Drs. Marilyn Thomas-Houston, Irma McClaurin, Sybil Rosado, Faye V. Harrison

The recent 96th Annual Meeting of ASALH (the Association for the Study of African American Life and History) held October 6-10, 2011 in Richmond, VA provided a rich opportunity to reflect on the status and history of Black people in America, and in the world.  It also spoke to my idea of “legacymaking”—something in which I have a strong interest, as its ongoing presence reflects the vision and intellectual legacy of Carter G. Woodson, the man who is known as the “Father of Black History” and who established this important organization over ninety years ago.

According to the ASALH website, the organization came into existence on September 9, 1915 under the visionary leadership of Dr. Carter G. Woodson.  At that time, the name was the “Association for the Study of Negro Life and History.” Despite the name change from “Negro” to “African American,” the organization’s vision and mission have remained consistent through the times:  “We are the Founders of Black History Month and carry forth the work of our founder, the Father of Black History.  We continue his legacy of speaking a fundamental truth to the world—that Africans and peoples of African descent are makers of history and co-workers in what W.E.B. DuBois called, “The Kingdom of Culture.”

And ASALH has not wavered from the path that Dr. Woodson set the organization on almost one hundred years ago.  At this latest conference, I was there to help launch a new journal in Black Studies—Fire!!!: a multi-media journal of Black Studies  that reflects a collaboration between ASALH and JSTOR.  The brains and creative and technological leadership behind the journal is Dr. Marilyn Thomas-Houston, a visual anthropologist at the University of Florida (and former colleague), with roots in the theater and music industry and a scholarly authority on the Black Diaspora in Nova Scotia—yes, there are lots of Black folk in Nova Scotia. 

The numerous panels on the intersection of technology and Black Studies, referred to by some as “e-Black Studies” is a testament to the endurance of Carter G. Woodson’s vision to preserve the rich contributions of African Americans to the U.S. and the world, and to the tenacity of Black Studies/aka African-American Studies/aka Afro-American Studies as an enduring field of innovative scholarship and research.  It also provided ample space in the formal panels and workshops and in between, in the corridors and restaurants, to reflect on where we are as a people (our current state of affairs), and where we need to go (the future of Black America).

As fate would have it, the conference offered me the chance to see old friends, buy books that placed Black children at the center of the narrative, try on some Afro-centric clothing and simply reconnect with folk whose common bond is celebrating and elevating the achievements of African Americans in the United States and globally. Anyone have a problem with that?

Originally published 11 November 2011 16:48, Insight News

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