Callaloo Conference to feature prominent African-American writers

Have African-American intellectuals abandoned the Civil Rights Movement? Do black academics need to re-engage the larger community, and, if so, how? What is the relationship between contemporary politics and popular culture?

Some of the nation’s most prominent African-American writers and thinkers will address these questions and more during the 2009 Callaloo Conference, which takes place March 25-28 at Washington University.


Organized by Callaloo, the nation’s premiere African-American and African literary journal, the conference is hosted by the departments of English and African & African-American Studies, both in Arts & Sciences.

“This Callaloo conference focuses on a long-ignored national problem: the complex and burdensome positions and responsibilities black artists and intellectuals are expected to assume in society and in institutions of higher education,” says editor Charles H. Rowell, who founded the journal in 1976.

“The gathering of talent is spectacular: some of our foremost scholars and critics will join with other intellectuals to discuss the state of African-American letters,” said Vincent B. Sherry, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Depart-ment of English. “This is a celebration and demonstration of African-American literary culture at the highest level.”

Participants in the conference, which is titled “The Intellectual’s Dilemma: Production and Praxis in the Twenty-first Century,” will include more than a dozen celebrated authors, poets and scholars.

Events begin at 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 25, with a keynote address by best-selling cultural critic Michael Eric Dyson, Ph.D., the University Professor of Sociology at Georgetown University and author, most recently, of “April 4, 1968: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Death and How It Changed America” (2008).

Other events will include readings by Pulitzer Prize-winning poets Rita Dove and Yusef Komunyakaa at 8 p.m March 26 and 27, respectively. Panel discussions will focus on recent books by the influential academics Houston A. Baker Jr., Ph.D., and Richard Iton, Ph.D. — both of whom will be in attendance — as well as on works by Harold Cruse, bell hooks (nee Gloria Watkins, Ph.D.) and Cornell West, Ph.D.

The conference will conclude March 28 with a series of informal readings beginning at 5 p.m. in the Ethiopian restaurant Queen of Sheba, 6665 Olive Blvd.

All events — other than the concluding readings — are free and open to the public. For more information, contact Anton DiSclafani, lecturer in English, at or 935-5047.

For a complete schedule, visit schedule.htm.