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'Still the Black Mecca?" symposium to explore race, social inequality in Atlanta

Emory Report | Oct. 24, 2016

The status of racial equity and social justice in a changing Atlanta will be the focus of a Nov. 9 public symposium co-sponsored by Emory’s James Weldon Johnson Institute for the Study of Race and Difference (JWJI).

“Still the Black Mecca? Race, Social Inequality and Urban Displacement in 21st Century Atlanta” will be held from 1-7:30 p.m. at the Georgia State University Law School.

The half-day symposium is an event partner of “Facing Race: A National Conference,” to be held in Atlanta Nov. 10-12, and will provide pre-conference attendees from across the nation an introduction to Atlanta.

Other host institutions include the departments of sociology at both Georgia State and Clark Atlanta University and the Facing Race local host committee.

According to lead symposium organizer Kali-Ahset Amen, assistant director of Emory's JWJI, the event aims to bring together academics, activists and artists to address a range of issues, including gentrification, big development and the need for racial justice.

“Much has been studied and said about Atlanta’s racial past. However, there is much yet to explore about the ways in which old patterns have held fast and found new expression in the present moment,” Amen says.

“We believe that this symposium addresses a need in Atlanta for honest, critical and evidence-based conversations about the contemporary formulations of racialized dispossession, carcerality and social segregation in our city.

“By bringing this crucial conversation to the public, our hope is to foster a much-needed exchange of knowledge and good faith among academics, activists and practitioners who are committed to working toward a more just future,” she says.

For Atlanta scholars and activists, the symposium is designed to help lay the groundwork for an actionable agenda of collaborative research, policy innovation and multi-racial organizing among university researchers and community leaders in Greater Atlanta, according to Amen.

The symposium will feature speakers from all host organizations and a variety of Atlanta-based community partners in panel discussions, TED-talk style presentations and issue debate forums.

At the center of the event are three goals:

  • To showcase the research initiatives of area universities concerning the vectors of structural racism in the greater metropolitan area.
  • To critically examine and uplift political, cultural and economic  solutions with viable potential to advance racial justice locally.
  • To connect local and national scholar-activists, academics, grassroots leaders, policy-makers, and students as collaborators in justice-oriented transformation.

The symposium will also incorporate artistic commentaries concerning racial justice in Atlanta, including work by Emory artist-scholar Fahamu Pecou and Atlanta-based visual artist Corey Barksdale.

In collaboration with Gallery 72 in Atlanta’s Office of Cultural Affairs and the Georgia State University Archives, the symposium will feature documentary photography capturing different dimensions of black urban experience from the 1980s and the Freaknik-era to the present day, Amen says.

For more information or to register for “Still the Black Mecca?” visit www.RaceInATL.com, or follow on JWJI Facebook and Twitter with #BlackMecca.