How ’bout that Race and Pedagogy conference?

I felt sure that by this point someone must have already written a blog post about the Race and Pedagogy National Conference that happened at UPS a few weeks ago, but I think I’m the first!

I’ve been excited to blog about this, even though I know I can’t write a blog post that will do the conference justice. When I first came to this school–actually, for my first couple years of attending here–I didn’t know about the Race and Pedagogy National Conference, or that my school was so involved in something so great. I also didn’t know much about racial issues in general, being a very white person from a very white town. I’ve learned a fair amount about race at UPS, but with this conference happening, getting to hear so many awesome speakers discuss these issues and share their work on race and pedagogy, I feel like I learned so much more in the space of one weekend.

So first, for those who didn’t get to attend–The Race and Pedagogy National Conference is a conference that UPS hosts every four years, focusing on issues of race and its impacts on education. For one weekend every four years, UPS brings in a couple thousand guests to attend the conference; tons of speeches, panels, and performances, all discussing issues of race and education, are all crammed in to the space of three days. The campus community gets really involved too, and it’s basically just a lot of fun.

I actually had the privilege of being involved in a couple of events on the Friday of the conference. First, I was part of a panel with a few of my classmates, discussing race and the literary genre of the short story cycle. We presented papers we had written on the topic, and then spent some time discussing the common themes from our papers and how the genre works with racial issues. I was extremely nervous, because I’d never presented a paper for anything before, or been on a panel of any kind, but it went very well. (Aaand it definitely helped that our audience was mostly students and faculty from the UPS English department crowd. It’s nice to have familiar faces in the audience.)

And then immediately after that, the Adelphians were singing a couple pieces to open for Henry Louis Gates Jr, one of the keynote speakers of the conference. So I dashed over to the Fieldhouse to sing with my choir mates, before sitting and listening to Gates’s incredible talk on genealogy, race, and his work on documentary TV shows such as Roots and African American Lives. He was such a great speaker, eloquently tackling so many topics and telling so many great stories with humor and ease. Since I had just presented a paper to a very small crowd, I was in total awe of how at ease Gates was in front of a massive audience, for a presentation that lasted almost two hours.

I unfortunately didn’t get to see any of the other keynote speakers, but videos of Winona LaDuke’s and Eduardo Bonilla Silva’s events can be streamed here. They’re definitely worth watching. I did attend a number of smaller events, including a spoken word poetry performance, which was probably my favorite event of the conference. There were six incredible poets, performing their intense and moving work–and even a few members of the audience came up at the end to share their own poetry. It was a really awesome evening–and a really awesome weekend.

During the conference I kept being struck by how proud I am of my school. It’s just really strange and wonderful to watch all these droves of people come to your campus, and hear all these important issues being discussed–in large groups, in the classrooms and concert halls you frequent, with the students and faculty you’ve come to know well and love over the years. I’m so glad UPS is involved in making something like this conference happen, and I know I’m going to try and come back for the next one in four years.