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Symposium on race invites community dialogue


BLACKSBURG, Va., April 10, 2006 – The issue of how words and images affect the ways we think about race is the focus of a free public event on Monday, April 24, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in Owens Banquet Hall.

“Representations of Race and the African-American Community” will initiate conversations about representations of African-Americans in a range of contexts—from the Virginia Tech campus and the Blacksburg community to Supreme Court cases and Hip-Hop music.

“This interactive event is designed to connect members of the campus and surrounding communities through a day-long series of conversations and opportunities for small group dialogue,” said Kelly Belanger, director of the English Department’s Center for the Study of Rhetoric in Society, which is co-sponsoring the event with Virginia Tech’s Office of Multicultural Affairs. “We hope to open lines of communication and expand understanding about issues of race and language while creating a foundation for community-university partnerships that extend beyond the event itself.”

The program opens with “One Tall Order: Trust Production in the Face of History,” a talk by Catherine Prendergast, associate professor at the University of Illinois and author of an award-winning book on literacy and racial justice. Following her talk, she will join a panel of community, faculty, and student leaders to continue exploring the significance of historical representations of race.

The afternoon session emphasizes contemporary representations, beginning with “Jim Crow on Fraternity Row: A Study of the Phenomenon of Blackface in the White Southern Fraternal Order,” presented by Tracey Patton, associate professor of Communication and Journalism at the University of Wyoming and expert on depictions of African-Americans in popular culture.

Nikki Giovanni, University Distinguished Professor and internationally-recognized author, poet, and activist, highlights the program by performing a reading of her children’s book Rosa.

To conclude the event, Keith Gilyard, professor of English at Pennsylvania State University, will deliver a summary keynote address. Gilyard is an award-winning author and editor of groundbreaking books and articles on race, composition, and the politics of language.

Participation is free and open to all interested faculty, staff, students, and members of the surrounding communities. Please register online by April 19 at http://www.english.vt.edu/. Lunch is complimentary for the first 150 registrants.

For more information or to register, please call 231-8458.

Founded in 1872 as a land-grant college, Virginia Tech has grown to become among the largest universities in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Today, Virginia Tech’s eight colleges are dedicated to putting knowledge to work through teaching, research, and outreach activities and to fulfilling its vision to be among the top research universities in the nation. At its 2,600-acre main campus located in Blacksburg and other campus centers in Northern Virginia, Southwest Virginia, Hampton Roads, Richmond, and Roanoke, Virginia Tech enrolls more than 28,000 full- and part-time undergraduate and graduate students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries in 180 academic degree programs.