UNC Asheville’s 8th annual African Americans in Western North Carolina & Southern Appalachia Conference returns on November 6th. This virtual event will feature keynote speakers and panel discussions connected to this year’s theme: Reparations, Revelations & Racial Justice: The Path Forward. The event is free and open to everyone.
Curated by Darin J. Waters, deputy secretary for the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, and Tiece Ruffin, interim director and a professor of Africana Studies and Education at UNC Asheville, the African Americans in WNC & Southern Appalachia Conference will bring changemakers from around the country together to share insight and eradicate false narratives about American Americans in the region while creating practical solutions for the future.
“The City of Asheville was one of the first municipalities in the U.S. to pass a reparations resolution behind Evanston, IL, and it has appropriated an initial 2.1 million in reparations funding,” says Ruffin. “The theme, Reparations, Revelations & Racial Justice: The Path Forward, is based on the premise that now is the time to move forward to sharing knowledge, insights, and next steps for racial justice.”
Attendees of this year’s conference will hear from esteemed speakers from Asheville and from around the country. Guests include Keith Young, former councilman and the architect of Asheville’s reparations legislation along with other equitable policies; Lori Decter-Wright, an Oklahoma councilor of southeast Tulsa’s District 7; Robin Rue, a former 5th Ward alderman who served the City of Evanston, Illinois during the passage of the nation’s first municipal funded reparations legislation; Syndi Scott, founder and director of The Amendment Project, a student-led grassroots organization advocating for reparations for Black and Indigenous Americans; Dwight Mullen, professor emeritus from UNC Asheville and one of the University’s first Black professors; Gholdy Muhammad, the bestselling author of Cultivating Genius: An Equity Model for Culturally and Historically Responsive Literacy; and many more.
The event opens with a keynote address on local reparations followed by a panel on reparations across the nation. The mid-day session focuses on a talk and panel focused on reparations and education justice followed by presentations from UNC Asheville faculty presenting the initial findings from the Urban Renewal Archival Database and Lost Black Wealth Study plus an examination of redlining and historic preservation in Asheville. The Black in Black on Black virtual exhibit tour will explore the lives and contributions of Black/African American communities in WNC, and closing the event will be an address from Dwight Mullen on regional reparations.
Says Ruffin, “Our hope is for attendees to be inspired with uncovered revelations and strategies that can be put into action and directly benefit Black Asheville. If we are to uproot and dismantle racism, engage in restoration, restitution and make amends for historical and ongoing racial injustices, we must move to strategically map out the next phase with concrete tools and practices for justice. If we don’t, racial justice will not be realized and resolutions will simply maintain the status quo.”
The conference began in 2014 as a community-wide effort to make the invisible histories of African Americans, and other historically minoritized highlanders, visible. It has grown to encompass living histories and to make a vital, positive impact on the livelihood of our current community members and future generations.
The 2021 African Americans in WNC and Southern Appalachia Conference is made possible with generous funding from Dogwood Health Trust. Additional sponsors include Asheville City Schools Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Explore Asheville and The Buncombe County Tourism and Development Authority, plus support from the Jackson County branch of the NAACP, UNC Asheville Department of Education, the Wilma Dykeman Legacy, Center for Craft, Self-Help Credit Union, and Buncombe County North Carolina.
Registration for the event is available through Remo
For more information about the event including a full schedule of events, visit aawnc.unca.edu