On Tuesday, February 23, Hostos Community College hosted A Conversation on Blackness,” led by Leslie King, Interim Associate Dean and Financial Aid Director, as part of Hostos’ ongoing Veladas Hostosianas |Hostos Culture Talks series. Assistant Professor of History at Saint Peter’s University John Wesley Johnson, Jr., Ph.D. joined King, a member of the Hostos Culture Talks Planning Team, for a one-on-one conversation around what it means to be Black—historically and currently—in America.
Johnson’s presentation, “My Cousin, Tu Prima: The Black Family and the African Diaspora” was a historically documented and moving account of how the African diaspora across North and South America, including the Caribbean, have more common ground and brotherhood than disparate and separate histories. He also discussed the power of music, using as examples the hymns and “circles” of improvised “call and response and coro pregón,” for Black communities in the Caribbean, Latin America, and the U.S.
As noted by Professor Johnson, the African diaspora is a family with a shared history of separation, oppression, and overcoming. Through his proposed lens, the question on whether African people lost their culture as a result of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, poses profound subjects of exploration where music is the conduit to learning that indeed the African family did not lose its sense of self. This last point was emphasized in his closing remarks, in which he said, “Have a clear sense of self, and no one can tell you who are.”
The Veladas Hostosianas |Hostos Culture Talks series was launched by Interim President Cocco De Filippis as part of an ongoing effort to bring the college community together and engage in timely conversations about present-day culture through arts, literature, and academic discourse. During Tuesday’s event, she welcomed the esteemed New York City Council Assembly woman Inez Barron (District 42-Brooklyn), who stayed with Hostos until the very end of the powerful event. Also in attendance was Student Government Association President and Radiologic Technology student leader Brian Carter, whose remark, “We all exist in the same world, and at the end of the day, we are all family,” beautifully exemplified the reason Hostos Community College strives to educate.