Tuesday, September 13, 2016


I was off to New Orleans (second visit since Katrina) this past weekend for the second Black Arts Movement conference organized by the never-resting Kim McMillon. The last one, hosted at University of California, Merced, brought much needed attention to Black Arts West. This time our host institution was Dillard University, and, "because the world needs to change," a long overdue focus was aimed at the South.

Things started off with a plenary session offering an overview from Askia Muhammad Toure and Jerry Ward, now retired from Dillard.  I hadn't seen Jerry for quite a while, and it was wonderful to see him on the case.

There were friends too numerous to list, and poets galore. My kind of place.  I was there for an Umbra panel with my long time running buddy scholars Keith Leonard and Jean-Philippe Marcoux. We were assigned a gigantic auditorium for our small panel, but the fellow managing the web streaming for the conference alerted us to the fact that there were 400 people watching online.

Since the conference only lasted a day and a half, and there were many overlapping sessions, I was not able to attend and document as many presentations as I generally attempt, but the conference organizers had taken care of that too.  There will be photos and video available soon enough.

Yes, you could play chess with a bicycle-riding accordion player.

Sunday morning while many were in church and even more were heading to the Raiders / Saints game (Raiders won by one in the final minutes), Jean-Philippe and I joined the heroic remnant (Jerry Ward was there) to hear what the youngest folk had to say about taking up the legacies of the Black Arts activists. I had been heartened early in the conference by the self-possessed Spellman women PSU PhD Sara Rudewalker brought with her from Atlanta. They may not know the history, but they will. And they will make their own.

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