The Association for Black Culture Centers (ABCC) expects their highest student attendance ever for their 19th National Conference, which will be held at Cleveland State University. The previous record attendance was in 1997, when 550 students attended. This year, the conference expects 500 high school students alone to be bussed in to hear the keynote speakers.
The first conference in 1989 was held at Knox College, and has since grown to name 160 schools as members or affiliates of the association. When Black Studies professor Fred Hord first founded it, the ABCC headquarters was located at Knox College. Over the years this location has changed. Now the headquarters are back at Knox in the office area above Memorial Gym.
The conference this year, held Thursday, Nov. 5 through Monday, Nov. 9, is titled “Centers and Negotiations of Cultural Politics of a Black Presidency.”
“Conference this year is something that’s really important since the events last January,” said Hord. “Even in these bad economic times, the program is growing.”
Some of the topics that have been discussed since Obama’s presidency include the position of the Black Studies department, necessity of affirmative action and the classification of minority scholarships in a ‘post-racial society’,” as Hord described it. These issues are some of the topics that will be discussed during the conference.
“It’s something that my peers, your peers, we should be talking about,” said Hord.
Speakers at the conference will include Dr. Na’im Akbar, Dr. Mark Anthony Neal and Harold Ford along with keynote speaker Byron Pitts and opening speaker Margaret Avery. First lady Michelle Obama has also been invited to make a cameo appearance, though this has not yet been confirmed.
In addition to helping coordinate ABCC affairs, Hord has also been a part of building a superior Black Studies department at Knox. As of June 2009, Knox’s Black Studies department ranked second in the country, only behind Swarthmore.
“We have some courses that almost nobody has at liberal arts schools,” said Hord.
These unique course listings include Black Psychology, Afro-hispanic Culture, African Literature in French, Race and Social Construction and Black Women in the Civil Rights Movement. Hord said the department is trying to create courses around an “Afro-centric” curriculum. This means many courses look at the historical connection between African natives and other cultural groups, including those in Latin America and Asia.
“Black studies is more than just Black studies,” said Hord. This means that Africa is the base of these studies and courses expand to focus on African relations with other cultures in a concentric approach.
Hord is also continuing the genealogical programs that have been available to students since he returned permanently to campus. He is looking for students who are interested in creating their family trees as part of a larger cultural project this year. Interested students should contact him before fall term’s end.