On September 1956 the world watched in awe and disbelief as black intellectuals from all corners of the globe came together for the historic congregation of black artists, writers and intellectuals in Paris to discuss and debate black culture and identity in all its diversity. The likes of James Baldwin, Frantz Fanon, Abdoulaye Wadé, Josephine Baker and even Pablo Picasso attended this historic event, which would become the catalyst for a new and unheard of pan-identity taking root: the black maverick and intellectual.
Few imagined the monumental impact this congregation would have in directing the trajectory of black academism and intellectualism. In the aftermath that followed, McGill University held its very own first ever Congress of Black Thinkers and Activists in 1968 to extend this dialogue with speakers such as Black Panther leader Stokely Carmichael, Miriam Makeba, Rocky Jones, and Walter Rodney.
History, however, does not stop there.
This weekend will mark the 45th anniversary of the 1968 congress and the first congregation of black intellectuals, artists, and writers in McGill since the turn of the 21st century, fittingly themed “Create Dangerously” echoing Albert Camus who once declared, “For the person with creative potential there is no wholeness except in using it.”
Brought to you by Q-PIRG, Community-University Talks (C-Uni-T), and The Islamist and Black Canadian Studies Associations, the event will be a weekend-long series of discussions and panel guest speakers. The talks will draw upon problems pertaining to black identity in today’s context, with a focus on the expression of shared experiences through the powerful mediums of art and writing. For the first time since 1968, individuals will come and share their thoughts in an interactive public setting – one that isn’t steered by the prevailing dominant group, but instead guided by the kinship and commonality associated with the minority experience.
There will be a variety of topics and discussion that reflect the multi-faceted nature of black intellectualism, ranging from issues such as art activism and the effects of class and labour struggles among black communities, to art exhibitions and even spoken word poetry. Guest speakers will include artists Jamie Bradbury and Kosisochukwu Nnebe, esteemed dub poet Afua Cooper and award-winning journalist Amity Paye.
From Friday the 18th to Sunday the 20th of October, the intergenerational conversation on black culture, identity and politics continues. Attendance is free, although registration is mandatory. Those interested can simply register through the event page on Facebook.
Create Dangerously is more than just another congress. It will be a gathering, a conversation and a celebration of the black intellectual in the midst of history in the making.
WRITTEN BY LINDA SARVI