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Events Illustrate Connection Between Africans and African Americans

4 March 2013 | 8:10 am By:

A public Ceremony of Remembrance will take place at Brittlebank Park on March 21, 2013 as part of a conference organized by the College of Charleston’s Carolina Lowcountry and Atlantic World (CLAW) Program. The ceremony will honor those who died while being shipped from Africa as part of the Atlantic slave trade, as well as celebrating the contributions made by Africans to the New World in America. The ceremony will be held from 5:45 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. and is free to attend.

“This ceremony will really illustrate the connection between African and African American cultures,” explains Simon Lewis, associate director of the CLAW program. “It isn’t just about a single connection – it is the history and circulation of culture, music, and really important ideas – especially relating to liberation.”

The ceremony, which is part of the African Literature Association (ALA) conference being hosted by the College of Charleston and the Charleston School of Law, will include readings of poems in French, Portuguese and English, as well as the singing of traditional spirituals and a dirge in Mende (Sierra Leonean language) that been passed down orally over the centuries and is still sung in some Gullah communities in the Sea Islands. These will be sung by Ann Caldwell and the Magnolia Singers.

The theme of the ALA conference is “Literature, Liberation, and the Law”, and the schedule includes panel discussions to explore how writing can help bring about liberation and how the legal, the political, and the literary writings are intertwined. Keynote speakers include award winning writers and civil rights activists from Kenya, South Africa, and Cameroon. The conference will be held at the Marriott Hotel on Lockwood Boulevard from March 20 through 23, 2013.

“The city of Charleston is a compelling site for the conference,” says Simon Lewis, associate director of the CLAW program and conference convener. “While the public perception is that it is the center of secession and Jim Crow segregation, Charleston can also lay claim to being the birthplace of African America. The city was the site of disembarkation of an estimated 40% of enslaved Africans brought to North America during the Atlantic slave trade.”

Another compelling reason to have the conference in Charleston is the year-long Jubilee Project, a series of events commemorating the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights movement, and the midpoint of African decolonization.

Some conference highlights include keynotes by Judge Albie Sachs, former ANC activist and Constitutional Court Judge of South Africa, and Cleveland Sellers, civil rights activist and president of Voorhees College in Denmark, S.C. There will also be a reading and book signing by Moyez Vassanji on Friday, March 22, 2013 at 7 p.m., and, in a parallel session, a dramatic reading of a stage adaptation of A Human Being Died Last Night by Jay Ball (University of Central Washington).

View a full conference schedule and details.

For more information, contact Simon Lewis at 843.953.1920 or lewiss@cofc.edu.

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