This year, Howard University and its Department of Political Science welcomed the Association for Ethnic Studies (AES) for its 51st Annual Conference from November 2-4, the first to be hosted on an HBCU campus.
The conference theme, (Re)Turning South: Politics, Book Bans, Anti-Revisionist Histories, and Rebellions, centered a diverse range of topics across 40 distinct panels including queer ethnic studies, anti-intellectualism, book bans and school board politics, intersectionality, and more.
Community activists, non-profit leaders, and students ranging from high school to graduate school provided academic presentations that embodied the conference’s theme. Some attendees traveled from as far as South Korea and South Africa, descending on Howard University to participate in research discussions, plenary sessions, and an awards presentation and luncheon catered by local restaurant and bookstore Busboys and Poets.
The conference began with an opening reception in Frederick Douglass Memorial Hall, where Howard University provost Anthony Wutoh, Ph.D. and College of Arts and Sciences dean Rubin Patterson, Ph.D. spoke on the importance of interdisciplinary scholarship, Howard’s longstanding history of supporting Black and ethnic studies, and why Howard was the perfect location for this year’s conference.
“This is the first time AES, the oldest ethnic studies association in the country, has hosted a conference at Howard University or any HBCU,” said conference chair Ravi Perry, Ph.D., who is also a political science professor at Howard and former AES president. “With this year’s theme, Howard was the perfect site to discuss the ongoing battles facing Black and ethnic studies, queer studies, women/gender/sexuality studies, and related fields – all of which have been under attack in political bodies at the state and local level throughout the U.S. south. Ethnic studies are a truly interdisciplinary field whereby we learn about marginalized groups and non-Western ideologies from the perspective of diasporan communities.”
On Friday, November 3, the conference organized an awards luncheon at Louis Stokes Health Sciences Library, where several community leaders, faculty, and other eminent members of the Howard community were honored. Howard University President Ben Vinson III, Ph.D. and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton both received AES’s highest honor, the Charles C. Irby Award. Vinson, who was also being inaugurated as Howard University’s 18th president that weekend, expressed his gratitude via video.
“When I learned I was selected by AES members to receive the Charles C. Irby Distinguished Service Award, I was deeply humbled,” said Vinson. “In my career as a scholar of Afro-Latine history, a former program leader in Africana studies, and now as president of Howard University, I continue to have the distinct privilege to engage with so many individuals from all walks of life – and through service to communities throughout the diaspora and beyond, to advance knowledge about communities of color from our perspectives.
“My administrative career and scholarship have sought to extend the olive branch of knowledge by investing in academic programs, innovative degree development, and other important initiatives that center the histories, politics, and experiences of diasporan communities,” Vinson continued. “I know AES shares these same values, as defined by Dr. Charles Irby's noted career as a leading 20th century geographer.”
“This is the first time AES has held a conference at an HBCU and I hope it is not the last,” said Julia Jordan- Zachery, Ph.D., AES current president. “If we are to come closer to freedom, our students and communities need the work that both institutions are engaged in. I am grateful to Howard for being a generous host.”
For more information about the Association of Ethnic Studies, visit www.ethnicstudies.org.