campus. One of the churches in our Diocese, Church of the Advocate, was a main sponsor for the conference. According to the Facebook event for the conference, “The mission of the conference is twofold. First, we wish to celebrate and illuminate the history of the Black radical tradition. Second, we wish to highlight the vital importance of today’s Black radical movements as we look to the future.”
The conference consisted of a variety of events including a march, panels, and People’s Assemblies. The opening event for the conference was called “The Black Prophetic Voice in a Morally Broken World,” which took place at Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church. The panels and People’s Assemblies on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were centered on a range of topics including “The Moral Bankruptcy of Capitalism: The Black Radical Tradition as Socialist Alternative,” “Black Women: In the Black Radical Tradition,” “Police Prisons and the Neoliberal State,” and “Queer Resistance and the Legacy of the Black Radical Tradition.”
So what is the purpose of the Black radical tradition? The Black Radical Organizing Collective (BROC), who convened this conference, asserts, “The vocation of the Black Radical Tradition is the liberation of Black
humanity as part and parcel of the liberation of humanity.” The use of the word “vocation” is especially noteworthy to me, given my involvement in Servant Year. One of the monthly themes of Servant Year is reflecting on the vocation or the calling we sense in our lives.
I had the opportunity to tune into several of the panels remotely, thanks to the events being livesteamed on their website. It was a rare, special opportunity to hear from the plethora of speakers from different disciplines and walks of life speak on the variety of topics at hand. However, I was concerned that some of the components of the conference reinforced the systemic oppressions that we seek to dismantle. For example, the panel entitled “Black Women: In the Black Radical Tradition” began with a poem recited by a Black man about how black men need to make Black women smile. This poem not only reinforced heteronormative relationships as the standard (excluding Black queer women for example) but also romanticized the real dangers of misogynoir (a term coined by Moya Bailey, which highlights misogyny aimed particularly at Black women). Though there are a number of criticisms that can be made of the conference, I appreciated what Charlene Carruthers, who spoke as part of the panel entitled “Police Prisons and the Neoliberal State," said when she asserted that the Black radical tradition is full of contradictions and that she lives and works within these tensions.
If anything, this conference has left me with more questions than answers. Where do we go from here? We can't afford to re-perpetuate the oppressive structures we seek to dismantle.
If you missed the conference and would like to see the different events, click here.