supported without reservations. Baraka was an inspiring and polemic figure, rightful successor of James Baldwin, when he decided to abandon the system by moving from Greenwich Village to Harlem to found the Black Arts Repertory Theatre/School in 1965. Jazz musicians held a concert to raise the money for that new school and theatre. Baraka had already written Blues People (1963), a work in which he found his poetic voice by studying the blues. Baraka marked the beginning of the Black Theatre Movement with his groundbreaking play Dutchman (1964). He contended that the use of dramatic arts had to be a weapon in the struggle for Black liberation. The Black Theatre Movement supported plays dealing with race relations in the US: plays directed as much to Whites as to Blacks. It was a theatre used to confront the system on a cultural level: invective plays at the system for the past and present injustices inflicted on Black people. The plays accomplished one thing that both Baraka and the rest of emergent young playwrights declared theatre must do: raise the consciousness of their audiences about the Black experience. His plays, poetry and music simultaneously opposed the dominant Western, European-based American cultural aesthetic and supported the aesthetics of African American ethnicity (the term culture was used to indicate ethnicity then). Baraka was one of those brothers and sisters who were part of what Sonia Sanchez calls that magnificent generation of the ’60s, those men and women who proceeded to change the world. His controversial reference to violence as ritualized therapy was more a literary conceit than a practical prescription. He contended that content and subject matter are central to the composition of a play going beyond the simplistic labelling of “protest drama”, with the project of putting into communication diverse classes of people, the Black working class, or marginal groups, invigorating and revitalizing with the power of Black music, and the ability of the playwright to transform the oral tradition into the medium of art and contribute to the development of positive consciousness in their audience. He will be remembered as a multifaceted icon in the North American cultural and countercultural stage.

Silvia Castro, Universidad de Málaga

Editorial January 2014

On Reading Two Recent Memoirs by Afro-Germans

Two recent memoirs by German authors with an African connection emphasize that German history cannot be written without including the histories and perspectives of black Germans (as well as that of many other non-white people).

In Deutsch sein und Schwarz dazu [Being German and also Being Black], published in 2013 with Deutscher Taschenbuchverlag, author Theodor Michael takes a long and probing look back at his experiences as a black German. Born in 1925 to a white German mother from the Eastern Prussian provinces and a black Cameroonian father, Michael’s childhood and youth coincided with the decline of the democratic German Weimar Republic and the rise of National Socialism.

In a low key style Michael recollects his participation in the infamous Völkerschauen [colonial peoples exhibits] organized by circusses and zoos. He describes his attempts to get by as hotel page and as extra in some of the Third Reich’s anti-British colonial films. And he details the toll that life under the Nuremberg race laws took on his body and mind. While his siblings managed to get out of Germany, Theodor Michael stayed behind, spending the last years of the regime as a forced laborer in a factory outside of Berlin, where he survived the war. After liberation, he managed to get into the Western zone, where he then tried to rebuild his life.

This period barely covers half of Michael’s memoir, for his life in the new Federal Republic of Germany is equally fascinating in a different context. But his reflection on the 1930s and 1940s is especially relevant for a revision of mainstream German history as not just a white history. Simply put, since the National Socialist racist ideology envisioned a “pure” white German race and murdered those it deemed unworthy of belonging, even well-intentioned commemorative projects often tacitly reaffirm the perpetrators as white Germans and their victims as non-white “others.” Let me hasten to emphasize that this should not be understood as an argument to expand the perpetrator category to include representatives of the racial and ethnic groups persecuted by the Nazis. Rather, it is an argument to open up and diversify the meaning of Germanness not just for the 21st century but also in a historical perspective.

Theodor Michael’s memoir does just that in an accessible and convincing way. He talks about these historical periods as a German and as a black person, just as the title of his book suggests. Precisely because he describes the persecution he had to endure in such poignant ways, it is all the more striking that he questions whether he should not have put up more resistance against interrogating Gestapo officers and other Nazi officials. In these moments, and in many later episodes in which he reflects on an individual’s responsibility to stand up for others in need, Michael speaks from a decidedly German perspective and thus offers a powerful reminder that the National Socialist connection between Germanness and whiteness was indeed nothing but an arbitrary and peudoscientific ideology.

Jennifer Teege’s memoir, Amon: Mein Großvater hätte mich erschossen [Amon: My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me], published in 2013 with Rowohlt Verlag, addresses the topic from the perspective of the second postwar generation of Germans. Teege, born in 1970 to a white German mother and a Nigerian father, grew up in an orphanage and later was adopted by a white middle-class German family. Decades later she finds out that her mother’s father, her grandfather, was Amon Göth, the concentration commander of Plaszow near Krakow, whose brutality and inhumanity are depicted in Steven Spielberg’s film Schindler’s List. For Teege, who has lived in Israel for several years and worked with Holocaust survivors, the sudden discovery of a biological connection to one of the most infamous Nazi perpetrators was surpassed only by the shock that the grandmother to whom she has been attached so closely was Göth’s girlfriend and one of his most ardent defenders.

Teege’s conflicted loyalty to her late grandmother fit right into the current resurgence of memoirs published by the children and grandchildren of Nazi perpetrators, and yet it is also different. Like Theodor Michael’s autobiography, her account cuts across the boundaries that have reserved the category of Germanness for the white perpetrators and offers an access route for a more diverse and nuanced perspective of Germanness.

Both books are well-written examples of a necessary revision of the perspective on twentieth-century German history. Their publication in wellknown German publishing houses makes one hope that the particular historical perspective offered by Michael and Teege will not remain exotic but become part of the popular historical record.

Gundolf Graml, Agnes Scott College

Editorial December 2013

Dear all,

I am sure that we all share the same sadness that we felt when we turned to the news in the morning of December 6 and learned that one of the last icons of the 20th century had passed away: Nelson Mandela died in the evening of December 5, 2013. Even if this was not an unexpected passing, it is always sad when the final farewell has come. Of course, all our condolences from the CAAR community go out to his family, his friends, and his fellow comrades in this time of mourning.

As we have observed in the international press coverage, Mandela is mourned throughout the world, and indeed rightly so. Many leading politicians, royal and religious dignitaries, famous artists, and common people around the world have expressed their grief and their admiration in their condolences. He was a man who changed not only the face of South Africa but even the face of the entire world. U.S. President Barack Obama called him the man “who took history into his hands and bend the arc of the universe toward justice.” Former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan saw in him “a visionary leader, a courageous voice for justice, and a clear moral compass.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel summed up Mandela’s essence when she declared, “Nelson Mandela was convinced that it is not hatred and revenge that make the world better, but reconciliation and political change — and that is how he lived. That is why he is a giant of history, a statesman with a message that is valid in every country and at every time.” Like them, many voices remind us that, while his physical presence has passed on, his legacy will stay with us.

He created this legacy through his insistence on overcoming racism, apartheid, and white minority rule while simultaneously practicing perseverance and respect. Already during the twenty-seven years of his imprisonment, this attitude earned him the respect of the rest the world. After his release from prison and the subsequent end of apartheid in South Africa, Mandela insisted on forgiveness over vengeance. For his political commitment and work, he received many international honors such as the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 and more than sixty honorary degrees from universities all over the world. In addition, the United Nations General Assembly honored him by declaring July 18, his birthday, Mandela Day.

While this is a good time to pause and contemplate his legacy, it might also be a good time to stop and look at other concerns. For example, for many years, people have wondered whether South Africa’s fragile unity would completely fall apart after Mandela’s death.  Furthermore, one, of course, is very much aware of the fact that South Africa’s current leadership is drowning the country in corruption. Therefore, at this time of remembering Mandela, our hopes and good wishes are also with the South African people and the country at large. Yet, Mandela has also taken us, the people who watch South Africa from a distance, to task. Already in his Nobel Prize speech in 1993, he reminded the world that was celebrating the victory over apartheid in a far-away country at the most southern point of Africa that “this must be a world of democracy and respect for human rights, a world freed from the horrors of poverty, hunger, deprivation and ignorance, relieved of the threat and the scourge of civil wars and external aggression and unburdened of the great tragedy of millions forced to become refugees.” This is also a significant part of Mandela’s legacy for the 21st century. However, one is forced to ask the following: Will all politicians who currently honor him as our last icon of the 20th century remember Mandela’s call to duty? Will we, who mourn him and celebrate his legacy, remember that he included not just South Africans, but all members of the human race in this call to duty?

Many of us have settled quite comfortably with the legacies of our icons—Gandhi, for instance, is now a bumper sticker in the Berkeley, California area, and Che Guevara is a favorite image on t-shirts one can buy in many Western cities. What might we do with Mandela’s legacy and his message to all of us? Michael Bloomberg, New York City’s mayor, already declared that a Brooklyn high school will be renamed The Nelson Mandela School for Social Justice. Bloomberg’s and many similar actions are all good and well-intended ideas to keep Mandela’s legacy alive for the 21st century. However, do we really want to face the fact that it takes a lot more efforts than just such actions until we can look back and see a world that is free “from the horrors of poverty, hunger, deprivation and ignorance”? Mandela also dreamt about another moment in world history in his Nobel Prize address when he stated: “We shall, together, rejoice in a common victory over racism, apartheid and white minority rule. That triumph will finally bring to a close a history of five hundred years of African colonization that began with the establishment of the Portuguese empire. Thus, it will mark a great step forward in history and also serve as a common pledge of the peoples of the world to fight racism, wherever it occurs and whatever guise it assumes.” Are we all—politicians and we, the common people—willing to admit that it takes a lot more personal sacrifices, participation, creative new concepts, and above all, respect for each other than just bumper stickers, t-shirts, and the renaming of high schools until we can arrive at these moments that Mandela talked about?

He himself knew that we cannot rest because we have not arrived yet, and he probably wanted to include us when he contemplated, “I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended…” Mandela has indeed left us with a legacy for the 21st century.

Heike Raphael-Hernandez


Guest Editorial November 2013

Dear all,

this month’s guest editorial has been written by Christiana Lambrinidis, who wished to share her thoughts with the CAAR community shortly after the first ship sank at Lampedusa in October. Christiana is an award-winning playwright, director, scholar of creative writing, pedagogue, essayist, lecturer, editor, and activist. Christiana is currently based in the Netherlands. She mentors, teaches and organizes writing and performance projects for conflict resolution and peace building. The collective writing performances she stages and directs have been produced around the world. She also founded the Center for Creative Writing and Theatre for Conflict Resolution in Athens. It is from this perspective of the activist-writer that Christiana talks about Lampedusa and she urges the CAAR community to form a teaching body and go to Lampedusa to support the refugees by ‘providing a nourishment of the mind.’ Let me state at this point that her piece may not necessarily reflect the opinion of all the members of the CAAR community. Nevertheless, we think that her editorial adds to the current debates on Lampedusa in a productive way.

If you wish to contact Christiana Lambrinidis, click here.

Samira Spatzek (editor CAAR website)


Dear Colleagues and Fellow Members of CAAR,

I remember the first time we met at the inaugural conference in Paris full of veracity and rigor in teaching the African American paradigm to the world. It is my pleasure to address you and once again feel included in this amity of spirit and scholarship.

“A cart came by and Consolata was taken to a farm house where she enjoyed the hospitality of a family half from Senegal. She was thankful and promised to reciprocate in Taormina. Two of the members had landed in Lampedusa but divine providence, they said, enabled them to escape and eventually meet the two young women of the house. Because of a migration past, the parents were open to the new but also very old mixing of blood and soul. Senegalese and Sicialian narratives of food amalgamated and what inhabited a makeshift table that night was caring, solid and full of hope.

