- Category: Volume 86 (Fall 2014 - Spring 2015)
- Published: 22 April 2015
- Written by BRANDON JOHNSON | POLITICS EDITOR
Students, faculty and scholars gathered in Magill Commons Club for the 4th Biennial Interdisciplinary Conference on Race, hearing national and international researchers present their papers from April 16-18.
Co-chaired by Lecturer of history and anthropoloy, Hettie V. Williams and Dr. Richard Veit, Chair of the history and anthropology department, the conference’s theme was “The Criminalization of Race in History and Global Societies, Social Activism and Equal Justice.”
The conference began with an introduction by Veit and Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Laura Moriarty, who lauded the conference for its continual growth. Veit particularly said, “Professor Hettie Williams, she’s a distinguished colleague and she’s the organizer and energizer bunny behind this conference, and this is a huge thing to pull together,” said Moriarty.
According to Moriarty, the conference was “Founded by Dr. Julius Adekunle and Professor Hettie Williams in 2008. The conference evolved out of a series of conversations between them concerning the 2008 presidential campaign of Barack Obama, as well as the changing definition of race in global societies.”
After introductions, Mrs. Donna Gore, a member of Cathedral International’s choir in Perth Amboy, NJ sang “Precious Lord,” followed by a talk by Dr. Nicolle Parsons-Pollard, Virginia State University’s Assistant Vice Provost for Academic Operations.
Parsons-Pollard set up the conference as one stressing education in changing societies. “The truth is that the demographics of America are changing. If we want to continue to be a great nation we must also change,” said Parsons-Pollard. She also emphasized that a conference of this nature needs to abandon the “pseudo political correctness,” that can muddle discussion of tense topics.
The conference included a bevy of subjects, ranging from “The School to Prison Pipeline,” to “Women, Families and Criminalization.” The presenting scholars represented states such as Louisiana and California, New York, and countries like France and Australia, among others.
Dr. Gregory Bordelon, lecturer of political science and chair for the “Origins and Evolution of the American Penal System” panel, was part of the last conference in 2013, albeit as a presenter. He said, “It was nice to take a back seat this time, and see where the research has developed.”
Many of Monmouth’s faculty and staff participated in varying roles, including associate professor Dr. Maryanne Rhett, specialist professor, Susan Douglass, Jules Plangere Professor of American Social History Dr. Brian Greenberg, Instructor of history, Melissa Ziobro, and lecturer of history, Dr. Heidi Bludau to name a few.
According to Dr. Walter Greason, instructor of history and anthropology and conference committee member, “Attendance was spectacular, far exceeding anyone’s expectations. Monmouth students, in particular, deserve special recognition for their constant involvement and commitment to learning outside of the classroom.”
Williams said that conference attendance has been continually good, since its inaugural session in 2008. “This year we had close to 1,000 attendees at the various lectures and special events associated with the conference. Many of the events were standing room only such as at the lecture given by Dr. Donna Murch on Friday with 90-plus in attendance, the talk given by Mr. Ruben Santiago-Hudson, and the talk given by Kevin Richardson and Raymond Santana with roughly 80-plus in attendance.”
The capacity levels were also attributed to the conference being solely held in the Magill Commons Club. Bordelon added, “Monmouth is a victim of its own success. Of course we had the Global Understanding Conference, along with some other things going on. So if we could branch it out [to other buildings/areas on campus] that would be phenomenal.”
Greason encouraged students to work with staff and faculty to continue planning events like this through their clubs and departments. “There are major conferences like the centennial meeting of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History in Atlanta, Georgia, this September, and the Society for American City and Regional Planning History in Los Angeles, California, this November that will provide unparalleled professional opportunities for both students and faculty. If anyone is interested in these international forums, I welcome the opportunity to work with them.”
While each panel was equally intriguing, some of the conference organizers discussed their favorite presentations. Williams particularly enjoyed, “Mrs. Donna Gore’s tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in terms of her solo performance of King’s favorite gospel hymn “Precious Lord” which brought some in the audience to tears (including myself), the opening lecture by Dr. Nicolle Parsons-Pollard, delivered on the first day of the conference, and of course the talk given by Raymond Santana and Kevin (Richardson members of the original Central Park Five).”
According to Greason, “My favorite presentation was the plenary session by Dr. Donna Murch from Rutgers University. Her insightful history of the politics of militarized policing in the United States is one of the most important lessons of the recent past.”
William’s finished by saying, “I believe that students should not be afraid to engage the subject of race… My suggestions for students would be to educate and inform themselves about race by taking courses related to this pertinent topic. This then will help them on the path to becoming better human beings, more generally, and professionals with cultural competency.”
PHOTO COURTESY of Chris Spiegel