Afra-Retroism: African-American women and the American South
Lt. Colonel Thaddeus Hamilton making presentation to Shirley Sherrod in Lee Hall.
By Wilhelmina G. King, Ed.D.
How do you begin to share such an awakening and inspiring experience as the FAMU 8th Annual Spring Literary Forum? “Afra-Retroism: African-American Women and the American South” was their theme this year.
This year’s program featured Evelyn Coleman, Chanta Haywood, Ph.D., Shirley Sherrod, Bree Newsome, and Nikky Finney. The two-day forum focused on the contributions of these and other Black women of the American South in the areas of literature, culture, history, film, spirituality, and social activism.
Evelyn Coleman was a psychotherapist who began her writing career later in life and is best known for her American Girl publications like Shadows on Society Hill: An Addy Mystery.
Chanta Haywood, Ph.D. serves as a Vice President at Albany State and is a FAMU alumna. Her presentation was on Black women’s spiritualty.
Shirley Sherrod’s history includes growing up on a farm in southwest Georgia and be-coming Georgia’s first Black director of rural development with the U.S.D.A.. Her book, The Courage to Hope, was written after she was accused of discriminating against a white farmer who in reality was helped by her. She was forced to resign from her position but was later found to be innocent of the accusation. She and her husband, Charles Sherrod, are also known for their civil rights activism and projects to provide aid and assistance to Black farmers. Bree Newsome is best known for her courageous act of climbing the flagpole and taking down the Confederate flag in South Carolina after the massacre at Mother Emanuel Baptist Church. Her short film, Wake, was screened at this event.
Nikky Finney is an inter-nationally known and respected poet who was a recipient of the 2011 National Book Award in Poetry for her collection of poetry, Head Off & Split. Her poems give a prospective on life in South Carolina through centuries of slavery, oppression, Jim Crow, and after.
Other presenters were Larry Rivers, Ph.D., distinguished historian and author of Slavery in Florida; Patrick Mason, Ph.D., who gave statistical data on African-American women from the Jim Crow era through the recent recession; and Charles Magee, Ph.D. who spoke on our need for African-American farmers and Black owned farmland. Panel discussions were given by the College of Agriculture and Food Services and the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.
Legacy commendations were given to Priscilla Stephens Kruize, John Due, and Patricia Stephens Due (posthumously) for civil rights; Altermese Barnes for heritage; and Atty. Daryl Parks and Atty. Benjamin Crump, Parks and Crump Law Firm for social justice. Musical selections were provided by the Legacy Chorale (FAMU alumni chorus) and the FAMU Gospel Choir.
The FAMU National Alumni Association, Broward County Chapter members contributed to the sponsorship of this important event and had representation on the program. The Reverend Edrena Houston Brown opened the forum with an invocation, Retired Lt. Colonel Thaddeus “Thad” Hamilton introduced Shirley Sherrod, and Wilhelmina King sang with the Legacy Chorale. This is the eighth year that this forum has been hosted by FAMU’s Department of English and Modern Languages in FAMU’s College of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities.
The event was organized by a committee from the Department of English and Modern Languages and coordinated by Natalie King-Pedroso, Ph.D., Associate Professor of English at FAMU who is from Ft. Lauderdale.