In the morning, she was woken up by roosters and frogs. Worried about the car she was driven to it by the father himself. He waited until she drove off holding in his hand her name, address and telephone number. Consolata did not continue her journey that day…The encounter with the men from Africa and their testimonies of Lampedusa became relevant because they brought with them known despairs of Sicily. She understood the plight of men who risk their lives to enter the dubious continent of Europe…” [Etna, novel  in-progress by Christiana Lambrinidis ©]

I buy my fish from Salīm. He works at one of the fish stalls in Haagse Markt in the Hague. When I asked him if the fish was good, he turned to look at me and said:”I would not give my mother bad fish, why would I give you? If we all behaved like that this would be a good world.” I don’t know when Salīm came from Morocco and under what conditions. I know that for me his ethos encapsulates the market and I look forward to do my shopping there once a week. I feel guided and in accordance.

At the coast of Lampedusa, an island off the southern shores of Sicily, life could be seen within a perception spanning from The Leopard, by Giuseppe di Lampedusa to the Reception Camp of refugees and immigrants constantly and consistently renewed by the multifarious wars unleashed on their ethnic, cultural, and spiritual origins.

I also come from refugees who fled the slaughtering hand of Ottoman rule. Yet, like all of us at CAAR I do not live a refugee existence, but perhaps like some of us, I do not live in my country of origin. Does that mean we are not connected to the men, women and children desperate to survive the perils of a securitarian-minded Europe? Are there divisions between the leavers and the stayers or we do we all coexist in the common camp of African and African-American Diaspora? If a woman from Syria is about to give birth under a plastic sheet amidst waste and the ground, an older man from Somalia is given tranquilizers for his heart condition instead of the proper medication, a young man from Eritrea sleeps in a dilapidated van together with several others, if all that occurs as we write, think, teach where do we place ourselves?

Lampedusa lives primarily off its tourism – Italian and other. It is possible, accounts say, a decaying body will find itself next to you swimming. It is likely you will pass by the razor wire separating realities from despair to leisure, from death to life, from the human riches of Africa and the Middle East to the organizational riches of Europe.

In Amsterdam there is the Resistance Museum; dedicated to explain to the Dutch their recent history. What is impressive is the presentation of the various sides of society and how they reacted to Nazi Occupation. A young man, I believe Dutch-Moroccan, narrates a video and makes history personally relevant. There was a woman with two children who was asked to take a Jewish child with her own to the park. She declined to do so; she was afraid her act would put her motherhood under perilous conditions. She is not categorized collaborator by the Dutch but instead a category of the middle is created to incorporate all those who did not resist, did not collaborate. Their decision is accepted as the middle path of fear.

Who endangers whom now? The persecution has changed tactics and the phenomenology of evil is dispersed among strategies, civil accordances, party politics, national agendas. Perseverance is perceived or accepted as striving for economic sustenance. I cross my boundaries to find survival and in that survival economic conditions are vital, like the signs of my body. If this body is drowned, dismembered, sickened, abandoned, and most of all disremembered what happens to the economy – οικονομία – transliterated to mean ‘the law of the house’ – οίκος + νόμος ? What happens to the house when its conceptual and pragmatic architecture is violently enlarged to also mean habitat of overcrowded and unseaworthy vessels, refugee camps? What happens when leaving and arriving – destination – is symbolized by trafficking of peoples, cultures, spiritual grounds? Is it possible or is it folly to think of our own homes as an imitation of Lampedusa?

I remember when I was a child and my grandmother told me the stories of her family – how they lost everything overnight, how their safety and well being turned into flight and despair. Perhaps that is a guiding memory, perhaps it always accompanies me into steady intervals of reevaluating my life.

To avoid the tyrannical constraints of guilt, one could teach and or discuss, The Tree of Life by Maryse Condé for example. Guilt is a silencing factor and none of us wants to be silenced in or outside our homes. In this intellectual community we are part of, we speak from a multiplicity of race, gender, class, and tongue. Each of us has own reasons from which she or he has chosen to engage one’s life to the particular scholarship. No matter what the origin, what the reason, it is more likely than not that we share destinies with Lampedusa; the island, its history, the literature, its inhabitants – temporary or permanent.

How do we, as scholars and thinkers feel, think, influence, change; conditions, perceptions, decisions made and disseminated? Do we have the power and/or authority to affect what is happening in a dumping ground of citizens who lose their rights to be human under fleeing to survive? What happens to their citizenships? What is the will of Europe?

Can we form a teaching body and go to Lampedusa? Among us, many of the countries, currently in the camp[s] represent themselves in the scholarship we teach. We cannot provide homes, safety, protection from the weather, food. But we can provide nourishment. A nourishment of the mind – on sight. A nourishment that restores dignity and intellect. We could form an initial group of scholars and plan how to reach the camps and carry out makeshift classes through pre-arranged, pre-scheduled time slots. If we are successful, and I am certain we will be, another group of us can return and do the same.

I propose an initial meeting through our emails to discuss how to set the idea in motion. I look forward to hearing from the CAAR community!

Christiana Lambrinidis©

Editorial October 2013

On Reading Long Division by Kiese Laymon

Kiese Laymon represents a new breed of Southern Black writers. Born in Jackson, Mississippi and trained at Oberlin College and Indiana University, Laymon has crafted a funny and complex coming-of-age story set in contemporary Mississippi. Like Richard Wright, Laymon’s characters embody the temperament, temperature, and tone of racially charged Mississippi, but Long Division is no 2013 Black Boy. Nor does Laymon want it to be. In many ways, Laymon’s young adult novel is a dialectical dance between the African-American canon of twentieth-century literature and the emerging post-Obama African-American fiction.

Both an homage and rejection of the traditional trope of the triumphant Black spirit in the face of racism, Laymon’s teenage characters are flawed and confused youngsters who buck the politics of respectability in search of answers to questions they form as they go. A story within a story, Long Division begins with the televised and highly publicized flub of Citoyen “City” Coldson, who loses the 2013 Can You Use That Word in a Sentence finals after being given the word “niggardly”. City is wise enough to know racism is at work in the competition; yet, like most teens, he is ill-equipped to deal with the emotional and psychological challenges that accompany the limanlity between childhood and adulthood, institutional racism, and the legacy, meaning, and memory of the Civil Rights Movement at the same time. City is a new African-American character—self-centered, swag-conscious, and social-media obsessed—who attempts to traverse the labyrinth of adolescence armed only with an arsenal of new millennial language and pop culture sensibilities. When Principal Reeves informs him that his televised meltdown was a disgrace to the achievements made during the Civil Rights Movement, she espouses the sentiments of countless people who think African-American youth are lost and unappreciative of the struggles fought and won so they could have the opportunities they now take for granted. Though good intentioned, Principal Reeves attempts to saddle City with the burdens of the race—the preservation of the glorious past and the hope for future progress rests squarely on City’s shoulders, as it does on hers. But City is just a boy and his world is a far cry from the Civil Rights era Principal Reeves struggled and grew up in. He sees the world, and his place in it, much differently than she sees it. Unlike Principal Reeves, City is not emotionally tethered to the past, but rather he is quite rooted in the present and equally open to the future, whatever that may be.

Reading Long Division made me think of Cathy Cohen’s Democracy Remixed: Black Youth and the Future of American Politics and the Black Youth Project. Laymon’s novel, like Cohen’s monograph, gives voice to the experiences of African-American youth today. Finding themselves somewhere between what society says they are and what society says they should be, African-American youth employ any means necessary to grapple with adolescent growing pains associated with burgeoning sexual identity, peer pressure, romantic relationships, and, in some cases, violence and racism at the same time. City, like Cohen’s informants, understands the inimitable predicament he and other African-American youth experience, but struggles to make the right decisions when faced with tangible, real-life dilemmas. In his quest for self, City travels back through time, falls in love, confronts racism and his own human frailties, and more often than not, acts a fool without apology. Like doing actual long division, City—as all youth—must use what he has learned along the way to find the correct formula, to crack the code in the equation that is life. Only then does he find the answer.

Patricia Williams Lessane 

The College of Charleston’s Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture


Special Editorial October 2013

dear all,

after lampedusa, we are once again, in the wake. thank you, christina sharpe, for the term which alerts me to our always again after-the-fact-ness of witnessing black death, unnamed dying, waking to it and holding a wake, if only one could. it is not known: how many lives really lost? who were these men women children? how will the parents, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles, and children know? who will speak to them? how will they hear, on the radio, on tv? how will they be able to mourn? where will the friends, comrades, colleagues, relatives go to grieve? will any bodies be returned to the families? who will hear them? who asks those questions? who indeed will be able to hold a wake, and where? who will be able to sue makers and holders of a law which forbids fishermen to help fugitives, and thus makes them aiding and abetting witnesses to deadly border protection? who will support the survivors, and how? where will they go? these questions press on one every single time in the wake, of one life lost to the sea, or many lives lost.  how do we get away from a language of lump notice (as in the pithy european white media phrasing of "hundreds drowned"), in the wake?


Editorial September 2013

Why Should We Unleash the Black Erotic?

This year’s Avery Research Center conference, “Unleashing the Black Erotic: Gender and Sexuality—Passion, Power, and Praxis”, will bring together scholars, activists, and artists for two days of lively intellectual exchange of ideas and reflections on the state of Black gender and sexuality in the United States and throughout the African diaspora.  For us, the topic is not only relevant, but vital and timely. Just last fall, The Chronicle of Higher Education featured two articles on this very topic. In “Who’s Afraid of Black Sexuality”, Stacy Patton quips that African-American scholars writing on this topic are traversing a new frontier—one that might give many inside and outside the academy pause—but is paramount to the discourse of Black identity and those social and cultural constructs that shape who we are. In describing where we find ourselves today, Patton writes the following in order to historicize these issues and provide current context at the same time:

Old tropes have continued to permeate popular culture and public commentary, whether a national furor over Janet Jackson’s exposed breast, a recent blog post on Psychology Today‘s Web site (later retracted) to the effect that black women are less physically attractive than other women, or the barrage of news stories about a "marriage crisis" among black women who cannot find suitable mates. Witness remarks about the artists Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj, the tennis star Serena Williams, or Michelle Obama that harp on their ample backsides. Remember last year, when Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, a Republican from Wisconsin, quipped about the first lady’s "large posterior"? And this summer, when the Killers’ drummer, Ronnie Vannucci, described how he accidentally found himself "grabbing her ass" during a hug?

The hyper-sexualization of Black women and men is nothing new, and neither is the tendency to de-feminize Black women and emasculate black men in television, video, and film. To be sure, portrayals of Black gender and sexuality have become more nuanced over the years. Take for example, the character of Lafayette Reynolds, the charming homo-thug of Alan Ball’s hit cable show, True Blood, whose outlandish cross-dressing and cross-gender sex appeal is both refreshing and complicated at the same time. While Ball attempts to do something new and courageous with his black characters, Lafayette and his feisty cousin, Tara Mae Thornton, fall into the age-old tropes that dominated the nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature and social science, and twentieth-century television and film. Lafayette may be a twenty-first–century Black gay man, yet Ball often depicts him as overly flirtatious and borderline lustful of the white female characters. In this manner, Lafayette is the modern offspring of the dangerous Black buck that dominated much of early American film, most notably in D. W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation. Such images of black male sexuality continues to underscore the discourse of the conservative right and

Contemporary Black womanhood hasn’t fared any better. As Patton has indicated, public dialogue about Black women’s bodies and beauty really reflect the low value assigned to Black female identity. Many in the Black community were enraged when Halle Berry took home the coveted Oscar for her role as a wounded single-mother who seeks physical comfort with a White man from a racist family. The steamy sex scene between Berry and actor Billy Bob Thornton spoke to historical accounts of Black women being objectified and raped at the hands of White men, many of whom were their masters during slavery.

