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.