Writing Black Activist Lives
Writing Black Activist Lives. This conversation looks at new biographies, bringing us deeper understanding of more familiar freedom fighters like Paul Robeson and less known but crucial lifelong activists like Zoharah Simmons. Authors will discuss the power of individual stories to illuminate larger historical crosscurrents.
Shana RedmondColumbia University
As a scholar, Shana Redmond pulls from multiple subjects, strategies, and approaches in her work and situates her scholarship in and between fields including Black Studies, Performance Studies, History, Critical Ethnic Studies, Sound Studies, English and Literature, Cultural Studies, and (Ethno)Musicology. Her new book is an experimental cartography of the global polymath Paul Robeson and his repetition as vibration, hologram, and the built environment during and after his lifetime. Titled Everything Man: The Form and Function of Paul Robeson, the book forwards a theory of “antiphonal life” in order to announce his continuing influence and labors in the political life of artists, organizers, and intellectuals.
Her first book, Anthem: Social Movements and the Sound of Solidarity in the African Diaspora, examines the sonic politics performed amongst and between organized Afro-diasporic publics in the twentieth century. Redmond’s efforts as a musician and labor organizer shaped the form and argumentation of the book, which develops a transnational cultural history of Black racial formations and performance politics. The mixtape that accompanies Anthem, produced and mixed by The Dreadstar Movement, can be found here.
Redmond is currently at work on two book length projects. The first, The Next Jubilee: Black Music and the Possible Impossible, details how Black musical techniques forecast new futures. She is additionally writing a book about “first-world” aid musics titled The Song that Saved the World, which reads songs like “We Are the World” as composing a benevolent regime of failed internationalism. In all of her work, music is both her inspiration and—as Paul Robeson, Fela Kuti, and others have advanced—her weapon; it is the origin of her critique and the method through which alternatives to our present may be heard.
A mentor and comrade, Redmond is happy to communicate with anyone interested in similar ideas or projects of liberation. She can be reached by email or Twitter.
Dan BergerUniversity of Washington Bothell
Dan Berger is a historian of activism, Black Power, and the carceral state. His latest book is Stayed on Freedom: The Long History of Black Power Through One Family's Journey, published by Basic Books. He is professor of comparative ethnic studies at the University of Washington Bothell and curator of the Washington Prison History Project, a digital archive of prisoner activism and policy. Follow him @dnbrgr or www.danberger.info
Shanna Greene Benjamin
Shanna Greene Benjamin is a biographer and scholar who studies the literature, lives, and archives of Black women. She has published on African American literature and Black women's intellectual history in African American Review, MELUS, and PMLA, Studies in American Fiction. She is a coach who helps graduate students and faculty members write what only they can; she is a consultant who helps colleges and universities engage with inclusivity as a practice.
Her book, Half in Shadow, a biography of Norton Anthology of African American Literature co-editor Nellie Y. McKay, is forthcoming from the University of North Carolina Press.
She lives with her family in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Patricia Romney received her Ph.D. from the City University of New York where she won the Bernard R. Ackerman Award for Outstanding Scholarship in Graduate Psychology. She completed her internship in Consultation and Education at the Yale University School of Medicine and did post-graduate study at The College of Executive Coaching.
For twenty years she taught at the college level, achieving tenure at Hampshire College where she taught for 10 years. Subsequently she held a 10 year appointment as Visiting Associate Professor of Psychology and Education at Mount Holyoke College. Courses taught included: The Psychology of Oppression, Psychology of Racism, and The Social Psychology of Organizations.
Dr. Romney has authored over 20 articles and papers. Her co-edited volume Understanding Power: An Imperative for Human Services was published in 2017 by NASW Press. Her book We Were There: The Third World Women’s Alliance and the Second Wave of Feminism was published by Feminist Press in October 2021.
For the past 30 years she has been engaged in dialogue work, large scale diversity initiatives, leadership development and team building, as well as professional coaching of individual faculty and administrators in academia.
After many decades working in the forefront of justice and DEI work, today Dr. Romney repositions her work. Her leadership coaching supports this generation’s leaders as they joyfully fulfill their destiny and purpose. Her dialogue facilitation serves to build connection and heal fractures, moving communities from an us/them focus to a focus on connection, community, and the common good.