Groups marching to demand climate and racial justice. (Photo by: Steve Sanchez)



The African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS)’s Eighth Annual Conference

Conference Theme:

“We Can’t Breathe”: Crisis, Catastrophe and
Sustaining Community in (Un)livable Spaces

Hosted by University of North Carolina, Charlotte
March 9-11, 2023


Black people can’t breathe. This is because these are crisis ridden times. Crisis and catastrophe wrought by mass incarceration, inadequate housing, climate change, environmental degradation, police brutality, war and the stress upon our everyday lives. Historically, Black communities globally have been made subject to horrific circumstances from involuntary migration, to enforced servitude, Jim Crow segregation, mass incarceration, police brutality and now coupled with a pandemic and climate change. This is as juxtaposed with a multiplicity of environmental conditions including inadequate access to healthy food, toxic waste, unclean water and pollution. Black communities have disproportionately experienced the impact of environmental waste, pollution, climate change and lack of access to healthy food resources and equitable healthcare services. This has also more recently meant involuntary migration illustrated with the rise of Black climate refugees worldwide. Statistics indicate that Black people in the U.S. are 75 percent more likely to live close to oil and gas refineries, have disproportionately high rates of asthma, due to environmental factors, and are more frequently made subject to pollution and toxic waste. Our conference this year specifically focuses on the theme of crisis, catastrophe and sustaining community. We are particularly interested here in the ways that the Black community has responded to these circumstances over time in thought and action.

This conference seeks to bring together scholars, activists, public intellectuals and community stakeholders interested in presenting on the theme of crisis, catastrophe and sustaining community in relation to the history and culture of African Diaspora communities. What are the major points of crisis and catastrophe that have faced African Diaspora communities over time and space? In what ways have Black Diaspora communities over time thought about (and implemented) securing adequate housing, equitable access to education, abolitionism, healthy food, clean water, and equitable environmental conditions? What roles have Black women played in mitigating crisis in the community? What efforts continue at the present? Who are the Black intellectual pioneers of environmental justice? What is the genealogy of these ideas? For this conference, we seek papers specifically on our stated theme of crisis, catastrophe and community in Black history and African Diaspora Studies. We especially would like to see some individuals, groups and community organizations engaged in social justice work and environmental action participate in this conference. This might include individual/organizations involved in environmental clean-up work, community sustainability actions, food resource and distribution programs, including agricultural cooperatives and those engaged in other social justice initiatives.


Opening Plenary Speaker

J.T. Roane, author of Dark Agoras: Insurgent Black Social Life and the Politics of Place (NYU 2023), is Assistant Professor of Africana Studies and Geography and Andrew W. Mellon chair in the Institute for the Study of Global Racial Justice at Rutgers University. He is also 2022-2023 Social Science Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study. Roane is also at work on an experimental short film titled Plot with support from the Crossroads Project at Princeton University.






Keynote Speaker

Dr. Leslie M. Alexander is the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Professor of History at Rutgers University. A specialist in early African American and African Diaspora history, she is the author of African or American?: Black Identity and Political Activism in New York City, 1784-1861 and the co-editor of three additional volumes. Her newest book, Fear of a Black Republic: Haiti and the Birth of Black Internationalism in the United States (Fall 2022), examines how the Haitian Revolution and the emergence of Haiti as a sovereign Black nation inspired the birth of Black internationalist consciousness in the United States. Her newest project, “How We Got Here: Slavery and the Making of the Modern Police State,” examines how surveillance of free and enslaved Black communities in the colonial and antebellum eras laid the foundation for modern-day policing. A portion of that research appears in The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story. A recipient of several prestigious fellowships, including the Ford Foundation Senior Fellowship, Alexander is the immediate Past President of the Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora (ASWAD), and is an Executive Council member of the National Council for Black Studies (NCBS). She also serves on the Advisory Councils for the Journal of African American History, Black Perspectives, and The Black Scholar. Most recently, she was elected to the Montpelier Foundation Board, which seeks to create an inclusive history of President James Madison’s former plantation. During her career, she has won several significant awards, including the coveted University Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching at The Ohio State University.