These same tropes go beyond scripted shows and feature-length films to reality television shows. Each week millions of viewers from diverse backgrounds tune in to witness the tomfoolery of six Black women marketed as “real” Black life on The Real Housewives of Atlanta and to view Shonda Rhimes’s latest, and most provocative television drama yet, Scandal.

While each of these shows provides entertainment, rather than enlightenment, they do speak to our preoccupation with the salacious. But this is nothing new. What is new is Black women and men seem to be playing active roles in the creation and marketing of contemporary Black sexual identity and models for Black life. Unfortunately, much of what we see, read, and hear in most mainstream media outlets does not reflect what actually occurs at the intersections of Blackness, gender, and class in work, school, and in the wider society. Nor do most American movies and television shows reflect the diversity of Black family units—many headed by single females, others by grandparents, and still others by same-sex individuals.

In 1994, hundreds of black women gathered at MIT to attend a historic conference—“Black Women in the Academy—Defending Our Name”. I was one of them! It was a watershed moment in which Black women scholars, faculty, and students came together to discuss, acknowledge, and celebrate our important and unique contribution to the academy. Presentations covered topics including African-American women in history and the professorate, to those topics germane exclusively to our position as Black women in higher education. Today, more than ever Black scholars must work to counter the often disparaging narratives about Black men and women, reject the one-dimensional, and often negative portrayals of Black people, and Black youth in particular, and continue to articulate what it means to be Black, female, male, gay, straight, and various other intersecting identities. More importantly, and courageously, Black scholars have determined that experiencing pleasure—in whatever forms it may take- is our birthright.

In doing so, we acknowledge our agency and power, and collectively unleash the Black erotic.

Editorial August 2013

Dear all,

just a few weeks before the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case, Sesame Street presented its take on the United States’ judicial system, adding its bit to a sweltry summer that has been slowly chipping away at the legacy of the Civil Rights movement. While overreaching descriptions of the killing of Martin and the acquittal of his murderer as this generation’s Emmett-Till-Moment abound in the aftermath of the verdict and the Supreme Court’s striking down of Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, Sesame Street might seem an unexpected actor in the unmaking of the historical moment that lead to its creation in 1969. Never shy to address sensible subjects, the show has often fulfilled the wildest hopes of television-skeptics with such highlights as Reverend Jesse Jackson performing “I am somebody” with a group of children in 1971, the Roosevelt Franklin song “The skin I’m in” or the “I love my hair”- song just a few years ago. Now, the show has introduced the first Muppet with a parent in prison and created what it calls the “Little Children, big challenges: Incarceration”-tool-kit (Click here).

Less than a year after the Mitt Romney vs. Big-Bird-controversy, this could be another welcome intervention from the show, were it not for its apologetic morals. In a series of short clips, the new Muppet is shown suffering from the absence of his father as well as the social stigma of being related to a criminal before he finds himself comforted by other characters telling him not to worry: they can understand, because they, too, have or had a relative in prison.

While the desire to de-stigmatize being related to someone incarcerated must be applauded, doing so through normalizing incarceration comes with more than just an aftertaste. Being married to someone from the former German Democratic Republic, stories from a supposedly bygone age of pandemic incarceration pop up almost every time my family meets. In those stories, the normalcy of incarceration serves to prove a state of exception: if everyone was related to someone in jail, it was not because everyone was a criminal, but because the GDR was an unjust and illiberal totalitarian State with a knack for total control and surveillance. While some of this summer’s other news items, as for example PRISM and other things the NSA spends its time on, would permit such a reading of the Incarceration-Tool-Kit, Sesame Street’s intentions are quite the opposite. Following its well-worn pedagogical approach to react rather than act, the show aims merely to teach is viewers to cope with a given situation. Sesame Street self-identifies as symptomal. But by attempting to uncritically reflect the normal, the show not only legitimizes ubiquitous incarceration, but it also begs the question: What kind of society is this, when mainstream media feels an urgency to teach preschoolers (!) how to deal with the extremely race biased crisis that the Prison Industrial Complex has come to stand for?

What society, indeed, many have asked after the acquittal of George Zimmerman. Given the questions posed by Martin’s mother on CNN after the verdict, her question about what she will teach her other son now about living in a society that equates blackness with crime, the Sesame Street kit pedagogy seems not only tragically inadequate to deal with the grief of racialized justice system, but complicit in reproducing a fundamental racial ignorance. No, not everyone is equally challenged by incarceration and crime in a self-identified post-racial society that asks toddlers to sacrifice their parents for a higher “common” good whose color is, once again, becoming increasingly clear. No, not everyone is equally challenged in a society whose priorities are not to let children live with their mothers and fathers, but to teach them to live without them. No, not everyone is equal in a society where kids get shot and the murderer gets acquitted. But writing this and pointing out that we knew this all along serves nothing but our own vanities. We, as scholars, must not indulge in the intellectual pleasure of having anticipated all of this, but insist on keeping it on the agenda of public attention that it has put itself on. We must put an end to the notions of post-racialism that pester discourse today. As agony over ever-new racial setbacks increases with the heat of this summer, we must not be Muppets, but propose articulations that transform this agony into anger and activism.

Sebastian Weier (Bremen Black Studies)

Special Editorial July 2013

Dear all,

it is Sunday morning July 14, a few hours after the verdict in the Zimmerman, Florida case. 


The jury of six almost all white women found Zimmerman not guilty of murder, not guilty of manslaughter.  The perfidious racist predictability of the verdict makes me mute with anger and grief. An armed man has to shoot an unarmed kid in the heart, shoot to kill, in self-defense??? The anti-black „logic“ of this is so blatantly an invitation of stepping up naked and deadly violence, it makes one reel with despair, and also fear. Even IF an armed person with drawn gun „feels attacked“ (and that could not be clearly established in the first place, but even IF!) there is no justification whatsoever for whosoever to shoot to kill an unarmed child.  So, what does it mean that six white women did evaluate the scant evidence (which never speaks for itself, anyway) from the armed shooter’s point of view? „You fear your children will join the patriarchy…we fear our children will be shot down in the street, and you’ll turn your backs." (Audre Lorde)

Sabine Broeck

Editorial July 2013

At the time of writing this editorial, I take my cue from President Barack Hussein Obama’s statements at a press conference in Senegal on 27 June. Invoking Nelson Mandela and his critical state of health, Obama called him a “personal hero” while recognizing that he—the US president— was not “unique. [Madiba] is a hero for the world.” Specifically, Obama recalled how, as a law-student in 1990-91, he saw Mandela “step forward after twenty-seven years of captivity” to usher in democracy and majority rule. At this moment, when it seems the universal hero is poised to ‘step forward’ into—who knows—a place and a time not of this world, I, too, remember Madiba. It was in the years while he was still in captivity (resonant word) and I was expecting my first child. In the spring and summer of 1988 my immediate family (husband, brother, parents) and I would, without fail, raise our glasses at mealtimes and chant “free Nelson Mandela.” This would be accompanied by a no less rousing “por el no de Pinochet” (which repugnant, supremacist dictator was facing a national plebiscite in October) and some equally heartfelt words directed towards the imminent baby.

Mandela walked to freedom, Pinochet lost the popular vote (“el no de Pinochet” triumphed) and my daughter was born in July. All good things. Without overstating the links that bind us, there is no doubt that my sense of (in)justice was honed by the examples of Mandela and Pinochet, facing each other from opposing extremes of humanity. And there is no doubt that the country in which I reside, Spain, belatedly grappling with the language of otherness, that is, of how to refer to the ‘new’ Spaniards as a result of the wave of immigration of the last 15 years, still needs to look to the likes of Mandela and Pinochet. If Spaniards acknowledge that “illegal immigrant” is at best, legally questionable, at worst xenophobic, then surely it is because Pinochet and Madiba have illuminated what is intolerable on the one hand, and inspirational and utterly necessary on the other.

Go in peace, Madiba.

Isabel Soto

Editorial June 2013

The blog Black Girl Dangerous broke the news on Facebook: “Black 14 Year-Old Carrying a Puppy Attacked by Police for Giving Them a ‘Dehumanizing Stare’.” The wall post was accompanied by a picture that showed Tremaine McMillan being “neutralized” through a vicious chokehold. Many reactions by outraged readers followed suit. If anything, these responses echoed the need for grief, as Sabine Broeck had it in her editorial in February. But more than anything, they evoked the famous catch phrase of Michelle Alexander: “the more things change, the more they remain the same.”

Exemplary are the following reactions. “Back in the day, looking was called Reckless Eyeballing and usually meant that an AA male was looking too intently at a Cau female”, a  retired academic remembered. A community organizer connected the story of Tremaine McMillan to that of another 14-year old in 1955: “Lest we forget the murder of 14 year old Emmett Till who was killed for speaking to a white woman. It seems that things haven’t change much since then. Utterly disgusted by this!” Parallel to these quotes, a sociology student pondered upon ways for social change. “I have so many questions, I don’t know where to start,” she wrote, “something has to be done about the police forces and prison culture in this country.”

Beyond evoking grief and the sense of sameness of institutionalized anti-black racism, these quotes represent the remarkable variety of perspectives that can be mobilized against racism. The personal experiences of “back in the day” go hand in hand with historically transmitted knowledge on “Emmett Till”. Righteous indignation coexists with the will for action: “something has to be done.” Black and white men and women – scholars, students, activists, and so on – expressed their opinions, and they did so on an internet portal dedicated to give a voice to “queer and trans* people of color”, as the mission statement of the portal goes. 

As such, these quotes stand for more than the sameness of oppression or the need to grief. They also embody the ongoing push against racism through a heterogeneous “beloved community” that refuses to “wallow in the valley of despair”, as Martin Luther King had it in his famous “I have a dream” speech nearly 50 years ago. This communal answer to racism has been noticeable until today, both on- and offline. And the brutal assault on Tremaine McMillan was a reminder of that.

Johnny Van Hove, GCSC (University of Giessen)


Editorial May 2013


What’s in a name? Well, now, more than ever, we know that there is plenty in a name: it defines, it ascribes, it shapes. Like names, anniversaries potentially are action-oriented, and CAAR illustrated this fact with its 10th biennial international conference. Sandwiched between the January 1 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the August 28 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the conference, held from March 13 to 16, generated an intellectually-rigorous reflective commemoration of two major landmarks in African American and African Diaspora Studies. The very first CAAR biennial conference in America, the event was purposefully tailored to use these anniversaries, as well as the 50th anniversary of the death of WEB DuBois, to highlight, describe, debate, and critique the deferments, losses and tempered gains of emancipation and civil rights within global contexts. The title chosen for the conference says it all: “Dreams Deferred, Promises and Struggles: Perceptions and Interrogations of Empire, Nation and Society by Peoples of African Descent.”

“Interrogations” is the operative word that best describes the three-day event. From diverse disciplines, genres and perspectives, the participants dissected, laid bare, deconstructed and reconstructed past and ongoing discourses. Nothing was off limits. How were and are black bodies portrayed in white-crafted fiction, film and popular culture? What are the dynamics of complex historical and evolving identities that are raced-based, but often transcend race, gender, class, sexuality and national boundaries? What are the old and new expressions of racism, marginalization and repression? And how are they confronted across time and space? What are the current and emerging analytical categories used in Africana/Black/Black Diaspora/Trans-Atlantic, and Black Transnational Studies, and what are their strengths and limitations? These questions are but a snapshot of the inquiries that drove the three-day interrogation enterprise. Theories were reinforced, debunked or “stretched,” as my favorite theorist, Frantz Fanon would say.            

