The Center for Africana Studies sponsors a number of annual co-curricular programmatic activities of regional and national significance. Through these public events, the Center involves the entire University and the broader community in debate, discussion, and interdisciplinary learning, thereby fostering global and local engagement.
The Honorable A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr. Lecture was instituted in 1989 in honor of Judge Higginbotham's contributions to the American legal and scholarly communities. Typically held during the fall semester, this annual lecture brings to campus a distinguished scholar or public servant whose work focuses on an issue, event or personality in the African American community of either historical or contemporary interest in the areas of history, social justice or law. The lecture was renamed The Honorable A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr. Memorial Lecture in 1999. Former guests include Hauwa Ibrahim, Kimberle Crenshaw, Charles Ogletree, Derrick Bell, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Patricia Williams, Mary Frances Berry, Bryan Stevenson, Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham and, of course, the Honorable A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr.
The Africana Classics Lecture Series features presentations of the work of influential intellectuals in Africana Studies. Presented by Africana Studies affiliated faculty, this innovative lecture series highlights “classics” in the field of Africana Studies. Texts of past Africana Classics lectures include “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Message to the Grassroots” by Malcom X, Mhudi by Sol Plaatje; and the painting “The Mulatto Gentlemen of Esmeraldas” by Andrés Sánchez Gallque.
MLK Lecture in Social Justice
"Many of the ugly pages of American history have been obscured and forgotten…America owes a debt of justice which it has only begun to pay. If it loses the will to finish or slackens in its determination, history will recall its crimes and the country that would be great will lack the most indispensable element of greatness--justice." --Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Inaugurated in 2002, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Lecture in Social Justice is an annual event typically held in January during the University’s celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. King. This lecture honors individuals and scholars of African descent who have committed themselves to social justice.
Previous MLK program participants include Ambassador Charles Stith; Julian Bond; Randall Robinson and Carlos Rosero, Dr. Angela Davis, Dr. Mary Frances Berry; Harry Belafonte, Danny Glover, and most recently, Benjamin Todd Jealous, Chairman and CEO of the NAACP.
Artist/Scholar in Residence
Instituted in the 1980s, the Artist- and Scholar-in-Residence Programs bring to campus some of the leading artists and intellectuals of our time. Scholars and artists reside on campus, teaching classes and presenting lectures and workshops for members of the University and surrounding communities. Artists and scholars who have participated in this residency include Octavia Butler, John Hope Franklin, Ntozake Shange, Randall Kenan, Terry McMillan, Louis Massiah, Hannibal Lokumbe and Sekou Sundiata.
Held during National Poetry Month (April), Brave Testimony was inaugurated in 2000 as an annual event that celebrates poetry of the African Diaspora. Past participants include former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove, Sonia Sanchez, Michael Harper, and Toi Dericotte, as well as poets from the Cave Canem Poetry Workshop, notably Natasha Trethway, Terrence Hayes and Tracie Morris. Other Brave Testimony participants include Sekou Sundiata, Jay Wright, Dub poet Kwesi Johnson, a multi-media performance by the cast of SOARS: Story of a Rape Survivor, Christian Campbell and South African poet laureate Keorapetse Kgostile.
This annual program, scheduled in conjunction with the Penn Relays, was established in 2002 as a forum for informed discussions with prominent African American athletes, sports scholars and journalists. This event has offered a forum for a wide range of a variety of participants, including Tina Sloan Green, Kellen Winslow, Todd Boyd, Harry Edwards, Stephen A. Smith, Tommie Smith, John Carlos and Mairon Jones.
Symposiums & Conferences
The Center for Africana Studies occasionally hosts symposiums and conferences on a variety of topics related to the African Diaspora. Past symposium and conference topics include: the conflict in Darfur; Smut and Slackness in Carribbean music and violence in Jamaica; Kerner Plus 40: The 40th Anniversary of the Kerner Commission Report; Marcus Garvey, Garveyism, and the U.N.I.A., and most recentl, Africa and the World.