UH Manoa conference will explore Black issues

International participation promises productive discussions; evening sessions offer enrichment and entertainment

University of Hawaiʻi
Kathryn Takara, (808) 956-7067
Interdisciplinary Studies/UH Manoa
Posted: Oct 27, 2004

Black issues in the 21st century will be the focus of an international conference — "Forging Links" — at the UH Manoa campus next month. Highlight of the three-day event will be a keynote address by Ishmael Reed, writer, poet, novelist and lecturer at UC Berkeley, and recipient of the MacArthur Fellows Program "Genius Award" in 1998. Conference dates are November 18-20, 2004. The events are sponsored by the University of Hawaiʻi, the East-West Center, the UH Manoa Interdisciplinary Studies Program, and the Hawaiʻi black community.

"This event brings together diverse peoples and interests in a state that loves to tout its diversity," said UH Manoa Professor Kathryn Waddell Takara, conference and program director. "We encourage faculty, students and Hawaiʻi residents to join us in exploring the intersections of histories and cultures of Africa and her diaspora as it stretches from east to west."

The conference will be both a summit in the islands for Black scholars and an exploration of the largely undocumented history of African Americans in Hawaiʻi and the Pacific. "We see this as an opportunity to respond to a strong need for a largely unexplored exchange between scholars of the African Diaspora, Asia and the Pacific to create new common ground," Takara said.

Panel topics include "Diaspora Perspectives," "Shifting Borders and Identities," and "Africa in the Pacific." These will address the complex racial identification of the indigenous groups throughout the Pacific Island regions.

The conference will also address what Professor Takara describes as a serious lack of Black presence and scholarship in the islands. She notes, "The University offers few Black courses, has few Black professors and is thirsty for an infusion of Black scholarship." Today, African-Americans represent 3% of Hawaiʻi‘s population, yet less than 1% of students and faculty at the University.

"Hawaiʻi has long been seen and acknowledged as a center for diversity, but for complex reasons there has been a pattern of exclusion that has directly affected Black people: their lives, immigration patterns, careers and educational opportunities and acceptance in the local ʻOhana," Takara explains.

The groundbreaking conference will be the first of its kind held in Hawaiʻi and organizers hope that it will catalyze the growth of research on the Black Diaspora in the Pacific, forge links with inhabitants of the region, stimulate innovative joint research projects and publications with scholars from Asia and the Pacific and other collaborations. Conference participants will also devote time to discussing establishment of an International Center for Africana Studies and Research in Manoa.

The conference will host more than 25 scholars and practitioners including Reed, Percy Hintzen, PhD, Professor of African American Studies at UC Berkeley; Runoko Rashidi, Opal Palmer Adisa, the Honorable Sandra Simms (ret.), and several UH Faculty. Day sessions are to be held in the Pacific Room at the East-West Center‘s Imin Center.

Activities will culminate with a Saturday program to include ethnic food and "choreopoems" featuring local talent, Adela Chu, Sequoia (dance), Azure McCall (jazz vocalist), Jammerek (drumming), and poetry.

Admission is free for the day programs. The evening event which includes entertainment and pupus is $10/person, payable at the door. For conference program information contact Professor Kathryn Takara at (808) 956-7067, or contact the UH Conference Center at 956-8204.