Early-career scholars illuminated the results of their newly-minted work. Established scholars used the occasion to revisit previous scholarships and embark on new ones. Graduate students, who were well represented in the gathering, enthusiastically shared their cutting-edge research and displayed their typically high energy to interrogate. And independent scholars, unencumbered by the pressures of prescribed progress in structured arenas of academia, tackled the focus of the conference with unrestrained candor. 

The “other conference events” kept the pace. Appropriately, the exhibit, “And the Struggle Continues: The Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s Fight for Social Change,” sponsored by the Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library (MARBLE) at Emory University, provided striking visual representations of how to reread the civil rights movement and grasp the viability of a post-King, post 1968 SCLC. The tour of historic Sweet Auburn provided opportunities for participants to feel the place occupied by that site in the history of the black struggle. The exhibit at the Auburn Avenue Research Library engendered reflective interrogation. With the title “New Freedom: Images of Women in Early African American History,” visual artist Charmaine Minniefield used her paintings to inspire an analysis of black women, image, representations and intersectional struggles. And an evening at the Central Library of the Atlanta-Fulton Library, complete with African and African American drumming to welcome the group and a display of samples of the holdings of that repository, underscored the centrality of Atlanta in African American history and the history of the south.

Interrogations, by their very nature, are not tranquil. True to form, the gathering elicited a range of productive, even if conflicting, reactions: curiosity, affirmation and disagreement. Panelists and audiences educated, inspired and challenged each other. Some of the heated arguments were as expressive as the applauses. Whether affirmation or disagreement, the proceedings underscored the mingling of disciplines, approaches, methodologies and locations. In other words, they demonstrated the core of Black Studies in all its interdisciplinarity. This coming together was fittingly illustrated more light heartedly in the final activity of the conference. At the Closing Banquet, path breaker and CAAR founder Maria Diedrich of Westfäliseche Wilhelms-Universität, Germany was honored to mark her impending retirement in June. Diedrich’s career and accomplishments stand as a perfect example of the interdisciplinarity and transnationality that are hallmarks of CAAR and Black Studies. The seriousness with which Diedrich and others were honored did not prevent festive socializing. The conference was also capped with participants doing the Electric Slide, the Cha Cha Slide, Reggae, Soca, and Soukous, a fitting pan-African end to the conference. Certainly, anniversaries are also about celebrations. But as the CAAR conference amply demonstrated, these celebrations cannot happen without reflective, deliberate, intellectually grounded interrogation of what exactly is being commemorated and how our research, scholarship and activism make commemoration meaningful.

Like all conferences, although many questions were answered and issues resolved, at the end, there was still unfinished business. Landmark anniversaries, like those occurring this year marking the emancipation proclamation, the March on Washington and the death of DuBois, will come and go. But the dialogue and debate they encourage will continue. CAAR 2013 will live on in the exchanges already forming between participants and the “interrogative” pieces that will emerge.

Yes, the conference lives on, especially for me. Those of you who read our editorials regularly will notice that the editorial for April, authored by fellow CAAR Board member Magdalena Zaborowska, also reminisced about the Atlanta conference and some before. For this editorial, I tried to move on and write about something else, but the lingering implications and significance of the 2013 conference would not let me. The event was also a personal landmark. Convening the conference was my last responsibility as a CAAR Executive Board member, for I rotate off the board in June, after serving two terms. Emotionally, the conference gave me an opportunity to come back to Agnes Scott College to say goodbye. After twenty years, I resigned from Agnes Scott to take up a joint appointment in the Department of History and the Program of Africana Studies at Texas A&M University. Even though I started my new position in July 2012, planning the conference with my Agnes Scott College colleague, Gundolf Graml, made me feel like I was still with the college. At the conference closing banquet, as I said my official farewell from the CAAR board, I realized that it was finally time to say goodbye to Agnes Scott College. Importantly, then, in the conference I find a personal watershed that I will always remember. I look forward to the anniversaries that will remind me of this defining moment and its significance for me. For now, let me say one more thank you to Agnes Scott College, host of the conference, MARBL of Emory University, Spelman College, Avery Research Center of the College of Charleston, Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System, Social Innovators Design Group, and all who worked with Gundolf and me and the entire planning committee to make the conference the success that it was. We are now all off to other things—CAAR Liverpool 2015 and more. Again, thanks y’all!  

Violet M Showers Johnson

Texas A&M University

Editorial April 2013

Dear Friends,

As we gathered for our biannual conference in sunny Atlanta last month – dreams deferred – the theme of our meeting, kept running though my mind.  Murdered and buried dreams of those who lost lives in acts of racist violence and in the wake of natural disasters about which Sabine reminded us in the last month’s editorial. Unrealized dreams of those in the United States who have hoped for a better future for their children and grandchildren, but witness instead the widening school-to-prison pipeline disproportionately claim African American and Latino/-a lives. Impossible dreams of kids who cannot enter college because they and their families are termed “illegal”; of those who have neither money nor credit to apply for student loans. Thwarted dreams of thousands laden with college debt they cannot repay and with no jobs to show for it. I could go on for pages. While acknowledging the sadness (how not to be blue when one ponders what is going on in the world…), let’s focus, however modestly and mindfully, on those dreams that CAAR has helped to come true and those it keeps alive.

First, we have realized the dream of bridging the Atlantic by meeting for the first time in the United States. We assembled in the state of Georgia whose lands once belonged to the Creek peoples, in the city that had witnessed key events in African American and national history, in the Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Black City. Second, we gathered on the lovely Agnes Scott campus, at a women’s college that has been part of a long history of making women, their education, and life choices matter (CAAR will have had female Presidents long before these not-so-united states see one). Third, we glimpsed local universities, HBCU’s, and other educational institutions: Emory, Morehouse, Spelman, The King Center, The Atlanta-Fulton Library… We visited cultural and memorial sites, we saw films, exhibits, and performances; we learned about newly acquired archives and made plans for research visits. The organizers’ dream was certainly realized (a shout out to tireless Violet Johnson, Gundolf Graml, and their assistants), as we followed the conference’s busy schedule, ventured out to learn new things, disagree about the old ones, not to mention trying to share our scholarship in the generosity of spirit that CAAR’s founders had in mind when they first conceived of this academic organization in … the last century.

Ah, speak memory. I attended my first CAAR conference, in Liverpool in 1997. We will gather there again for the next meeting in 2015 (a shout out to Alan Rice and Cindy Hamilton, the organizers). Liverpool was not only where I became a regular CAAR attendee, it was also where I first met Maria Diedrich, the Founding Mother of CAAR, if you will, whose celebration took place during the Closing Banquet on March 16. Ever since we have first talked, Maria has been a role model and mentor extraordinaire, a friend and important matrilineal influence; she named my son, who attended the 2001 Cagliari meeting in utero and the 2003 Winchester meeting as a toddler, “the CAAR Baby.” Caz is now going on twelve and facing middle school next fall, and Maria is about to retire as Chair of American Studies and member of the English Department at the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster in Germany.  (For those of us who know her, “retirement” means that Maria can now devote herself fully to her fascinating research projects.) She is one of those international scholars, who represent the best in African Diaspora Studies; she carries her responsibilities with grace and elegance; she has set the bar for the quality of work we do at CAAR very high. I thank her for that from the bottom of my heart, and hasten to reassure her that we will keep up the good work. Another eminent CAAR member, role model, and conference organizer (Cagliari, 2001), Paola Boi, wrote in the introduction to the FORECAAST volume that came out of that meeting what seems to me our continued overarching intellectual project: “In order to ascertain the many meanings of ‘race,’ roots should divorce the appeal dramatized by notions of authentic, essential cultural identity. What is now needed is perhaps an honest interrogation concerning the unbalance created between the who and the what we are” (CrossRoutes-the Meanings of “Race” for the Twenty-First Century, 2003.)

As we continue to work on this project under Sabine’s tireless leadership, I want to pause for a moment to think about how our scholarly labors contribute to building an ever-widening community. We come to CAAR to share our scholarship and learn from one another, but also to remark on the passage of time.  We proudly see the students we have nurtured present their work and become colleagues as they enter the profession we will one day leave (great seeing you Tayana Hardin, Rachel Quinn, and Paul Farber!). We also come to admire and learn from the mentors we honor, meet with colleagues and old friends we have missed, and be introduced to new ones with hopes of forging intellectual friendships and collaborative projects. On occasion, we run into those who have hurt us, and whom we would rather avoid; c’est la vie. CAAR has become a kind of a moveable agora (on occasion a feast, too!), where ideas meet and jostle, sometimes in unison, sometimes in conflict, where generations have begun to emerge, and where, no matter how contentious, dialogue ceases not. As my Baldwin-scholar colleague Quentin Miller wrote while following up on our session on African American writers’ encounters with the Caribbean, it is amazing “how big the Atlantic truly is, and in how many directions it flows.” CAAR has certainly helped this realization to hit home for many of us, and I do hope all of its members welcome its continued challenge.

Magdalena J. Zaborowska

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

 P.S. As we dream of Liverpool in two years, please, watch out for new FORECAAST volumes from Liverpool University Press, and CAAR-related meetings and conferences. And let’s cheer on the post-doctoral researchers’ efforts at Bremen to open an online journal that would feature work by junior and established scholars and create a network for several institutions across the Atlantic.

Editorial Febuary / March 2013

Dear all,

just a few days to go until this year’s big CAAR event in Atlanta, all hotel rooms booked, all papers written, all infra structure at Agnes Scott set up, everything on go. While many CAAR members and friends are in the midst of preparations and anticipation of our academic meeting and exchange, we need to remind ourselves of real world loss.

This week has seen the one year "anniversary" of trayvon martin’s killing, and mourning has not ended (www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/02/trayvon-martin-one-year-anniversary, or, www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/26/trayvon-martin-shooting-anniversary_n_2764818.html).

Remember haiti, only three years ago, not yet rebuilt at all, and off the mainstream agenda (blogs.indiewire.com/shadowandact/berlin-2013-review-raoul-pecks-fatal-assistance-expose-on-haitis-post-earthquake-billions).

A black man killed in a johannesburg police spectacle, before the eyes of devastated and terrorized bystanders (www.democracynow.org/2012/8/21/, or, www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/south-african-police-drag-man-death). Black life, over and again, is imperiled, and being thingified, and being taken freely. In the midst of conferencing, we need to make space for grief.

Sabine Broeck

Editorial January 2013

Dear all,

this time of the year, we have all been taking stock of the passed months, we have gathered with our loved ones and have made plans for the next year hoping for the best to happen in our own smaller and larger lives, and for the communities we live in and cherish. And we make wishes, so mine for CAAR in 2013 are that we will grow and mature with the important steps ahead.

The first will be our big conference: DREAMS DEFERRED, PROMISES AND STRUGGLES: PERCEPTIONS AND INTERROGATIONS OF EMPIRE, NATION, AND SOCIETY BY PEOPLES OF AFRICAN DESCENT in Atlanta, march 13 – 16, 2013. The exciting program is now online! Please check the interactive website to keep informed about more up to date information about workshops, events and logistic support information: http://caar2013.wordpress.com/. And for all those already decided: please book hotel space early, since hotel rooms close to the conference venue are sparse.

The next step will be the publication of CAAR’s FORECAAST series with a new publisher; beginning in spring 2013 we will publish our volumes with Liverpool University Press which – we hope – will considerably improve visibility and widen the dissemination of internationally grounded African American and Black Studies work among interdisciplinary academic audiences. The first in the series will be selected papers from the CAAR Paris conference in 2011. The title of the volume is *Black Intersectionalities: A Critique for the 21st Century*;  volume editors are Monica Michlin and Jean-Paul Rocchi. The General Editors for the Series are Alan Rice and Cynthia S. Hamilton.

