What is Black Lives?

Black Lives is the 2021-2022 World Affairs Signature Series Sponsored by the School of Languages, Cultures, and World Affairs. In the spirit of the Akan aphorism “Sankofa,” which emphasizes the importance of looking to the past to understand the future, this series features a number of events and a range of courses taught in 15 different disciplines in an effort to enhance our understanding of Africa and peoples of African descent across time and space.

The modern world has been shaped by forced labor, cultural innovation, and natural resources from the African continent. Scientists have identified East Africa as the cradle of humanity, while Timbuktu and Egypt are viewed as exemplars of ancient civilizations. Today we observe how phenomena such as China’s economic reach and Boko Haram’s insurgency sway realities for states with historically weak institutions and unstable governments; while our own has sworn in the first Black and South Asian woman as Vice President. Conflict in Ethiopia. Food insecurity in Madagascar. SARS protests in Nigeria. The nomination of Black Lives Matter for the Nobel Peace Prize. Ghana’s successful “Year of Return” that invited descendants of enslaved Africans to return “home.” African footballers playing worldwide and black Olympians breaking world records. Each of these has social, economic, and political implications for Black Lives.

Here at the College of Charleston, faculty are deeply engaged in research, teaching, and service projects that coalesce around African Studies, African American Studies, and studies of the broader African Diaspora. The Black Lives series seeks to put these efforts in closer dialogue from the unique vantage point of Charleston and the Lowcountry, a space where they intersect in key ways. Being a major center of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, enslaved Africans and their descendants have shaped our physical, cultural, economic, and political environment in such a way that Charleston can very much be described as an African city. Our theme and Charleston’s importance to the global economy calls attention to how the African continent and wider transnational Black experiences (African American, Afro-Caribbean, Afro-LatinX, Black British, Afro-European) are hubs for international engagement.

We warmly invite the College of Charleston community to participate in the Black Lives Signature Series. You may begin by exploring this blog, which will be updated regularly with events, sights, sounds, and ideas.

Black Lives Coordinators:

Kameelah Martin
Dean of the Graduate School
Professor of African American Studies

Christopher Day
Associate Professor of Political Science
Director of African Studies

What we look like sitting on the Toni Morrison Bench, Sullivan’s Island