The current disruptions to African and diasporan communities through war, terrorism, globalization, gentrification, environmental catastrophe, and mass incarceration offer layers of meaning for “home.” The 6-day conference-festival (spread over two weekends, including a 1-week residency for some of the presenters), Telling Our Stories of Home, will bring together outstanding national and international faculty, activists, and performers to offer critical and artistic approaches through a series of workshops, presentations, films, and performances to engage in public and feminist discourses on home. The event will end with the inaugural reading of the commissioned play, Torn Asunder, produced from the scholarly text, Help Me to Find My People, which examines the quest of newly emancipated people to reunite their families and reconstitute their homes after the disruptions of both enslavement and the U.S. Civil War.
This conference festival provides a platform for women in Africa and its diaspora to share stories across national boundaries. The ability to bring women from Africa, the Americas, and Asia—a site seldom included in African diaspora studies—is an opportunity for UNC-CH and the state of North Carolina to foster change across the globe. In addition to bringing these far-flung parts of the diaspora together to understand how each constructs home and develop local communities, another innovative aspect of this collaboration is the implications home has on issues a range of issues globally and in our back yard (health outcomes, the carceral state, inclusive/exclusive notions of citizenship, history, etc.). In Africa and its diaspora, slavery has been a considerable shaper of families and notions of home. The African Diaspora in Asia (notably India, Iran, Malaysia, Pakistan) has created communities, but most African-descended people are not viewed as citizens and their notions of home, history, and belonging are severely impacted. The Siddis of India is one African diasporan community not often discussed and certainly not discussed in terms of an Indian home space. Black women artists have a particularly useful perspective to offer concerning notions of home because their (our) homes have often been contingent with other factors—e.g., citizenship (or lack thereof) versus national origins and our health, intimate partnerships, and economic class. We believe this conference and the arts in general can be a model for invigorating civil society.
In the News
Find us in the news at:
Endeavors: A New Chapter
UNC News: ‘Telling Our Stories of Home’ festival explores meaning of ‘home’ for African and African diaspora communities
Downtown Chapel Hill Events Calendar: ‘Telling Our Stories of Home’ at UNC
Perkins is editor of Black Female Playwrights: An Anthology of Plays before 1950, Black South African Women: An Anthology of Plays, African Women Playwrights, and Alice Childress: Selected Plays. She is co-editor of Contemporary Plays by Women of Color, and Strange Fruit: Plays on Lynching by American Women. In 1995 she co-curated ONSTAGE: A Century of African American Stage Design at New York’s Lincoln Center. Perkins has traveled throughout Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Europe as both lighting designer and lecturer. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including Ford Foundation, Fulbright, United States Information Agency, New York Times Company, and United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT). Perkins has taught at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Smith College. She has designed nearly four hundred productions at such theatres as American Conservatory, Berkeley Rep., Seattle Rep., St. Louis Black Rep., Steppenwolf, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Manhattan Theatre Club, eta Creative Arts, New Federal Theatre, Mark Taper Forum, Goodman and Playmakers. She is the recipient of such design awards as NAACP Image and Chicago’s Black Theatre Alliance. Perkins has served as board/advisory member for USITT, University/Residential Theatre Association, and The History Makers. She currently serves as a theatre consultant for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, subject editor for Routledge Performing Archive and editorial advisor for Alexander Street Performance Design Archive. Perkins is a member of the College of Fellows of the American Theatre and United Scenic Artist (USAA). (Photo credit: Jeremy McKellar)
Tanya Shields, Department of Women’s and Gender Studies
Tanya Shields is an associate professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, a Carolina Women’s Center Faculty Fellowship, and a recent recipient of the Institute of Arts and Humanities’ Academic Leadership Fellowship. Dr. Shields’s first book,Bodies and Bones: Feminist Rehearsal and Imagining Caribbean Belonging(2014) examines the ways in which rehearsing historical events and archetypal characters shapes belonging to the region. Feminist rehearsal helps us explore the ways in which people continually negotiate terms of membership and how these transactions reveal structures of resistance, oppression, and inequality. Dr. Shields is also editor of The Legacy of Eric Williams: Into the Postcolonial Moment (2015), which examines the contributions of Williams as an individual, a leader, and a scholar. Dr. Shields is currently at work on her second monograph, “Gendered Labor: Place and Power on Female-Owned Plantations,” a comparative study of women who owned plantations in the Caribbean and U.S. South. Additionally, her work is published in Cultural Dynamics, Women, Gender, and Families of Color,Identities as well as in The Routledge Companion to Anglophone Caribbean Literature and Constructing Vernacular Culture in the Trans-Caribbean. Dr. Shields teaches classes on Caribbean women, the arts of activism, growing up girl globally, and the continuing influence of plantation economics and politics. She is president and board member of the Association for Women Faculty and Professionals (AWFP) and a board member for the Maryland-based Carivision Community Theater, which seeks to use theater as space of exchange between Caribbean and U.S. theater audiences. Dr. Shields earned her Ph.D. in comparative literature from the University of Maryland at College Park.
Painting: The Long Stride by Amanda Tumusiime – Uganda