So, back to work after turn-of-the-year break, happy new year’s!

Sabine Broeck

Editorial November 2012

Black and Blue in a Red State

In his 2012 presidential acceptance speech, President Barack Obama reminded fellow Americans that “We are an American family and we rise or fall together as one nation and one people.” In true Obama fashion, the President hearkened to the cornerstone of American history and culture—that we are one great people. Our greatness lies in the aggregate parts of our sum. Yet our success depends on the cohesion of those parts and their ability to work together for the good of the whole. This sentiment is nothing new; yet in the aftermath of this year’s volatile and expensive campaign season, it signals not only a call to action, but a prophetic warning to all of us. The task before the American people is an arduous one—unemployment rates still loom at alarming percentages; job growth, while steady, has not met the needs of the unemployed or underemployed; and our continued presence in Afghanistan, despite our impending pull out, is not only costly in US dollars, but US lives. The ability to solve these is further complicated by our literal and figurative house divided. Having witnessed the will of the people with the re-election of President Obama, will Congress push bipartisan politics aside and do the bidding of its constituents? Or will the President face another four years of gridlock?

I live in one of the most beautiful places in the world—the South Carolina Lowcountry. Each day, I drive in to work surrounded by marshland, sweetgrass, and palmetto trees. Though I am a bonafide “cumyah” (Gullah for “one who has come here”), this is my home and my ancestral connection is rooted in the knowledge that nearly forty percent of all African Americans have at least one ancestor who came through the port of Charleston during the Transatlantic Slave Trade. The environmental opulence of the state is breathtaking. Equally as breathtaking (and not in a good way) are the complex “race” relations here. While Charleston, in particular, is a bastion for Southern etiquette, the atmosphere is tinged with (mostly) unspoken racial tension. As a cultural anthropologist, I know “race” is a social construct, a fictive tool, for categorizing and assigning privilege, or the lack thereof, to segments of society. Yet fictive as it may be, “race” carries one of the heaviest punches of all and continues to deal the most painfully destructive and divisive blows to American solidarity and progress. Those of us brave enough to talk about this issue find ourselves taking cover in our very own “hush harbors”—lunches, dinners, corner conversations—where we discuss the precarious nature of race in Charleston. In doing so, we remind ourselves that we are here for a reason and encourage one another to keep the faith.

But in what I find myself asking?

My children came home last Wednesday afternoon feeling dejected after overhearing a few of their schoolmates make inappropriate and disparaging remarks about President Obama. We talked about this throughout the campaign, and I routinely reminded them that we are all Americans who have a civic right to fight for what we believe in, and, ultimately, vote with our conscience. I told them it is our differences that make us the great nation we are, and it is important to have friends from all walks of life because our differences should never keep us from respecting and valuing each other as people. I told them we need varying political views to give balance to the country, and I encouraged them to stay open, to love fearlessly, and to always look out for their fellow man.

That’s just how I was raised.

I firmly believe we can truly become the United States of America despite such a divisive election. To do so, we must be bold and willing to work with one another on the topic of race and other difficult socioeconomic issues. We did not get here overnight, so we can’t expect to change the sociopolitical landscape overnight, either. We also have to give one another the space to voice our concerns, fears, and generational beliefs with sincerity and honesty. Then and only then will we really get somewhere.

So, to answer my own question: I must and will keep the faith in the unifying American spirit that calls and welcomes people from all corners of the world. The faith in American democracy that mandates our elected officials carry out the will of the people. The faith in my ability to embrace people from diverse backgrounds and their ability to embrace me. The faith that my children will continue to love freely and make and maintain friendships with people from all racial, cultural, political, religious, and socio-economic backgrounds. And my hope is our elected officials put partisanship aside to work with the President. The choice is ours. Either way, we will rise or fall together as one nation and one people.

Patricia Williams Lessane, PhD

Executive Director of The College of Charleston’s Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture

Editorial October 2012

"Black power can be clearly defined for those who do not attach the fears of white America to their questions about it."  

– Stokely Carmichael – 



The Fire Every Time: Reframing Black Power across the African-American Twentieth Century

Last month, the Avery Research Center brought together scholars, activists, students, and community members to remember, celebrate, and underscore the Black Power Movement’s place within the African-American struggle for freedom and its impact on the American psyche and historical narrative. By many accounts, it was the first time Black Power was investigated at a conference of this scale, which brought together seasoned scholars such as Deborah Gray White and Sir Hilary Beckles with rising stars of the academy including Yohuru Williams, Donna Murch, and Hasan Jeffries. Though, we didn’t give the timing any significant thought, it couldn’t have been better. For just two weeks after the conference, most, if not all Americans, found themselves watching the first of two presidential debates. While both candidates laid out their plans for making the US a better country for all denizens, implicit in both positions is the notion that with the American people behind them, they have the power to make significant change. While it goes without saying that such power does, in fact, lie in the power of our collective hands, the truth of the matter is most Americans—irrespective of demographic—have never felt more powerless. Ironic, isn’t it? For African Americans in particular, the socio-economic implications are especially dire Double-digit unemployment, a growing epidemic of failing schools and school closures, plummeting housing value and rising property taxes in predominately Black neighborhoods, and the rapid expansion of the prison industrial complex suggest much is at stake for the livelihood and quality of life of African Americans.

This is why I believe the Black Power conference was so important. Black Power positions the power of agency and self-determination within our hands—that Black people must have the will to wrest their liberation and inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness from those who deem otherwise.

Yet, this is nothing new. During slavery and freedom, African Americans have always risen up to confront the leviathans of injustice, subjugation, racism, and discrimination. We see evidence of this with the uprisings by Denmark Vesey and Nat Turner, the work of Martin Delany, and the courageous acts of Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells, James Meredith, Fannie Lou Hammer, Barbara Jordan, and Martin Luther King, Jr. But we also see it in the work of Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael, Elaine Brown, and the Black Panther Party.

Today, there are still vestiges of the Black Power Movement in our midst—the All African Peoples Revolutionary Party, the Steven Biko Movement/Black Consciousness Movement of Brazil, and the National Action Network all have as their agendas the liberation and solidarity of Black people. Additionally, the growing solidarity with people from all sides of the aisle—white, Asian, Latino, disabled, and LGBTQ—are reflective of the push towards inclusion in the later works of Martin Luther King, Jr., El Hajj Malik El Shabazz (Malcolm X), and Kwame Toure (Stokely Carmichael).

The most evident example of Black Power was during the 2008 the election of President Barack Obama, where an unprecedented number of Black Americans became enfranchised and exercised their right to vote. What we now need is a collective Black Power agenda that not only recalibrates the energy and power that put Obama in the White House, but also prioritizes the needs of those most vulnerable. Now that would be Black Power.


Patricia Williams Lessane, PhD

Executive Director of The College of Charleston’s Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture

Editorial September 2012

Since our next CAAR conference will be held at Agnes Scott College in Atlanta, I would like to introduce you to some of the writers of the Atlanta area who have been doing superb work for the last thirty years.

On my last visit to Atlanta early this summer of 2012 I had the opportunity of meeting with Dr. Barbara Molette and Dr. Carlton Molette who kindly accepted to grant me an interview. For those of you who are not familiar with their work, I will tell you that they are a couple of African American play writers, authors of a number of plays among which are: Dr. B. S. Black  (1976) a musical, Fortunes of the Moor (1995) which has been presented at the National Theatre of Ghana, and a historical play: Prudence (2005) inspired by the actual events involving Prudence Crandall and the young ladies of color who studied at her academy in 1833-1834. Prudence received the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism’s Artist Fellowship Award in 2005.

Both Dr. Carlton Molette and Dr. Barbara Molette started their careers as play writers, teachers and production designers at different universities within the US among which are Spelman College in Atlanta and Eastern Connecticut State University. They also co-authored a book, Black Theater: Premise and Presentation (1986). They are members of the Dramatist Guild.

Re-reading one of their plays from the 1970s, Rosalee Pritchett, I realized that it shares a number of issues with their most recently written play entitled Legacy (2012), and I was surprised to notice that several of the themes raised in the 1970s are still very relevant today. For instance, the internal class issue recurrently comes up in their plays. Perhaps this is an issue that comes up in their work because it is a struggle which still goes on, and which is quite complex because it seems that there is an equal amount of people on each side of it. In fact, the problem lies in the fact that, as Dr. Carlton Molette points out, the people who were actively fighting against it in the 1970s have now become part of the problem. As I have observed during my recent visits to the US, there are upper-class African Americans, people working at high administrative positions and teaching at North American universities who claim that there is no sense of an African American culture anymore. It seems to me that they have distanced themselves from lower-class African Americans –activists, writers, and middle-class Blacks because in trying very hard to reach the American Dream, by moving into upper-class white neighborhoods, and striving to demonstrate to the white world that they are the same, that equality indeed is a fact in America, they have lost touch with the roots of Black folk culture, just like Avey Johnson, the protagonist of Paule Marshall’s novel Praisesong for the Widow (1983) did. This also might have been the concern when Lena, the grandmother of Lorraine Hansberry’s play written in 1959 A Raisin in the Sun wanted to invest her deceased husband’s insurance policy into buying a house situated in a middle-class white neighborhood following her dream of integration. But the fact is, most of these upper-class blacks do not live with the “illusion of having made it” but on the contrary, they are upset about the dreams of equality of African Americans in North America, and they feel that racism in both strong and subtle ways continues to be present in North American society. So nowadays there is a strong sense of hierarchy in terms of power—and it has become the US/THEM dichotomy which divides, as if upper-class African Americans who have been programmed to choose the American Dream in terms of the materialistic aspects of their lives—the car, the house, as if for the bourgeois, the ones who don’t do that (or lack the opportunities to do that) are the outsiders—they are not US if they are not striving to get those things; then they are part of THEM!

And one cannot help but wondering, have these groups of upper-class Blacks bought into the blind race myth? Are the rest of Blacks—the ones who are poor, or might be violent, or crack addicts, the ones who are being racially profiled (one cannot help but remembering the fairly recent Trayvon Martin episode) inferior, outsiders, because they are not trying hard enough, or else might it be that North America has not reached the goals set by the civil rights movement in terms of social justice and is still fundamentally a RACIST society? Shouldn’t we all ponder about the necessity to reach core values in order to be able to give a hand with our critical views, with our writing, with our scholarly work?

Another aspect of The Molettes work which I find fascinating is the idea that race is a culturally constructed concept rather than a biological feature. In fact, this is an important argument in their play Legacy (2012) and in one of their ten minutes plays called Kin Ship. These plays expose how amorphous the notion of race is, and how in the US it is thought to be biological, scientifically measurable, and constant, when in reality, the stuff happening is beginning to shake that foundation. For instance, when authorities say that Hispanics are Black, or even the case of White South Africans… within this scenario then, racial equality is a fake, because there is not such a thing as “race” as being defined by the US. The AAPA, which is the American Association of Physical Anthropology, states that the popular concept of race derives from 19th and early 20th century “scientific formulations,” which are no other—as Ronald Takaki points out in his book A Different Mirror a History of Multicultural America (1993)— than a set of rules and concepts devised by White men as the dominant group in North America in terms of power and control imposing the boundaries of group membership by defining race in biological terms. In this way, if you were Black, then you were biologically inferior to a White person. As Franz Boas, the eminent anthropologist, points out in his book Race, Language and Culture (1940) there is nothing real about the concept of race. To exist, the concept of race requires that people collectively agree that it does exist. The irony is that race as a social construction affects our social structure because it determines how we see reality around us, and the kind of choices we make because it is a marker of status which privileges white skin. As Frantz Fanon states in his book Black Skin, White Masks (1952), many individuals claim they are not racist, while buying into the dominant racist ideology by accepting the benefits offered to them.

