The African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS)’s Eighth Annual Conference
“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.
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.
J. T. Roane 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.
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
For more information write us at: email@example.com
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 will be required and proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test (24 hours before attending) must be provided to the organization before attending.