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African American Intellectual History Society

March 9 March 11

The African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS)’s Eighth Annual Conference

Conference Theme:

“We Can’t Breathe”: Crisis, Catastrophe and
Sustaining Community in (Un)livable Spaces

Hosted by the University of North Carolina, Charlotte
March 9-11, 2023 

Black people can’t breathe. This is because these are crisis-ridden times. Crisis and catastrophe wrought by mass incarceration, inadequate housing, climate change, environmental degradation, police brutality, war, and the stress upon our everyday lives. Historically, Black communities globally have been made subject to horrific circumstances from involuntary migration, to enforced servitude, Jim Crow segregation, mass incarceration, and police brutality, and now coupled with a pandemic and climate change. This is as juxtaposed with a multiplicity of environmental conditions, including inadequate access to healthy food, toxic waste, unclean water, and pollution. Black communities have disproportionately experienced the impact of environmental waste, pollution, climate change, and lack of access to healthy food resources and equitable healthcare services. This has also more recently meant involuntary migration, illustrated by the rise of Black climate refugees worldwide. Statistics indicate that Black people in the U.S. are 75 percent more likely to live close to oil and gas refineries, have disproportionately high rates of asthma, due to environmental factors, and are more frequently made subject to pollution and toxic waste. This year’s conference specifically focuses on the theme of crisis, catastrophe, and sustaining community. We are particularly interested here in the ways that the Black community has responded to these circumstances over time in thought and action.

This conference seeks to bring together scholars, activists, public intellectuals, and community stakeholders interested in presenting on the theme of crisis, catastrophe, and sustaining community in relation to the history and culture of African Diaspora communities. What are the major points of crisis and catastrophe that have faced African Diaspora communities over time and space? In what ways have Black Diaspora communities, over time, thought about (and implemented) securing adequate housing, equitable access to education, abolitionism, healthy food, clean water, and equitable environmental conditions? What roles have Black women played in mitigating crises in the community? What efforts continue at the present? Who are the Black intellectual pioneers of environmental justice? What is the genealogy of these ideas? For this conference, we seek papers specifically on our stated theme of crisis, catastrophe, and community in Black history and African Diaspora Studies. We especially would like to see some individuals, groups, and community organizations engaged in social justice work and environmental action participate in this conference. This might include individuals/organizations involved in environmental clean-up work, community sustainability actions, food resource and distribution programs, including agricultural cooperatives and those engaged in other social justice initiatives.

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