Since race as a social construction is in the minds of people, as Lusca contends, we cannot suppose it will disappear, as Fanon had hoped, once society stops collectively agreeing, accepting and imposing the notion of race because race is engrained not only in the minds of people but also in the structure of society. We have to come to terms with race, raising our consciousness about it, being aware of it, understanding it. We need to change the paradigm by shifting the ways we understand race and difference. This is precisely what The Molettes’ work with their thought-provoking plays encourages us to do: to question things, to develop critical thinking, to change our patterns of thoughts. We are grateful for their effort and their vision.

I will see you all in Atlanta next March.

Silvia Castro, CAAR Treasurer

Editorial July/August 2012

In France, the months of July and August are famous landmarks for a slowing down of the affairs of the State and a break in the continuity of matters as usual.  People prepare, go on, or come back from vacations and academics concentrate on their own writing projects.  Whatever the role of mystified popular beliefs and the encroachment of hard-to-die expectations, life keeps on navigating its own course even though its process stumbles against a wall of mute reactions.

Deeply immersed in a rereading of Zora Neale Hurston’s works, I could not though remain oblivious to the observance of two memorials which inform remarkable understandings of summer events. As France remembered and commemorated the arrest, detention at the Vel d’Hiv, and deportation of Jews seventy years ago in Paris, the new French President acknowledged the responsibility of the country in the perpetration of the crime. His comments triggered reactions pertaining to the state of the nation in 1942 and its one and indivisible status. This month of July was also marked by the major political undertakings of Abraham Lincoln. “Lincoln in July” as one article in The New York Times recalls decided on a program and an agenda to emancipate all slaves in the Confederacy. Following failed attempts at negotiating with border state representatives and getting Congress to pass a bill to compensate states that ended slavery, Lincoln prepared an emancipation proclamation that he presented as “an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution upon military necessity”. He believed that the rebels could not make war on the Government and still invoke the aid of its Constitution. According to him, they were “subject to the incidents and calamities of war.” Lincoln waited for a major Union army’s victory before announcing the coming of the Emancipation Proclamation (expression borrowed from an article in the NYT) in September of 1862.

The Collegium for African American Research will hold its next biennial international conference in 2013 on the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington. The choice of themes as they appear in the title “Dreams deferred, promises and struggles” seem appropriate in the light of the events that led to the proclamation of emancipation and the efforts of King to get President Kennedy to issue a second Proclamation in 1962.  

As these commemorations demonstrate, incidents and calamities happen in July for the worse or the better and remind us not only of the contingency of happenings but also of the continuity of changes. The promise of emancipation and the struggles towards its achievement whether individual or collective inform and sustain the production of all African American literature. From Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God to Morrison’s new novel Home, the search and call for emancipation is still being problematized and articulated through images of constraints and possibilities for men and women.  

Arlette Frund, University of Tours, France

Editorial May/June 2012

“My Own Separate Problem?”

 This thought-piece for the month of June circles around my CAAR presentation from the Paris 2011 Conference, as I am re-writing it into an edited volume chapter.  My talk had to do with “places of martyrdom” in the United States and Europe, and the diverse work of African Diaspora intellectuals, activists, and artists, who comment on what these spaces mean to how we think about racial violence and how we commemorate suffering through literal and literary markers.  W.E.B. Du Bois’s and James Baldwin’s comments on this subject, both written in the late 1940s, concern two ghettos that seemed worlds apart then – the Warsaw, Poland, Jewish Ghetto liquidated by the Nazis in 1943, and the Harlem, NYC, Baldwin’s native ground African American Ghetto that rioted in the same year.

By linking Jewish and Black suffering with specific locations and while pondering the larger picture of how racism operates locally and globally, Du Bois and Baldwin comment on race as a historically, culturally, and socially specific concept, as well as brutal material reality that spells life or death for individuals and millions.  It matters little that the sites in question lie in two different countries, separated by oceans and continents, lost in translation among languages and cultural specificities.  For as Du Bois discovers, his visit to the site of the Jewish struggle and martyrdom in Warsaw and his confrontation with the Monument to the Warsaw Ghetto Fighters “brought back again the problem of race,” the problem that had until then seemed to be “[his] own particular and separate problem.”  As Baldwin writes, in post-war Harlem preachers used the “Negro’s ambivalent relation to the Jew” as a handy rhetorical device, so that black churchgoers would “wear anti-Semitism as a defiant proof of [their] citizenship,” thus embracing the all-American way of positing an identity of a majority by means of scapegoating a racialized minority. 

Both Du Bois and Baldwin knew in mid-twentieth century what we know well now, or that national attitudes reflect the world order and affect local practices: Du Bois saw “double consciousness” as a uniquely American issue and the “color line” as strangling the entire globe; Baldwin looked to the American South and North, where “Georgia has the Negro and Harlem has the Jew” (170), before traveling to France and Turkey, where he witnessed the lot of Algerians and Kurds and identified them as “niggers.”  How telling their thinking is for our own moment, as we contemplate brutal killings of young people of color in the twenty-first-century United States…  At the same time, we witness attempts to commemorate sites of genocide, actual and symbolic, with a growing number of shiny museums and memorials that teach us not only about racism’s global history and outreach but also celebrate the rich cultures of its victims. 

Those of us who attended the memorable CAAR conference “Mapping African America” in Liverpool in 1997, may have visited the Transatlantic Slavery Gallery, which by now has become the International Slavery Museum.  We have also read and heard about breaking of the ground for the new Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall, which will be built (better-late-than-never) in the proximity of the recently earthquake-shaken Washington Monument.  In Nantes, France, the beautifully designed Abolition of Slavery Memorial Museum beacons tourists and scholars alike.  In my hometown of Kielce, Poland, the monument to the victims of the Jewish Pogrom in 1946, unveiled in 2006, was given a title that rings a bell for any scholar of African American Studies: “White Wash II.”  In Warsaw, Poland, the Museum of Polish Jewish History in Warsaw (Muzeum Historii Żydów Polskich) is nearing completion; its mission “to provide a starting point for all those interested in the legacy of Polish Jews and a marker for a breakthrough in Polish-Jewish relations.”

With all these structures that spell out our desire to remember, and our wish that generations to come learn about our difficult national pasts and understand their heritages of hurt, it is easy to forget that no museum will ever restore singular lives lost and individual hopes dashed.  And so, as I remember Countee Cullen’s and Langston Hughes’s poems, I hope that the museums and monuments we have already, and the ones yet to be built, will imprint in their visitors first and foremost what Du Bois’s and Baldwin’s pieces on the Black and Jewish ghettoes teach us, or that racism is something we all share, that it is never just our “own particular and separate [or local] problem.”

Magdalena J. Zaborowska, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Editorial April 2012

Last September I attended the Julie Dash Symposium organized by the Avery Research Center for African American history and culture at the College of Charleston (South Carolina, USA). The event was a great success and for this I would like to thank our friend and CAAR Board member Patricia Williams-Lessanne. As I finished my talk, I received lots of questions from the public attending the conference inquiring about Spain and its role in the Atlantic Slave Trade. Then, I realized how little I knew about the matter in general seeing how much demand there was about the subject on specific studies from historians, philosophers, sociologists and researchers in the field of the humanities in general. Right before the symposium I had been teaching a seminar at Spelman College on the figure of Humanist Juan Latino (1518-1599) (and for this I would like to thank my colleague and friend Julio González-Ruiz). The question I had been asking for quite a long time came to my mind: how could a slave child in sixteenth-century Spain reach the achievement of Professor of Latin Grammar at the University of Granada when Spain was at that time very much involved in the slave trade and racist theories were prevalent in Europe? Days before, I had had an enlightening conversation with historian Dr. John C. Walter at his Atlanta home. Dr. Walter reminded me that the kings of the Spanish Renaissance were illustrated people. The noblemen had the money but they also had the knowledge. For instance, Emperor Charles V and his son Philip II fostered and supported the development of science and letters, the teaching of Latin Grammar and language as vehicles for learning at the Cathedral Schools and at the universities. This was the case of Granada, and its newly created university (1526). Charles V displayed great interest in the teaching of Latin among the higher social classes and lords of the city. During the 16th century, knowledge, intelligence and erudition were greatly valued in Spain. This was the reason why Juan Latino (nicknamed El Negro) was considered not only a curious and extraordinary child prodigy, but he also fulfilled an important mission as professor of Latin: the teaching of Latin grammar and Latin language as the language used to transmit knowledge in both science and technology, besides the humanities. Latin language was also used during the 16th century as a vehicle for homogenization, expanding the Catholic faith within the newly recovered lands from the Moors after the Reconquista. Especial relevance was given to the South of Spain, where the Moors had ruled for a period of over seven centuries.

Juan Latino’s intelligence, his skilful knowledge of Latin, and his vast humanist potential made it possible that against the racist and classist opposition of the time, he would become a key instrument in the Spanish Renaissance. The European trends which considered blacks as inferior, lacking in intelligence and thus the capability of learning were not, it seems, affecting Juan Latino because he was able to become a learned and respected man, who excelled in Spanish literate circles as a poet, with published works such as Austrias Carmen, de Excellentissimi Domini D. Ioannis ab Austria (1573), a musician, and teacher. He became the learning companion of his master, having the opportunity to leave slavery, marrying into a noble family of Granada, demonstrating that people of African descent are able to excel a the highest and most respected institutions of learning.

I would like to encourage European scholars of all fields of sciences and the humanities to explore the different contributions of the Diaspora to the challenges of history, and to assume, as Europeans, our own historical responsibilities to such shameful and obscure episodes such as the Atlantic Slave Trade, so that we may continue to generate knowledge which might serve as a response to pressing issues emerging from the African Diasporic communities around the globe.

Warm regards,

Silvia Pilar Castro-Borrego



Editorial March/April

Dear friends and colleagues of CAAR,

A confession: when I think about the CAAR website, I think about my mom. Here is why.

The single most frequent question that my charmingly critical, working-class mother tends to ask me is the one question she never posed when I was working in the private sector. A question which sounds like this: “Tell me again, son, what is the relevance again of your painstaking academic work?” She would probably drill most of you with the same sceptical curiosity. 

How to read my mother’s question, I sometimes ask myself. One option would be to interpret it defensively and pessimistically, which would turn her inquiry into just another sign of the   evergreen about the “ivory tower” of the humanities and its waste of time and tax money on seemingly irrelevant projects. Read as such, the inquiry would merely reflect the soaring populist mood against many state-sponsored humanities’ departments.

My mother’s confrontational stance, however, could also be read more optimistically. As a provocation to engage ourselves even more beyond the usual terms of private and academic gains, for instance. To address and press the issues of academic relevance, our political agendas, and the social urgency of our work, both privately and publicly. In short: to follow the oppositional footsteps of generations of inspirational and unwavering oppositional Black scholars and activists, embodied most recently, for instance, by Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow or Angela Davis’ energetic support of the Occupy Movement.

Enter CAAR. The website and listserver of our network have been conceptualized and pushed, amongst others, to report on what you do academically, but also publicly and politically. It was designed, in other words, to tell the tale of your community projects. Of your thoughts about the racist roll-back in alleged colour-blind societies. Of your grass-roots organizing. And of your activist articles, your righteous academic indignations, your progressive visions, or just your downright love for what you do.

