African Diaspora’s Challenges, Opportunities Are Focus of Pitt International Conference Nov. 3-6

Issue Date: 
October 24, 2011

Richard Wright’s 1954 novel Black Power opened a new chapter in the long history of political and intellectual dialogue across the African Diaspora—the dispersal of people of African descent throughout the world—one that revealed both the convergences and ruptures among people of African descent, both on the African continent and in Diaspora.

To further that dialogue, the University of Pittsburgh World History Center will host the Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora’s (ASWAD) 6th Biennial Conference, titled “African Liberation and Black Power: the Challenges of Diasporic Encounters Across Time, Space, and Imagination.” The four-day event will take place Nov. 3-6 at the Pittsburgh Athletic Association, 4215 Fifth Ave., and Pitt’s University Club.

Conference presenters will examine the Diasporic dimensions and articulations of Black Power with special emphasis on Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, Latin America, and Asia by tracing the genealogies of the concept of Black Power and challenging the limitations of Black Power scholarship.

Among the 270 presenters are Maulana Karenga, creator of Kwanzaa and professor of Africana Studies at California State University, Long Beach, who will take part in a roundtable titled “Rethinking Malcolm X: Imagination and Power, Biography and Historiography.”

Poet and author Abena Busia, director of ASWAD, professor in the Department of Women’s & Gender Studies at Rutgers University and daughter of Kofi Abrefa Busia, the former prime minister of the Republic of Ghana, also will present. In addition, Busia will give welcoming remarks at a reception to be held from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Nov. 4 at the Twentieth Century Club, 4201 Bigelow Blvd., Oakland.

Local Organizing Committee cochairs are Patrick Manning, Andrew Mellon Professor of World History at Pitt and director of Pitt’s World History Center, and Brenda F. Berrian, Pitt professor of Africana studies, English, and women’s studies. Berrian will give the presentation “A Rare Sense of Freedom: Wasis Diop’s Film Score for Hyènes” during a panel titled “Performance and Black Power: Agency, Resistance, and the Cultural Politics of Identity in Africa and Its Diasporas.”

The more than 80 conference sessions throughout the four-day program include:

• “Around the World and Black Again: Examining Constructions of Blackness and Diaspora in Four Different Contexts”;

• “Migration, the Power of Identity, and the Creation of Black Transnational Spaces: An Exploration of the Key Issues in Black and Muslim Immigration in the United States and Canada”;

• “Womanism and Diasporic Activism”;

• “Contemporary Challenges of Black Power”;

• “Intersections of Theatre, Music, and Black Power”;

• “A Call to Arms: Strategy and Tactics in the Black Power Movement”;

• “Hip-Hop and Musical Expression Across the Diaspora”; and

• “Pittsburgh and the African Diaspora.”

ASWAD is an organization of international scholars seeking to further understand the African Diaspora. Through the examination of history, dance, anthropology, literature, women’s studies, education, geology, political science, sociology, language, art, music, film, theater, biology, photography, etc., ASWAD seeks to share the most recent research both within and across disciplinary and other conventional boundaries by way of conferences and symposia held periodically, as well as through publications.

Pitt’s World History Center emphasizes research, teaching, and international collaboration on the global past, with attention to policies for the global future. The center is located within the Department of History in Pitt’s School of Arts and Sciences and is affiliated with Pitt’s Global Studies Center and University Center for International Studies.

Pitt’s Department of Africana Studies conducts multidisciplinary scholarship and teaching on the African diaspora. The Local Arrangements Committee includes 20 members from these and other departments at Pitt and other Pittsburgh institutions, including Carnegie Mellon and Chatham universities.

For more information on the center, visit, and for more information on the conference, visit