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Black Power Symposium Announced

POSTED: March 18, 2009, 12:00 am

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The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) has announced a two-day conference that will examine the black power movement of the 1960’s. Scheduled for March 30 and March 31, “1968 and Beyond: A Symposium on the Impact of the Black Power Movement on America,” will feature significant personalities from that era.

“The black power movement of the 1960s and 1970s was a pivotal and controversial moment in African American History,” said Dr. Lonnie G. Bunch III, founding director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Dr. Bunch noted, “We are proud to have some of the preeminent scholars, artists, and community leaders, many of whom actually participated in the movement in its zenith, with us for this symposium. This difficult period deserves a fresh re-examination and is exactly the kind of programming the museum is supposed to do – to present and discuss African American history and culture in all its richness, ambiguities, challenges and triumphs.”

The sessions on both days cover a wide range of topics related to the movement. The panels on Monday, March 30 will feature poets Askia Muhammad Toure and Amiri Baraka examining the movement’s origins, activist Kathleen Cleaver, poet Sonia Sanchez discussing nationalism and Pan-Africanism, and playwright Woodie King and artist Frank Smith looking at Black arts and consciousness. The next day Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole, director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, will examine the role of women in the movement, and political strategist Donna Brazile and political scientist Dr. Ron Walters will be on tap to discuss Black electoral politics in the movement era and its current status.

The Black Power movement grew out of the civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 1960s. It involved a transition in relevance from a number of organizations that are now part of our nation’s narrative, including the NAACP and Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), to younger, more vocal expressions of outrage such as the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC or “SNICK”) and the Black Panther Party. With the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in April 1968, new voices emerged such as SNCC’s Stokely Carmichael, who coined the term “Black Power,” the Black Panther’s Huey Newton, Angela Davis, and Eldridge Cleaver, that spoke to a generation seeking a more strident opposition to inequities in American society.

The symposium will take place at the Nan Tucker McEvoy Auditorium at the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery, at Eighth Avenue and F Streets, N.W. in the nation’s capital. It is free to the public but seating is limited, so reservations are strongly recommended. To reserve a seat call 202.633.3030, Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Reservations for the March 30 sessions can also be made online at ResidentAssociates.org/NMAHHC30, and for March 31 at ResidentAssociates.org/NMAAHC31.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture was established in 2003 by an Act of Congress, making it the nineteenth Smithsonian Institution museum. It is the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, art, history and culture. The permanent museum will be located on a five-acre site on the National Mall, adjacent to the Washington Monument and across from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. The building is set to open in 2015.

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