And we know about the passion, devotion and conviction in what many of you do. A number of projects of CAAR friends and members have already been discussed on, or linked to, our regularly updated website. The Mar Community Project comes to my mind, along with The Fabric of Slavery and Audre Lorde – The Berlin Years 1984 to 1992, amongst others.

Via this route, in the steady build-up towards our conference in Atlanta next year, I can only express my hope that you will keep us posted on your thoughts and activities in the next few months. Keep it coming, I think it is badly needed, now more than ever.  

Best wishes from Frankfurt,

Johnny Van Hove (International Graduate Center for the Study of Culture at the University of Giessen)

Editorial February/March

Dear Everyone,

The poster caption for the 1949 Academy award nominated war film, Twelve O’clock High, read, “The story of twelve men as their women never knew them.” The tag line for George Lucas’ highly-anticipated film, Red Tails could read: “The story of nearly 1,000 Black U.S airmen as their country never knew them.” The former film, starring a hard-nosed Gregory Peck, is an America tale of a group of underdog pilots who, after several losses, have lost faith in their leadership and, ultimately, their collective ability to slay their German enemies. When Colonel Keith Davenport (played by actor Gary Merrill) fails to rally his downtrodden troop, Brigadier General Frank Savage (played by Gregory Peck) steps in, pushing his crew through dangerous missions, but ultimately failing as a leader himself. Red Tails is an American film that chronicles the experiences of a group of underdog pilots who excel in the face of adversity, rally together, and secure pyrrhic victories for their country and themselves.
Where Twelve O’clock High is indeed a commentary about the individual leadership traits and styles needed in battle against a formidable foe, Red Tails is a cinematic example of collective leadership exemplified by the Kwanzaa principle of Ujima, collective work and responsibility. Inspired by the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen—the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment group of the U. S. Army Air Corps—African American military aviators who fought during World War II—Red Tails demonstrates what’s possible when we are all taught that greatness lies within us.
From the beginning, The Tuskegee Airmen were set up for failure. Given sub-par planes and “hand-me down” equipment, they were ordered missions where there was no combat. These valiant pilots, like the “Red Tails” inspired by their real-life experiences in Lucas’ film, suffered great morale loss as the result of racism and segregation in the U.S. Army. But the Tuskegee airmen were no ordinary pilots. Having passed qualifying exams that tested dexterity, intelligence, and leadership aptitude, they excelled in aviation and courage under fire. And when given perhaps the most dangerous mission in the war against Germany, the Tuskegee Airmen stepped up to the charge—protecting the U.S bombers– and saved American lives. Yet many Americans only recently learned of these esteemed airmen in 2007 when the remaining aviators were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Today, thanks to the commitment of Lucas and the talented actors who portray the “Red Tails” in the film, all Americans have the opportunity to learn about and be inspired by these outstanding airmen.
Red Tails is not an important African-American film. It is an important American film—one that gives voice to the unsung heroes of the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group of the U. S. Army. It is a film that highlights the colossal role African American men played in World War II. It is a heartfelt story—one filled with love, friendship, internal conflict, fear, laughter, mistakes and courage–the stuff that makes us human. But more importantly, Red Tails” is a long overdue homage to the valiant Tuskegee Airmen and their shining examples of excellence, valor, and the great American spirit.

Dr. Patricia Williams Lessane (The College of Charleston’s Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture)

Editorial January/February

Dear all,

first and best greetings in 2012… I hope you have all settled in well for "work and play" ahead… For CAAR, this will be one of our off-conference years, giving us time to gear up for our next big event in Atlanta, spring of 2013, hosted by Violet Johnson at Agnes Scott. This will be the first of our own conferences in the US – we are excitedly looking forward to the chance of cooperation and exchange with African American Studies scholars whom we haven’t been able to meet at previous conferences in Europe.
At the beginning of the new year, I would also very much like to thank all you CAAR members, colleagues and friends who have sent in news, links, queries, and other contributions to the CAAR list serv and website, and also urge you kindly to continue sharing information and debate with CAAR. We hope to carry on building an internationally vibrant African-American and Black Studies network which will be as active and lively as its members and contributors. Conference calls for paper, reports of events, publication announcements and questions for debate all are welcome!
Best and (today) sunny winter greetings from Bremen.

Sabine Broeck

Editorial December/January

 Dear colleagues,


As this year is barreling through its last weeks, with colorful lights and shopping muzak everywhere – which, alas, do a poor job of dispelling dreadful weather – I catch myself thinking about the relevance of literature to the lives of people caught up in the holiday season madness.  How many of them try to escape the mundane rush of their lives by diving into a novel?  Do they imagine new possibilities for themselves while reading a play? Or do they ponder rhythms and seductions of poetic metaphor while figuring out what it is that they want the New Year to bring?

These questions, no doubt prompted by numerous doomsayers who proclaim the end of literacy left and right, have been haunting me.  They do so especially as I am nearing the end of teaching my course on American literature, narrative, and spatiality, “Self, Story, and Space: Humanities Approaches to American Culture,” here at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.  As has been the case before – I have taught this class for several years, each time with a gifted doctoral candidate assistant – some students remain impervious to the power of image and voice in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye or to the ambivalences of woman’s place in Puritan society as imagined by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter.  They sit quietly, with incomprehension in their eyes (if their eyes are open at all) or with that bored, enduring look I’ve learnt to recognize to mean: “I’ve not read this stuff, and I don’t care.”  But more than before, some of them, and on several occasions the majority, participate in discussion and venture smart opinions about their readings.   So, perhaps not everything is yet lost with this generation plugged into mobile devices, texting and twittering in their sleep, even when they were better studying.  Apparently, some of them are able to muster an attention span required to comprehend a plot, to appreciate complexities of characterization, not to mention to experience the pleasure and thrill of interacting with the cadences of the written word.  I may be erring on the optimistic side, but ‘tis the season of hope and rebirth, and so I want to list a few other reasons for all of us to be hopeful about literature, and African American literature specifically, these days.

Just a couple of months ago, I took part, for the first time, in the biannual Penn State University conference, “Celebrating African American Literature: Race, Sexual Identity, and African American Literature.”  Several generations of scholars and artists gathered there showed us how literature made things happen; they made intersectional identities and bodies these identities inhabit matter in new and provocative ways.  We honored our literary ancestors, paid homage to our mentors and charted new courses for archival research, history writing, and trans-genre pedagogy.  Too many to mention by name, the speakers at the event ranged in focus from those working on a myriad of single authors, through those examining wide swaths of cultural history, not to mention the ones laboring on new theoretical and methodological tools.  One of the keynotes revisited the ways in which the autobiographic impulse of first African American texts inspired auto-ethnographic explorations of life stories and experience of gay Blacks in the American South.  Such projects remind us about the importance of learning from our elders and encountering our subjects in flesh and blood so that we can establish not only a whole new “archive of feeling,” but also make possible interrogating the ways in which we must re-write history of a region, a people, a nation and its literatures through individual lives.

Other scholars at this exciting conference engaged terms and discourses, writers, and theories that, until recently, had not been put to the proverbial bed together:  interracial queernes, utopia and ideology, hyper-masculinity and transgender, ethnographic gaze and its unwilling objects, or the provocative ways in which black women writers have engaged and challenged masculine narrative models.  And … yes, I have not mentioned the pairing of race and sex, which at this conference seemed so obvious, that we almost forgot that it was still not so obvious, or even welcome, to many in our diverse field of African American and African Diaspora Studies.  We were also reminded, in another plenary and via a tour de force of recent writing on race, gender, and class, that literature can make you free, but …  capital can make you write things you might want to be ashamed of.  (As should be the author of The Help and her ilk.)

In “A letter to my godson,” a provocative rewriting of James Baldwin that opens his The Fire this Time (2007), Randal Kenan writes of the hope that can be borne only of a profound love of the written word, and of a profound desire to share that love’s power with our students and readers: “Your generation will be the freest people of color this nation has ever engendered: free of racial guilt, free of the burden of representation, free of expectations, high or low–you will not be expected to lift up the race, nor will you be shackled with the hope that your every step will drag along an entire population toward some Promised Land.  … You will be like ravens.  Free to pick and choose, beautiful, raucous … both trickster and avatar. … Did you know, once upon a time, black folk could fly?  Or so it has been said.  A hidden truth.  A metaphor.  A way of looking at yourself in the world.  Remember that when you think you are stuck in the mud.”

I was also encouraged by attention to personal facts and questions about writers’ lives echoed in this event – who did she or he love and why?  Where did they live and how?  Such queries raise issues about embodied authorship and effects of racial markings on the material body that belong in the realm of biography, perhaps, yet should be interrogated closely by both scholars and students.  Baldwin’s words, directed at William Faulkner, the words that provided the banner for the conference, reflect what must be the focus, more than ever, of the multifaceted project of not only literary studies but all the humanities as we enter the second decade of the twenty-first century: “Any real change implies the breakup of the world as one has always known it, the loss of all that gave one an identity, the end of safety.”  In their different ways, African American writers and artists have been posing this sentiment for over half a century.

In 1970, Baldwin explained to Nikki Giovanni what made him write and what made his job important to all, no matter whether they read him or not:


… The responsibility of a writer is to excavate the experience of the people who produced him. The act of writing is the intention of it; the root of it is liberation.  Look, this is why no tyrant in history was able to read but every single one of them burned the books (Dialogue, 82).



Baldwin’s insistence on being a witness, on recording how we live and who we are reminds me, too, that we are all minds enclosed in bodies that experience pain, illness, discomfort, that give us joy, pleasure, and enable our work.  To think of it in Baldwinian terms, as a script for the humanities now, there is no true living and teaching without acknowledging embodiment, without being present as a material being.  Baldwin often talked about the need for touching and being touched by others, or for genuine human contact that acknowledges and celebrates connection and understanding despite difference, politics, and ravages of history.  His idea encompassed wide extremes, from the nurturing “laying on of hands” to comfort friends and family members to the passionate embraces of lovers. 

As teachers and scholars we not only produce knowledge about the human subject but also provide guidance and anchoring for the actual bodies and minds that we reach …  even for those we may never reach, those who consider the humanities a superfluous luxury, those to whom literary metaphors and open minds are liabilities.  To me and my students, as we end this semester and prepare ourselves for the feasting and reflection brought on by the upcoming holidays, all of them, writers like Baldwin and the riches of African American literature that surround and contextualize his career offer important guidance.  And I say this even though I fully realize that many of the students will forget the class, our readings, and passionate discussions once the final examinations are over.  Such is the prerogative of youth and, yes, of hungry minds that have much to learn and explore before finding their own space, self, and story.  I know that the books will be there if they only choose to return to them. 

This tentative hope is enough of a gift for me this season.  Baldwin repeated over and over that our unique, often troubled, origins are something that make us all equal and related; all people are brothers and sisters.  In its best moments, the young of today seem to be catching onto this message, to the gift that is the discovery that reading stories makes us better at reading one another as human beings.  And, yes, because we are all accidents of geography and genetics, our job as teachers of literature, as scholars in the humanities, is both never-ending and necessary. 

Magdalena J. Zaborowska, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA


Editorial December

Dear all,

I would like to share with you my readings of France’s struggle with its continuous and discontinuous identities.

 Recently French media have given full coverage to Blacks of and in France following the publication of books and magazines which, on the one hand, question the symbolism of a common French identity and, on the other hand, celebrate the 50th anniversary of Frantz Fanon. The literary productions were accompanied by films, exhibitions and talk shows examining the history of Blacks of and in France, and revisiting the colonial past of the French Republic through the exhibitions of its “exotic” subjects. Those events which are part of a program called “Black France” explore the presence and role of Black people in France and their erasure or performance in the national narrative. At the crossroads of popular and scholarly discourse, they invest diverse cultural spaces in Paris and in major cities across France, from the Musée du Quai Branly to City Hall, from alternative places to movie theatres.

