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April 16, 2010

CCNY Hosts International Conference on African Diaspora, April 22-24

Natalie Botero's sculpture  

In a rare gathering of its kind, scholars of the African Diaspora from diverse disciplines will meet at The City College of New York (CCNY), April 22-24, to celebrate the languages, literature, music and art of the field.

“Let Spirit Speak! Cultural Journeys through the African Diaspora,” is a three-day conference conceptualized and organized by Dr. Vanessa K. Valdés, Assistant Professor, Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, CCNY. It has attracted participants from around the United States and overseas.

They include Haitian-born anthropologist and artist Gina Athena Ulysse; Colombian sculptor Natalia Botero Morales; and Haitian-American photographer, writer, educator, and healer Regine Romain, who will offer the keynote address as well as moderate a panel discussion.

Ms. Ulysse will perform “Because when God is too Busy: Haiti, me and THE WORLD” as part of the opening day festivities, 4:30 pm, Thursday, April 22, in The Great Hall, Shepard Hall, located at 140th Street and Convent Avenue, Manhattan. Ms. Morales will curate the first public exhibit of her highly acclaimed 21-piece Afro-centric collection “Aquella Raza Abandonada...olvidada” also in The Great Hall for the duration of the conference.
Haiti, still reeling from the effects of last January’s devastating earthquake, will command much of the focus of the conference.
In addition to Ms. Ulysse’s opening performance, the next day, April 23, Ms. Romain will deliver the plenary speech, “AYITI: Reaching Higher Ground Part 1,” 1 pm – 2:30 pm. On Saturday, April 24, Ms. Sophie F. Saint-Just, a PhD candidate at the CUNY Graduate Center, will present a talk entitled “Des Hommes et des dieux: Queering the Haitian Religious Experience,” 11:15 am – 12:45 pm in Shepherd Hall, Room 250. Following that, Ms. Romain will return to The Great Hall, 1 pm – 2:30 pm, to moderate “AYITI: Reaching Higher Ground Part 2: A Conversation between Haitian Artists and Activists.” The discussion will focus on efforts to recover artifacts in Haiti after the earthquake. 

The challenges in Haiti will also be addressed by other performers and speakers and attendees will be encouraged to donate to ongoing relief efforts.

Other conference highlights include poetry readings, film screenings and theatrical performances.

According to Professor Valdés, a New Yorker of Puerto Rican heritage, the conference is unique in its scope because it will bring together experts from various fields in the humanities to discuss the vitality of African Diaspora studies.

“This is an opportunity for people to celebrate the myriad manifestations of life in the languages and literatures, the music and arts of the African Diaspora,” she said. “It’s also important to recognize the importance of African Diaspora studies as an interdisciplinary field that has value as evidenced by the very enthusiastic response the conference has received from scholars around the world.” 

For a complete schedule of events and speakers, please visit:

“Let Spirit Speak! Cultural Journeys through the African Diaspora,” is free and open to high school and undergraduate students. Registration, good for all three days, is $10 for graduate students, $25 for CUNY faculty and staff and $50 for the general public. 

 The conference is co-sponsored by the following: CCNY’s Office of the President; the Division of Humanities and the Arts, the Departments of Music, Foreign Languages and Literatures, Media and Communication Arts, and the Adult and Continuing Education Program. Other sponsors include the Colombian Consulate in New York, McGraw-Hill and John Wiley & Sons.

For more information, call Professor Vanessa Valdés at 1.212.650.6279 or send an email to .