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Special series examines contemporary black history practices

Friday, November 12, 2004

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Written by U of G Release

A number of high-profile speakers, writers and cultural critics will be at the University of Guelph in November for “Beyond February: A Black History Project.” The series of events seeks to prompt critical discussion around black histories and contemporary practices, including Black History Month itself.

The series will include talks by Nourbese Philip, an award-winning poet, writer, and cultural critic; Lawrence Hill, a best-selling novelist; Djanet Sears, a Governor General’s Award-winning playwright and U of G’s writer-in-residence; George Elliot Clarke, award-winning poet and author; Rozena Maart, award-winning author and educator; and Wesley Crichlow, a social sciences professor at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.

“Beyond February: A Black History Project” is a joint effort of U of G’s Central Student Association’s human rights office and the university’s C.J. Munford Centre.

“The official recognition of the month of February as Black History Month is a bit of a double-edged sword,” said Dave Hudson, co-ordinator of the human rights office. “It certainly offers an opportunity for a shared and concentrated focus on black histories, and speaks to years of struggle and hard work on the part of many dedicated individuals and organizations. At the same time, however, it has conditioned many to think that February is the only time it makes sense to give serious consideration to the histories, achievements and present-day realities of black communities.”

Phanuel Antwi, assistant supervisor for the Munford Centre, added that “any serious public consideration of the histories, struggles and contributions of black communities needs to extend beyond February. The concentration of high-profile events in November is our way of demonstrating that need publicly.”

The series begins Nov. 3 at 7:30 p.m. in Room 103 of the MacKinnon Building with talks by Rosemary Sadlier, president of the Ontario Black History Society, who was the driving force behind the official recognition of Black History Month in Canada; and Rinaldo Walcott, a University of Toronto professor who holds a prestigious Canada Research Chair in Social Justice and Cultural Studies.

Other events include a Nov. 11 talk on “The Criminalization of Blackness” by Crichlow and Maart in the University Centre, Room 441, at 7 p.m. and a Nov. 18 panel discussion on “Writing Black, Writing Back: The Authority of the Black Writer,” featuring Hill, Philip and Sears in Macdonald Hall at 7 p.m.

On Nov. 25, Clarke, along with Barry Wheeler of U of G’s Centre for Students with Disabilities and Sabina Chatterjee, co-ordinator of Change Now, a Guelph youth drop-in centre, will lead a discussion on the struggles in other minoritized communities. It will be held at 7 p.m. at the Norfolk United Church. For more information on the series, contact Hudson at (519) 341-9266 or (519) 824-4120, Ext. 52629.

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