I'd originally wanted to go to the U.C. Merced conference on the Black Arts Movement because it was one in a series of events that were to lead up to Amiri Baraka's 80th birthday. When news of his death came in January, I wanted even more to attend, and reconfigured my paper a bit to start at the beginnings of Baraka's long discography of recordings with musicians, with further installments to follow (including at the ICA in London next month). At Merced, I was part of a panel titled "Word, Sound and Power," with papers by Geoffrey Jacques on Langston Hughes's The Panther and the Lash and Anna Everett on teaching Black film and other media of the era. And let's face it, I'd go anywhere to see Juan Felipe Herrerra with a banjo.
Another attraction was the chance to meet up with so many old friends, and to make new ones. In the audience at our panel I discovered somebody who had been a student at Federal City College in the same years I was there.
We all owe a deep debt of gratitude to Kim McMillon, President of the African Diaspora Student Association, and her many colleagues and students who pulled off such a vibrant weekend, starting pretty much from scratch.