Civil Rights Icon Angela Davis to be Kickoff Speaker for 2014 Race & Pedagogy National Conference

This September, the Race and Pedagogy Initiative will be hosting its third National Conference. First appearing in 2006, and again in 2010, the conferences are collaborative efforts with the University of Puget Sound and members of the South Sound community, intended to encourage students, educators and other community members to think critically about racism and issues pertaining to racial equality. The conference will host a number of different speakers from around the country, each one a distinguished academic in their respective fields.
The university is especially lucky to host the event’s kickoff speaker, Civil Rights activist Professor Angela Davis.
Since the 1960s, Professor Davis has been active in combating issues surrounding social justice, prison abolition and education. A reputable scholar in the fields of history of consciousness and feminist studies, Professor Davis has taught in six countries around the world, and a number of American universities including: San Francisco State University, UC Berkeley, UCLA, Vassar College, Stanford University and, most recently, UC Santa Cruz.
She is the author of nine books, the most recent being The Meaning of Freedom and Other Difficult Dialogues (2012), which addresses the issue of freedom pertaining to class, race, gender and sexuality, and how we should encourage discussion to promote change in our conception of freedom.
In addition to her involvement in counterculture in the ‘60s and ‘70s, her brief stint on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted List,” and her long academic career, Professor Davis is also a founding member of Critical Resistance, an organization which attempts to deconstruct the nation’s “prison-industrial complex.”
This year’s theme for the conference is, “What NOW is the Work of Education and Justice?: Mapping a New Critical Conscience.” The goal of this theme is to link concepts pertaining to education and social justice in a way that challenges and encourages activists to promote change within these systems as they currently stand.
Professor Dexter Gordon, Director of African American Studies, believes that one of the primary concerns of engaging in the conference is to build upon the idea of “transforming the institution.”
He encourages students, faculty and community members to attend the conference and contribute to the workshops taking place so that there is as much involvement with the conference ideas as possible, and so that no one misses out on this quadrennial opportunity.
“We are now acknowledging that it is counterproductive to have institutions that exclude people just on the basis of skin color, on the basis of tribal origins, on the basis of gender,” Gordon said at a meet-and-greet for potential student speakers. “When we talk about institutional transformation, we are talking about changing those policies; changing not only the principles which govern the institutions, but the spirit of the institution.”
Topics which address this concern will include: teaching at the intersections of math, science and race, understanding and reshaping the country’s mass incarceration problem within the criminal justice system, the importance of recruiting educators of color and the art of student activism.
Ryan Del Rosario, a junior, is one of many students who will be applying for a spot to present their opinions and insights, in addition to the keynote speakers.
“I think the most important aspect of the conference is the opportunity to see how some of the world’s most important educators come at issues of race and ethnicity,” Del Rosario said. “The way these speakers present an argument, provide facts to back it, and come to conclusions while still acknowledging opposing viewpoints is something that I believe many Puget Sound students can gain from attending the conference.”
Other students looking to present a poster, on any subject relating to the conference themes, may still participate by May 26. Information on how to submit a poster may be found at the Race and Pedagogy page on the Puget Sound website. The website also has more information on the various events available at the conference. Along with Professor Davis, keynote speakers will include:
Winona LaDuke: esteemed environmental and indigenous peoples’ rights advocate, and former Green Party vice-presidential candidate.
Henry Louis Gates, Jr.: Harvard University professor and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute for African and African American research.
Eduardo Bonilla-Silva: Professor of sociology at Duke University and author of Racism Without Racists (2003).
The 2014 Race & Pedagogy National Conference will be held at the University of Puget Sound from Thursday, September 25 through Saturday, September 27. Registration is free for Puget Sound students, faculty and staff. For students who do not attend the conference during 2014, the next one will not be held for another four years, so now is the time to seize this great opportunity.