Luncheon Speaker


Naeema Muhammad has been Organizing Co-Director with NCEJN since 2013 and now serves as Senior Advisor. She’s married to Saladin Muhammad and together they have 3 children, 10 grandchildren, and 7 great-grandchildren. They have been married for 52 years and reside in Rocky Mount, NC. Naeema has worked on two NIEHS funded grants. The first was Community Health and Environmental Reawakening (CHER) in which she served as a community organizer working with communities dealing with waste from industrial hog operations. In this position, she worked with the late Dr. Steve Wing, a founding member of NCEJN and Associate Professor at UNC Gillings School of Public Health, and was supervised by Gary Grant, Executive Director of Concerned Citizens of Tillery. She has co-authored publications with Dr. Wing regarding community based participatory research (most recently in the New Solutions Health Journal). She also serves on the NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Secretary’s Environmental Justice & Equity Advisory Board.



Special Event: Film Screening of Freedom Hill and Conversation with Filmmaker & Director Resita Cox & Community Activist Nakisa Glover

Resita Cox’s films are a poetic portrayal of her community’s irrepressible spirit and resilience in the face of racism. Her documentary film work is people based, meaning it not only features unique, personal stories, but it also prioritizes relationships and is constantly working to reimagine an equitable filmmaking model. Born and raised in the South, her films center Southern, Black communities and use them as a lens to examine topics ranging from environmental justice to racial justice. With a degree in journalism from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Resita started her career as a storyteller in TV news as a reporter in North Carolina and later in Chicago. Resita has worked with Kartemquin Films as the Impact Producer on their Emmy-nominated docu-series produced with The Marshall Project, We Are Witnesses. She is the director of Freedom Hill, a documentary about the environmental racism that is washing away the first town chartered by Black people in the nation, with which she was named a 2021 Hulu/Kartemquin Accelerator Fellow and premiered at the 2022 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. She holds an MFA from Northwestern University in Documentary Film and is a 2021 North Star fellow with Points North Institute. Resita was recently named a 2022 Esteemed Artist by the City of Chicago and is one of Elevate’s 2022 Climate Changemakers.


Nakisa Glover, is a climate and environmental justice practitioner, thought leader, tech advocate, cultural consultant, and community engagement expert. Nakisa develops strategies across activism, films, music, and podcasts to engage millennials, Gen Z, artists, entertainers, community leaders, entrepreneurs, politicians, and other stakeholders.







Conference Registration


Early-Bird Registration (until January 31)
– $60 for AAIHS members; $85 for non-members.

Regular Registration (until March 6)
– $80 for AAIHS members; $100 for non-members.

Conference Day Registration (March 9-11, 2022)
– $125 for all attendees.


** If you wish to register as a member of AAIHS, you will be required to join the organization before March 9, 2023 for your registration to be valid.

**Online registration closes on March 6th.

**Current students/staff at UNC Charlotte may register for the conference at a reduced fee of $25.00 (using a campus email address). A university id must be presented at check-in.



Conference 2023 Program



Hotel Accommodations:

Reservations may be made at the following locations:

Holiday Inn-Center City
230 N. College St., Charlotte, NC
704 – 335 – 5400
Driving Distance: 0.81 mi
Walking Distance: .4 mi

Book Now:

Hyatt House Charlotte/Center City
435 East Trade St., Charlotte, NC
704 – 373-9700
Driving Distance: 0.5 mi
Walking Distance: .6 mi

Book Now:

* Please be sure to book your accommodations with the conference hotels soon as space for reservations is limited.


Conference Committee:

Co-Chairs: LaShawn Harris, Michigan State University and Crystal Eddins, University of North Carolina, Charlotte

Tyler Parry, University of Nevada, Los Vegas
Adam McNeil, Rutgers University
Grace D. Gipson, Virginia Commonwealth University
Oscar de la Torre, University of North Carolina-Charlotte
Lacey P. Hunter, Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences-Newark
Lauren Rorie, Monmouth University

For more information write us at:

Note: The goal is to have an in-person conference, but this is subject to change given the current pandemic. Hybrid options may be available as we are an organization that does take seriously inclusivity of all interested in participating in this timely event. Masks are strongly recommended. Proof of vaccination and/or a negative COVID test (24 hours before attending) may become required, to be determined per CDC guidelines around the time of the event.


Previous Conference Programs

AAIHS 2022 (Las Vegas, Nevada)

AAIHS 2021 (Los Angeles, California)

AAIHS 2020 (Austin, Texas)

AAIHS 2019 (Ann Arbor, Michigan)

AAIHS 2018 (Waltham, Massachusetts)

AAIHS 2017 (Nashville, Tennessee)

AAIHS 2016 (Chapel Hill, North Carolina)