Friday, April 15, 2016

Hanes Symposium 2016 - Black Genius

Genius finds both extremes,
        The bottom and the top;
And 'twixt the two he never seems
         To find a place to stop.

But high or low his lot,
         Genius is genius still,
And whether man heed at first or not,
         He must at last and will.

--Albery Allson Whitman  1890

I'm just back from Winston Salem State University in North Carolina, where I spoke in the 2016 Hanes Symposium organized by Dean Corey Walker around the topic of Black Genius. From the outset, we were considering the term in its broadest senses, keeping in mind the meaning as a spirit attendant upon a place, and as an inclination or penchant. A large part of our discussions had to do with questions of how to produce and preserve environments conducive to creativity and achievement. Just walking across campus with Dr. Walker underscored what we had been considering. Seeing him greeting and encouraging students we met along the way reminded me of what a university administrator and scholar should be about.

The morning kicked off with a presentation by Claudrena Harold, from UVa, followed by Howard University's Greg Carr and a wide ranging conversation with Dean Walker.

Following a break for lunch, Steven Thrasher, of The Guardian and NYU, and I gave talks. That's how Albery Whitman found his way into the mix. Dean Walker then rejoined us at the front for more discussion, all of which was being live streamed.

The Hanes Lecture was the capstone event of the day, with dear friend Farah Jasmine Griffin speaking. I first got to know Griffin during my long ago Loyola Marymount days when she was at Penn. The lecture was held in the campus art museum, where a powerful show of works by graduating students was on the walls.

Then it was off to a rollicking dinner with our gracious hosts where the food was fine and the dinner disputation even better than the dessert.

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