Over 30 students, staff, and citizens attended the Black History Month Faculty Speaker Series event on Feb. 12 at Valdosta State University’s Bailey Science Center Auditorium. In recognition of Black History Month, VSU is hosting several free, open to the public events coordinated by VSU’s African-American Studies Program and the Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion.
The events, sponsored by various VSU departments, include a Faculty Speaker Series, movie showings, and discussion panels. “We are really pleased that we have representatives of most of the colleges on campus,” said Dr. Tameka B. Hobbs, coordinator of VSU’s African-American Studies program.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of African-American studies programs in our nation; a program that focuses on African-American history, culture, sociology, and religion.“There is room for African-American studies in academia,” Hobbs said. “African-American studies is for everyone to appreciate; it’s not exclusive.”
Dr. Nicholas E. Miller, an assistant professor in VSU’s Department of English, kicked off the second of four Faculty Speaker presentations. Miller’s presentation delved into the book Kindred by Octavia Butler as well as the graphic novel adaptation of “Kindred,” published in January, 2017 by Damian Duffy and John Jennings.
“Octavia Butler is amazing,” Miller said. “I hope my enthusiasm inspires the audience to read Kindred.” As an African-American science fiction author, Octavia Butler won the Hugo and Nebula awards and was the first science-fiction writer to receive the MacArthur Fellowship.
Miller’s presentation, titled “Posthuman Blackness: Unmaking the Black Body in ‘Kindred’ and itsGraphic Novel Adaptation,” took an in-depth look at how the lasting effects of slavery, represented in the graphic novel adaptation, “unmakes” the protagonist, Dana Franklin’s body, which represents the suffering endured by all African Americans.
“She’s free, but she’s not whole.” Miller said, as he analyzes the ending of the novel for the audience. Miller stresses that fact that, as a society, “we shouldn’t reduce black experiences to black suffering,” and he passionately aims to “actively highlight African-American experiences, cultures and individuals.” Miller concluded that “actions need to be tied to words” when it comes to everyone embracing African-American history and studies.
Miller’s research is part of an edited collection by scholars of African-American literature, “Black Bodies in Transhuman Realities,” set to be published any time between the ending of this year and beginning of 2020. “Awareness of African-American historical trauma by itself is not enough,” Miller said. “We have to be able to tie reparative actions to the words we speak and study.”
The next Faculty Speaker event, “The Biology of Human Skin Color” by John Elder and Leslie S. Jones, is taking place on Feb. 19, at 7 p.m., in the Bailey Science Center Auditorium at VSU.
For more information about the lecture series, go to https://www.valdosta.edu/afa/documents/events-poster-2019.pdf
For more information about African-American Studies, Contact Dr. Tameka Hobbs, coordinator of VSU’s African American Studies Program, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (229) 249-4843 to learn more.