Skidmore College has been working closely with Salmagundi, a prominent literary magazine published on campus, to present an upcoming, seven-part interactive conference, entitled “Sharing The Wealth: Six Leading Black Intellectuals Talk About Their Work And The Culture.” The conference, which will be held in Skidmore’s Davis Auditorium February 1-3, is free and open to the general public. The talented lineup set to speak at the conference include National Book Award winner Orlando Patterson (Freedom Volume 1: Freedom In the Making of Western Culture); Pulitzer Prize-winning author Margo Jefferson (Negroland: A Memoir); novelist, playwright Darryl Pinckney and Whiting Award winner (Black Deutschland); novelist, essayist Danzy Senna and Whiting Award winner (Caucasia); author and essayist Thomas Chatterton Williams (see: “My Black Privilege“); and author John McWhorter (Winning The Race: Beyond The Crisis in Black America).
The seven conference sessions will consist of six opening remarks (one by each of the six speakers) and an audience participation session on Sunday afternoon. All six speakers will be present at every session during the conference to participate in a discussion following the opening remarks, and audience members are encouraged to pose questions and voice their own opinions at the end of each session.
I’m most looking forward to the discussions with essayists Williams and McWhorter, who penned the aforementioned “My Black Privilege” and “You Can’t ‘Steal’ a Culture: In Defense of Cultural Appropriation,” respectively. Both works stray from readers’ general perception of the black experience in America by reflecting on personal experiences and presenting thought-provoking opinions about the role race plays in everyone’s lives. I’ve been studying these works (and many of the other writers’ works as well) in a class entitled, Multimedia Literary Archive, which is comprised almost entirely of white students and taught by a white professor, with just a few of us students of color. On just the second day of the class, we were challenged to discuss race and identity—and though the discussion was lively, it was ultimately respectful. (I expect a similar energy to define the discourse at the conference.)
Collectively, the speakers have written about appropriation, privilege, social status and other facets of identity, though their ideas on these topics vary vastly, and they have been known to disagree with one another. Much like my class, I think it’s those disagreements that will make for a series of engaging conversations throughout the duration of the conference.
For a full conference schedule, click here.