Multidisciplinary Conference to Connect Black Communities

Community leaders, academic researchers and other stakeholders worked together to document, preserve, safeguard and enhance the life of Black communities at Black Communities: A Conference for Collaboration, April 23-25 in Durham, N.C.

Black communities have led many of the most important social and political struggles of our time, and are responsible for countless cultural and philosophical influences that resonate around the world. Today, Black communities also face critical questions about their legacies, their health and even their very existence.

On April 23-25, a global network of community leaders and members, researchers and other stakeholders gathered in Durham, N.C., to explore the past, understand the present and imagine the future of Black communities.

The multidisciplinary conference was hosted by the Institute of African American Research and NCGrowth, an affiliated center of the Frank H. Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise. The event featured presentations, discussions, workshops, film screenings and other programming. Participants learned the stories of celebrated Black communities, discovered the opportunities and issues facing Black communities today, and discussed ways to prepare those communities for the future.

“We’re excited about the breadth of backgrounds of the participants,” says Mark Gabriel Little, conference co-chair and director of NCGrowth. “We think collaboration across geographies and professions is critical to our communities’ success.”

Conference sessions covered such diverse topics as public policy, health and the environment; entrepreneurship; Black identity; archiving family history; and community development. In addition, participants had the opportunity to tour several Durham sites of significance to the African American community, such as North Carolina Central University, and enjoy performing arts events.

The conference featured prominent researchers, presenters and performers from across North America, including documentary filmmakers Thomas Allen Harris (“That’s My Face,” “Twelve Disciples of Nelson Mandela,” and “Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People”) and Byron Hurt (“Soul Food Junkies,” “Barack & Curtis,” “I Am a Man: Black Masculinity in America”), and North Carolina State Senator Valerie Foushee.

“We designed this conference to be a rich, participatory experience,” explains Co-chair Karla Slocum of the Institute of African American Research. “We hoped to facilitate a global network of individuals, all interacting and sharing knowledge, to convert those conversations into future collaborations.”

In addition to NCGrowth and the Institute of African American Research, the conference was hosted by the Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise, the Southern Historical Collection, and the Center for the Study of the American South.


Black Communities Conference

Mark Little and Karla Slocum join Frank Stasio on the State of Things to talk about the conference: Working Together to Rebuild Black Communities

“We hoped to facilitate a global network of individuals, all interacting and sharing knowledge, to convert those conversations into future collaborations.”