Conference explores black identity

Drawing students from universities along the east coast, this weekend’s 10th anniversary Black Solidarity Conference examined the basis for contemporary perceptions of black identity, particularly notions of black power and success.

Hosted by the Black Student Alliance at Yale and the Black Pride Unions, the conference, entitled “Shattering the Glass Ceiling: Rethinking Conceptions of Black Success,” attracted over 200 students from schools including Brown University, the University of Virginia and Mount Holyoke College. During the weekend, speakers and panelists addressed a variety of current black issues, such as the domestic AIDS crisis, black leadership and the nature of the black middle class.

The conference also gave black students a forum to exchange “ideas, opinions and plans of action,” and build networks outside of their own universities, Danielle Smith and Lauren Booker ’06, co-presidents of BSAY, said in the conference’s mission statement.

“We’ve gotten positive feedback from students from almost every school,” Booker said in an interview. “There was a lot of exchanging of numbers, a lot of them are interested in having their own conferences.”

The conference began Friday when students organized to distribute voting information at Shaw’s Supermarket on Whalley Avenue. Later that evening at a banquet, keynote speaker George C. Fraser, author of “Success Runs In Our Race: The Complete Guide to Effective Networking in the African-American Community,” discussed the important role of relationship-building in business success. After the banquet, Stogie Kenyatta performed the one-man play, “The Life and Times of Paul Robeson,” about the 20th-century black athlete, performer, scholar and activist.

Albert Ntiri ’05, who attended several of the conference events, said he found Fraser’s talk particularly interesting.

“He was talking about a third stage in the civil rights movement — to use the knowledge and understanding of money in the African American community,” Ntiri said.

School of Nursing Associate Director Laurie Sylla spoke at a panel discussion on Saturday titled “Breaking the Silence: Confronting the Domestic AIDS crisis” on the necessity of addressing unprotected sex in prisons and in the context of marriage.

“If you want to address AIDS in the black community, you’ve got to address the lack of condoms in prison,” Sylla said. “Around the world, the number one risk factor for HIV is being married. We deny that unprotected sex happens in the context of intimacy.”

Later Saturday night students from many different universities performed in a talent show. Rhythmic Blue and Steppin’ Out were among the Yale groups who performed. Students not from Yale performed spoken word poetry, freestyle rap and songs. The night ended with a costume party at Club Image.

The conference concluded Sunday with a service at the Black Church at Yale.

Adrian Hopkins ’06, founder and editor in chief of the new bi-weekly magazine “Sphere,” said he valued the conference, especially considering the current political climate preceding Election Day.

“The most important part for me was that, as black students from colleges across the country, we were able to come together and share our own experiences and ideas at this crucial time before the election,” Hopkins said.

Students from several universities gathered this weekend to discuss common perceptions of black identity, emphasizing conceptions of black power and success. The Black Student Alliance at Yale was the conference’s co-host.
Kate Polin
Students from several universities gathered this weekend to discuss common perceptions of black identity, emphasizing conceptions of black power and success. The Black Student Alliance at Yale was the conference’s co-host.

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