The revelation of a self-identified Black Frenchness and the emergence of a deferred history and a divided geography have crossed over to the political sphere with the candidacy of the former president of the CRAN (Representative Council of Black Associations) to the presidential election of 2012 and the publication by the Ministry of Overseas French Departments and Territories of a report on the memory of ethnographic and colonial exhibitions.  Traditional media hesitate to cover actions that run counter to the one and indivisible credo of the French Republic, but, when they do so, it might be for the wrong reason. The press reported on this presidential candidate because he is under investigation for misuse of funds instead of engaging the implication of the campaign’s slogan, “ne votez pas blanc,” whose meaning plays with the color of the skin of other candidates and the blankness of the ballot.

The use of the French term “noir” on front pages and in headlines and “blanc” in the presidential election has stirred controversy as it is seen to embody a multicultural discourse and an approach that disrupts France’s republican pact. Nonetheless, the multiplication and plurality of events that remember the Black presence in France and celebrate the lives of writers and other famous Black individuals enrich and complicate the cultural, social and historical landscape. The movement towards the transformation of French society through the recording of Blacks’ experiences is not new. It has already been documented in conferences and film festivals. Yet its continuation and the extent of those projects testify to the dynamic mechanisms of power in place and to the desires of engaging and redefining established ways of being French.

Arlette Frund


Editorial October/November

Dear Everyone,

Twenty years ago, Julie Dash broke new ground in the American film industry when she became the first African-American woman to write, direct and produce a film that opened with a nationwide release. Dash, who studied film at the University of California at Los Angeles, broke with American tradition by producing a film replete with luscious images of black beauty, sensuality and Gullah family traditions, set against the backdrop of the opulent Lowcountry landscape. Indeed, with “Daughters of the Dust,” Dash offered African-Americans a new way to see ourselves.

Set at the turn of the 20th century, the film chronicles the experiences of the Peazant clan‚ a Gullah family contemplating migration to the mainland from their home on a fictional sea island. Dash invokes her family history and ancestral traditions and employs historical narratives and primary source materials to develop a comprehensive cinematic depiction of Gullah life and traditions. Watching the film is in many ways like reading the works of African-American literary icons such as Toni Morrison, Gloria Naylor, Alice Walker and the late Paule Marshall. Dash recognizes the visceral ways African- American culture in general and Lowcountry Gullah traditions specifically are influenced by West African and African diasporan historical, cultural and religious traditions.

A cult classic among African-American artists and academics, “Daughters‚” as it is affectionately known by those of us who love and teach it‚ continues to be the “go-to” film for professors and researchers of African-American and black studies, black feminist criticism, film studies, art and interdisciplinary studies looking for positive, visually stimulating, thought-provoking and historically accurate portrayals of African-American history and culture.

Told through the voice of an unborn child, the film demonstrates the prominence of religious and cultural syncretism – the melding of two or more religious or cultural traditions – found within the myriad of African-American traditions at work throughout the United States, particularly those of the Gullah sea islands. Here Dash situates Gullah traditions – naming rituals, generational rites of passage and religious practices including Christianity, Islam and traditional West African spiritual cosmologies – within a wider discourse of pan-African history and identity. In other words, her characters – Nana Peazant, Eula, Eli, Viola, Yellow Mary, Bilal, Mr. Snead and the unborn child – represent visible “Africanisms” and cultural nuances inherited from our African, European and Native American ancestors and as a result of their cultural sharing due to slavery, migration and international travel and trade.

This is Not Your Typical Hollywood Black Film

“Daughters” is not for those looking for a film that glorifies African-American familial dysfunction, violence, drama or comedic relief. It is both enlightening and entertaining; the iconic cinematography alone is sheer magic, transporting viewers back in time, to and fro between the spiritual and natural realms and then onto the shores of the sea islands. The actors are complex, full-bodied representations of all that is black, beautiful and complicated. Eula and Eli try to keep their family together through the reality that Eula has been raped by a white man, leaving the paternity of the unborn child in question. There is Viola, the educated but timid granddaughter of Nana, who has shirked the folkways and embraced Christianity as a means of salvation. Perhaps one of the most memorable and controversial characters in the film is Yellow Mary‚ who returns home with her female lover after years of worldly behavior on the mainland. Struggling to keep the family together are Nana‚in the natural world‚ and the unborn child‚ in the spiritual realm. They are inextricably tied together, for, as Nana tells her children, “The ancestors and the womb are one.”

Nana Peazant is the matriarch who passes the family’s history and traditions down to generations of her progeny, thereby keeping the family together. Like many elders who cleave to folkways and ancestral traditions, Nana draws wisdom from her decades of experience as a mother, wife and former slave. Unlike her eager and ambitious offspring, she understands the challenges awaiting her family in the North, which will not be “the land of milk and honey” they envision. The heart of the story is in many ways the quest for the American dream. Having persevered decades of subjugation, first as enslaved Africans, then as marginalized “saltwater Negroes” of the Gullah sea islands, the Peazant family dreams of opportunity and self-determination, having been let down by the failings of Reconstruction. Now at the turn of the century, with the rise of industrialism, Nana’s children and grandchildren decide to leave their sequestered island home, in hopes of finding prosperity.

In September, the Avery Research Center at the College of Charleston and the Charleston County Public Library celebrated Dash’s accomplishments as a filmmaker and novelist. On Sept. 16 and Sept. 17, the center hosted a two-day symposium titled “We Carry These Memories Inside of We: Celebrating the 20th Year Anniversary of ‘Daughters of the Dust’ and The Black Art Aesthetic of Julie Dash,” which brought together scholars, artists and fans of the film and Dash.

For two days, we came together to pay homage to the living legacy of Julie Dash and her work as a filmmaker and writer. It was a great celebration of Black womanhood and sisterhood, and at the end of the symposium, it was clear that we are all Daughters of the Dust.

Dr. Patricia Williams Lessane (College of Charleston)


Editorial August/September

dear all,

at least for many European academics, August was down time. Catching up with reading, grading, clearing the desk. The (relative) quietness of it suddenly interrupted by the violent youth protest in Spain:  mostly white kids fighting against being cheated of a future they have been educated to take for granted, and by the riots in Britain: many of them young black kids fighting a racist present and future which they no longer want to take as their due.

One finds oneself watching those struggles on tv, wondering how European academia will relate to those struggles. Wondering how CAAR members and friends respond to it: do they have kids, friends, relatives involved? Are our students becoming active in such movements?  Would we want to address those upheavals in classes where we teach historical documents of African-American liberation, or the black cultures of resistance? And how would we do that without ventriloqiusm? 

Any and all responses and suggestions to these questions very welcome… standing by with late summer greetings,
Sabine Broeck

Editorial July

dear all,

Having now entered the midsummer phase, all of us, I take it, are winding down a little bit from semester routines, and I am hoping you will find time for some writing, thinking, gazing, or other pleasant, and challenging, but not everyday activities.

 CAAR has had a successful first half year 2011, what with the vibrant Paris conference, and new FORECAAST titles coming out, as you will know from having been there, or from list serv and this site. After a conference, however, is before the conference, and before other activities.

Work has been in progress on further FORECAAST issues, among them titles on Blackness and Modernities, on Black Knowledges, and on States of Desire; a group of CAAR scholars from the universities of Nantes, Montpellier, Bremen  and Ferrara is in the planning process for an international  symposium at the University of Nantes, March 16/17, 2012, about Writing Slavery After Beloved: Literature, Historiography, Criticism, for which the cfp is being circulated.

And, last not least, Violet Johnson and her colleagues at Agnes Scott are gearing up with other institutions and colleagues in Atlanta for the next regular international CAAR conference 2013. I am optimistic that we will see many known and as yet unknown faces there, as we do at every conference.

Please do keep in touch over the next months – notes, event information, debate are always very welcome. For now, have a good summer.
Greetings from Bremen
Sabine Broeck

Editorial May/June

Dear Everyone,

As I write this overlooking my small, sun-drenched town garden in Madrid, I cannot get out of my head the “Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves” from Verdi’s Nabucco. A colleague sent me a link this week of a recent performance of the chorus at the Teatro dell’Opera, Rome’s Opera House, in which director Ricardo Muti used the traditional encore to voice – literally – his condemnation of the degradation of Italy’s political and cultural institutions under the premiership of Silvio Berlusconi.

The stirring and moving chorus is popularly associated with the yearning for freedom from slavery and oppression and I cannot disengage it in my mind from the seemingly uncontainable clamour for democratic reform sweeping North Africa and beyond.

In Europe we are geographically very close to these events; we are even closer to their material consequences – the displacement of tens of thousands of human beings seeking immediate safety from the violent suppression of the pro-democracy demonstrations. Europe’s response has been mixed (no surprise there) and by no means uniformly praiseworthy.

Alongside not always coordinated or effective interventions against pro-Gaddafi forces, some countries have been less than welcoming of the stream of refugees. The Berlusconi government, for example, has manipulated European Union laws governing movement within its borders in order to disperse towards France Tunisians arriving on the island of Lampedusa.

In a latest twist, both French and Italian governments are now proposing a revision of the Treaty of Schengen in order to re-establish passport and border controls within Europe’s heartland. The responses of Italian and French administrations must be viewed within the general context of regressive and nationalistic anti-immigration sentiments sweeping Europe in general. The latest country to join the list is Finland. It hardly needs stressing that these anti-immigration sentiments (frequently endorsed by laws) are racially driven: no-one in Europe wants to expel white Australians or blonde South Africans.

All of which brings me back to the Paris CAAR conference and my renewed sense of the relevance of African American and Diaspora studies to how we live our lives. There was even a panel, “Theorizing the System: from the Black Enlightenment to the Post-Race,” which challenged Paul Gilroy (Against Race) and the ‘post-racial’ and ‘race-blind’ theories of contemporary U.S. pundits. The likes of Berlusconi, et al. remind us that we must remain attentive to the racist underpinnings of Western societies and that critical race thinking remains, alas, far from redundant.


Isabel Soto

Editorial April

dear all,

spring has come to Northern Germany like a nice surprise,  so i am able to send out cheerful and sunny greetings today. This is the first editorial after the  productive and very well attended caar conference in Paris.

Thanks again to Jean Paul Rocchi and his splendid team for organizing such a memorable event! I am hoping all of you who came to paris returned home safe and sound, and will already be looking forward to the next big event, 2013 in Atlanta, as we are on the Caar board. after the conference is before the conference, and  I am sure, as Violet said at the membership assembly, excitement will be running high for the first CAAR event in the US, and on such "historical grounds"… We also will organize CAAR board elections in the summer, so members will be hearing from the board very soon.
On another note: at the conference, we presented another issue in the FORECAAST series, Blackness and Disability, which Christopher Bell had almost seen to publication, before he passed away, and which we publish in his honor.

As Steven Taylor, Centennial Professor of Disability Studies at Syracuse University, writes, this volume fills " a glaring gap in the literature by examining the intersection between race – specifically blackness – and disability."  Just out with FORECAAST also: Simon Dickel, Black/Gay. The Harlem Renaissance, the Protest Era, and Constructions of Black Gay Identity in the 1980s and 90s.  And in the next few weeks, we will see publication of Isabel Soto Garcia and Violet M. Johnson (Eds.) Western Fictions, Black Realities Meanings of Blackness and Modernities.

We are also hoping for another active two years of communication on the listserv – to keep our international  exchange and debate afloat between conferences…

best greetings meanwhile from Bremen,

Sabine Broeck