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Black Leaders symposium to focus on gender, race politics

Published: Friday, March 8, 2013

Updated: Friday, March 8, 2013 11:03


  The ninth annual Emerging Black Leaders symposium kicks off tomorrow at Cabot Auditorium, with speakers addressing this year’s theme, “Matters of the Body: A Cross Section of Gender, Race, Sexuality and Power.”
This year’s event will feature keynote speaker Tricia Rose, a professor and chair of the Department of Africana Studies at Brown University, who will speak about race theory and gender politics, according to Jessica Wilson, one of the event’s organizers.
Two panels will touch on “gender politics and also current events within gender and the African-American community, looking at… [things like] misogynistic representations of black men and black women in culture and pop media, movies, music, etc.,” according to Wilson, a junior.
The first panel, titled “Body & Politics: Black Gender Expression and Its Policies,” will focus specifically on gender’s historical construction, according to Jared Snead, who also helped to organize this year’s symposium.
The four-person panel will include Tufts Associate Professor of English and American Studies Christina Sharpe, as well as professors from Brown University and University of Maryland, College Park, he said.
“All of them are academics, but in the end every time I read [their work] it’s like ... this is beautiful right here, this is speaking to me,” Snead, a senior, said. 
The second panel, “Body Politics: Being the Body in the Image,” will feature four speakers from various disciplines with perspectives ranging from careeres in journalism to activism Snead said.
In between the two panels, the symposium will showcase various performances by student groups and individuals, according to Wilson. The lineup includes sophomore Amber Rose Johnson, who will be performing spoken word, and a rendition of jazz singer Nina Simone’s “Four Women,” which will be performed by event organizer Sarah Duarte, a junior, and three other students.
A board of about 10 members began planning this year’s symposium in early September, according to Snead. Much thought went into the selection of a theme and the panelists, he said. 
“We chose a topic that’s salient to our community and pertinent to whatever issues are going on,” Wilson explained.
Much of the symposium will discuss the study of gender from various points of view, according to Wilson.
“We’re looking at gender from a racial perspective, sexual perspective, and we’re looking at gender politics,” Wilson said. “This includes horizontal sexism in the black community, but also vertical sexism from communities of privilege and power on other communities — the African-American, Asian-American, Latino/Latina, LGBT community.”
Snead emphasized the relevance of exploring these aspects of gender and society.
“Gender is very important to me specifically,” he said. “We just wanted to be able to expose people to how gender is played out in all of our bodies because gender affects everyone on this Earth.”
Snead hopes that the symposium will prompt discussion about control of gender politics and an examination how it has become controlled.
“It’s about how some gender performances and some gender expressions are preferred over others depending on your body and how you look and where you’re from, and beginning to dissect those things,” he explained. “It’s about reconciling oneself with one’s dominant society and trying to push against that.”
Wilson said the symposium is not a solution, but rather the start of conversation within the black community at Tufts and the community at large at Tufts.
“We’re hoping to get different people from different communities...within Tufts to join us in this conversation,” Wilson said. “I really, really hope to see support and participation by Tufts and around us.”

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