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Avery Research Center Hosts One of the First Conferences of its Kind

5 September 2013 | 1:45 pm By:

Black sexuality and gender identities have traditionally been taboo topics – until recently. This fall the College of Charleston’s Avery Research Center will host one of the first academic conferences to explicitly focus on these topics and more. “Unleashing the Black Erotic: Gender and Sexuality – Passion, Power and Praxis” will include panels ranging from “Women, Sex, and Hip Hop” to the “State of the Field,” which will feature nationally influential scholars. Renowned journalist and feminist author, Joan Morgan will deliver the keynote address on Thursday, September 19, 2013 at 4:00 p.m., and this event is free and open to the public. The entire conference will be held from September 18 through 21, 2013 at the Avery Research Center (125 Bull St.). View registration information and full schedule here.

Read a Chronicle of Higher Education article on the rise of black sexuality.

For the second year in a row, the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture’s annual conference is breaking ground. Last year’s Black Power conference also drew national attention, including an article in USA Today, and brought international scholars to the College’s campus.

“It is so important that we talk about these issues now, and it is so important that we talk about them here, in Charleston, South Carolina,” says Patricia Lessane, director of the Avery Research Center. “We want to host work that is interesting, work that is being done around the world, and yes, work that is edgy.”

The late African American poet and civil rights activist Audre Lorde  argued that the “erotic” involves various forms of personal pleasure, from sexuality and physical appearance to art, music, poetry, and performance. During the 1970s, Lorde advocated for African American women to empower themselves by embracing the erotic as part of the black feminist movement. Conference organizers highlighted Lorde’s definition of the erotic in their call for papers and panels, which yielded a record number.

Consuela Francis, College of Charleston professor of African American studies explains, “We will come together to examine what it means to be black, female, male, gay, straight, and anything in between. In doing so, we acknowledge our agency and power, and collectively unleash the black erotic.”

“This conference is very unique,” Lessane adds. “The interdisciplinary nature of ours, and the focus on different black sexualities really makes this conference one of the first of its kind.”

In addition to the panels, there will also be a dramatic performance by E. Patrick Johnson that is free and open to the public. The one-man-show is entitled “Sweet Tea: Stories of Gay Black Men in the South.”

This conference is hosted jointly by the Avery Research Center and the African American Studies program at the College of Charleston. For more information, contact averyconferences@gmail.com or 843.953.7609.

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