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Friday, May 24, 2024

William & Mary Symposium to Focus on Healing in the Black Community

Queen Quet, chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation. (W&M News)

WILLIAMSBURG — The William & Mary Lemon Project will host its 14th annual spring symposium, “Taking Our Time: Healing Through Black History, Family and Communities,” at the university’s School of Education March 22-23.

Those interested in attending the two-day event, which people may also attend via Zoom, are asked to RSVP.

“The 2024 Lemon Project Spring Symposium builds on our premise that healing takes place in the context of community,” said Jajuan Johnson, Mellon Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow with The Lemon Project. “This year we will hear diverse stories of the African American experience, and we will share healing methods and traditions that underpin our current and future greatness.”

According to William & Mary, the symposium will feature a number of panel discussions and a keynote address Saturday morning on “Healin de Black Famlee: A Gullah/Geechee Circle of Healing Session” by Queen Quet, chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation. The address will focus on Gullah/Geechee traditions from the “sea islands,” from the Carolinas to Florida.

The symposium will also feature a performance on Friday evening of Iris Goode-Middleton’s “The Yard,” which focuses on African American men who worked at the Newport News Shipyard, and a spoken word event on Saturday night in collaboration with The Black Poets Society, the university said.

The performance of “The Yard” is sponsored by the Hampton University Theatre Department and The Lemon Project along with the African American Historical Society of Newport News and the W&M Department of Theatre, Speech and Dance.

“The work we do is important, rewarding and very personal for some people, and as a result it can also be mentally and emotionally draining,” said Robert Franics Engs Director of The Lemon Project and Assistant Professor of History Jody Allen. “Taking this into account, this year’s theme is inspired by Tricia Hersey’s book ‘Rest Is Resistance: A Manifesto.’ We encourage you to gather with us to discuss everything from family histories and memorialization to healing with flowers and other mental health topics.”

The panel discussions, which take place both Friday and Saturday, will include students, faculty and alumni from William & Mary, the university said, along with other scholars and community members who will discuss their respective areas of expertise or lived experiences.

Among those with William & Mary ties who will be participating is Johnson, who will moderate a panel discussion “Black LGBTQ+ Community Making in the Eras of HIV/AIDS and COVID-19,” and Maureen Elgersman Lee, director of the Bray School Lab and Mellon Engagement Coordinator for African American Heritage, who will moderate a discussion on “Mapping as Community Healing: Space, Place, and Legacy at the Williamsburg Bray School.”

Also participating in the panel sessions is Special Adviser for Equity in the 21st Century and Adjunct Professor of Physics Warren W. Buck III M.S. ’70, Ph.D. ’76, D.Sc. ’13. Buck, a former Board of Visitors member and chair of the Principles of Naming and Renaming Working Group at William & Mary, will be part of a discussion on “A School Name: The Identity, Impact, and Implications.”

Topics of other panel discussions range from memorialization and data-informed methods for studying slavery to family histories and reconciliation through conversations, history and communal healing, according to W&M.

“We acknowledge the challenges of reparative, healing work and hope that participants will find the space to ‘rest’ so that the work can continue,” said Allen. “Join us as we explore ways that Black people are overcoming the intergenerational trauma of slavery.”

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