"Black Futures: What Seems to Be, Need Not Be" is the theme of the 40th annual Marion Thompson Wright (MTW) Lecture Series. The Clement A. Price Institute on Ethnicity, Culture, and the Modern Experience is presenting the scholarly day-long event on Feb. 15 in the Paul Robeson Campus Center at Rutgers University-Newark.
The Institute's Director Jack Tchen and Associate Director Salamishah Tillet sat down recently with WBGO News Director Doug Doyle to talk about this year's event that begins at 9:30am.
Director Tchen, who moved to Brooklyn in 1975, is a long-time listener of WBGO.
Tchen says this year the MTW looks forward to how the series might more fully and meaningfully participate in bringing about a more just and inclusive future.
"I'm a historian and I'm very aware that we have to look back to see what the patterns are but that we're not bounded by that past. What's critically important, especiall now with so much that's going on in this country, the coming elections, the global issues that we begin to think not about an inevitable future but about how in many ways we need to find the openings which we can remake the futures that are ahead of us."
Associate Director Tillet stresses this year's speaker line-up is a powerful one, including keynote speaker Saidiya Hartman, Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University and recently named MacArthur Fellow. Tillet says Professor Hartman has written brilliantly about how black people, particulary black women and girls, have imagined, negotiated and invented their own futures in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
"It's really exciting to think of Saidiya as the keynote and in many ways the capstone of our MTW conference this year primarily because she lives at the borders of many disciplines. She's a cultural historian. She's a literary critic. She's also a writer who has many different types of books. She's renowned for making important cultural and academic interventions into how we think about 19th century black suffering. Her most recent book Wayward Lives is really thinking through how black young women at the turn of the 20th century had navigated their identity and kind of created possible futures for themselves despite the fact that they were already in these kind of circumscribed racial and gendered conditions."
The other speakers are songwriter, producer and scholar Jason King who serves as a founding faculty member of New York University's Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music, Associate Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University and founder of JUST DATA Lab, Ruha Benjamin; and award-winning author, filmmaker and dance therapist, Yatasha Womack.
The MTW conference. which runs from 9:30am to 3:30pm, will be followed by a reception in the Engelhard Court of the Newark Museum of Art. The reception will feature live musical entertainment by The Bradford Hayes Trio.
Click above to hear the entire conversation about the 40th MTW Conference.