The Africana Intellectual Project

Melina Abdullah, one of the original organizers of the Black Lives Matter movement and celebrated expert on race, gender, class, and social movements, will speak at Colorado College on April 8, 2019. Abdullah will be one of the speakers in the series, Black Art(s): Radical Potentialities, an on-going conversation on the African Diaspora. 

Abdullah is not the only big name of the series; rapper Black Thought, co-founder of hip-hop band The Roots, will also speak at CC, and renowned jazz musician Nicholas Payton will perform Miles Davis’s masterpiece, “Sketches of Spain,” and his original composition, the Black African Symphony accompanied by the Colorado Springs Philharmonic.

“We are particularly excited since [Payton will perform] at the Pikes Peak Center for the Performing Arts,” said Professor Michael Sawyer. “This will allow us to build on the success of the Pharoah Sanders concert which brought in people from the community who are not traditional participants in CC events. The AIP has an explicitly public intellectual mission that extends beyond the four corners of the College.”

Illustration by Lily O’Dowd

The Black Art(s): Radical Potentialities series is part of the Africana Intellectual Project, a new initiative spearheaded by Professor Sawyer. The AIP will create an intellectual space at CC dedicated to discussing the African Diaspora and its implications and challenges. It will also provide an opportunity to celebrate black artists, thinkers, and scholars.  

“The program is unique in our minds because it endeavors to center Africana Thought as the point of departure for a coherent intellectual endeavor to allow students, professors, staff, administration, and the broader community to think more expansively,” said Sawyer. “It is about conversation for the purpose of intellectual progress. It is meant to expand the safe space of the seminar into the realm of public discourse.”

Students will be able to engage with the project in many ways, beyond attending presentations. CC students will have to opportunity to study at Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the U.S. as part of a semester-exchange organized by the AIP, with ambitions of extending this program to universities in Jamaica and Sub-Saharan Africa. Additionally, the AIP will sponsor Pre and Post-Doctoral fellows at CC. There are also trips planned to visit the Smithsonian African American History Museum and The National Memorial for Peace and Justice. 

One aim of the AIP is to enhance similar efforts on campus and work with institutions like the Butler Center. “The position we are taking is how do we assemble an intellectual genealogy of sorts that renders experience an integral part of both individual and collective development,” said Sawyer. 

The AIP is organized by a committee led by Professor Sawyer that includes Drs. Claire Garcia, Ibrahima Wade, Paul Buckley, Jonathan Lee, and Manya Whitaker. Early second semester, the committee will host listening sessions with interested faculty, staff, and most importantly students and student groups to integrate all input and thinking from the CC community into the AIP both formally and informally. If you are interested in the project or have any questions, contact Professor Sawyer. 

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