From Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture

Author name
Sean Palmer, Assistant Director

There is sometimes a real assumption that if you put two Black people in the same room that they will have more in common than say other kinds of people.  It's almost an expectation that they will become "besties."  However, this deeply flawed logic is ultimately more fictive than real in the context of the world, country, and even Duke.  Black people at Duke, like all other kinds of people at Duke are as diverse and unique as the world they inhabit.  Sure, racialized oppression and its many tentacles are omni-present for ALL Black people (even when and if they don't know), challenging our daily living.  At the same time, culture, class, complexion, gender, geographic region, ability, circumstances, and a plethora of other variables contribute to how Africans, Afro-Brits, Afro-Latinos, Afro-Caribbeans, African-Americans, and Afro-_______'s experience Duke and the world.

Too, we are often rewarded and awarded for "playing up" our differences, even as meta-discourse seeks to describe us as all the same.  There is some reward in shall we say being Black enough, but not being "that" Black.  At the same time, there is something terribly flawed when people who share histories, cultures, and world views forego collective identities and histories to access success.  As one Dr. Brenda Armstrong states, almost annually, "How dare we walk past each other on this campus, ignoring both each other's humanity and our collective struggle?" 

Even at Duke there is a need for communities of strangers to sit with one another, eat with one another, reflect with one another, and experience life with one another.  It is out of this need, that Black Convocation emerges, as a way to provide context for those who want to be intentionally engaged in a Pan-African community.  And, The Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture takes its role seriously in the development of humanity and community.  Thus, Black Convocation is one way we seek to convene community. This premiere event seeks to speak to the distinctiveness and the beauty of Duke's Pan-African community.  Our hope is to provide a memorable experience that inspires our Duke community for the entire year, while providing an opportunity for multi-level social engagement between different Black micro-communities, and serving as a book-end to the annual Abele Awards that happens at the end of the year.

We encourage you to attend Black Convocation and reflect on what it means to be engaged in collective struggle as a community of triumph!