Pictured left to right: Dr. Vanessa Thompson, Dr. Gloria Wekker (keynote speaker), & Dr. SA Smythe

On October 10-11, 2019, a two-day symposium co-organized by Dr. SA Smythe (African American Studies Department, UCLA) and Dr. Vanessa Thompson (Goethe Universitate, Germany), was well attended by students, staff, and faculty from UCLA and other universities in the Southern California area, as well as those from the local Los Angeles community. It featured presentations and performances from around two dozen scholars, artists, and activists seeking to productively engage the project of Black Europe from a transnational and intersectional feminist perspective. This included working within and across the disciplines of sociology, anthropology, history, literary criticism/comparative literature, gender studies, and performance.

Presentations addressed many relevant topics key to understanding our contemporary political moment, such as the following: the issue of Black people who are rendered non-citizen within Fortress Europe; urban insurrections in the aftermath of police killings of Black youth in Paris, London, Stockholm, and other European countries; mobilizations against anti-black imagery and public demonstrations, such as those against Zwarte Piete (Black Pete) in the Netherlands or anti-blackface campaigns in German and Swiss theatres; struggles for decolonization in educational institutions and on street names, as well as for the decolonization of colonial museums; the notion of abolition and reparations on national and global scales; and the material memories of enslavement, colonialism, imperialism, and their aftermaths.

These topics and more did not only speak to the current conjunctures of Blackness in Europe, but also signal the importance of these formations and struggles as radical contributions to the global formations of Blackness writ large, and the Black radical tradition and Black feminist freedom visions and horizons in particular. Thus, “On the Matter of Blackness in Europe” provided timely perspectives on formations of Blackness and Black struggles within and across the Black Atlantic and the Black Mediterranean that challenged monolithic or dominant iterations of Black study and Black people, while still being attentive to practices of Black solidarity that transcend national containers and are expressed in and through temporal, spatial, performative, commemorative, cultural, and poetic interventions and imaginaries.

The symposium featured a keynote address from Distinguished Professor Emerita Gloria Wekker of Utrecht University (UCLA PhD alum, 1992). It was intentionally organized during European Black History Month, and during the 50th anniversary of the first Black and Ethnic Studies departments in the US. Drs. Smythe and Thompson wanted to have UCLA provide some of the context and the conditions to continue to take transnational feminist approaches to all Black Studies seriously, in a way that allows us to both recognize how African American Studies and Black European Studies share in similar struggles, legacies, and commitments to the struggle for liberation and the joyous matter of Black life from different material and historical conditions.

Please check out the following videos from this excellent two-day symposium at UCLA:

Borderscapes, Colonial Memories, and Policing the Crisis – 10.11.19

Keynote by Dr. Gloria Wekker (Professor Emerita, Utrecht) – 10.11.19

Blackness Conference Remarks by Dr. Gaye Theresa Johnson (UCLA) – 10.11.19

Closing Reflections by the Chair of African American Studies at UCLA, Dr. Marcus Hunter – 10.11.19

Closing Remarks by Dr. SA Smythe (UCLA) and Dr. Vanessa Thompson (Goethe Universitat: Frankfurt)

 

Jasmin A. Young is currently a University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellow at UCLA in the Department of African American Studies. As a historian, her research focuses on African American history, 20th Century U.S. History, and gender studies. She specializes in African American women’s history, social movements, and the Black radical tradition.

Originally from Los Angeles, Jasmin Young began her academic career at California State University, Northridge. After graduation, she moved to NYC to attend Columbia University where she received her Masters in African American Studies and worked with the late Dr. Manning Marable. With a desire to ground herself in gender theories, Dr. Young moved to the UK to study at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), earning a second Masters of Science from the Gender Institute.

In 2018, Dr. Young graduated with a Ph.D. in History from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Her dissertation, “Black Women with Guns: A Historical Analysis of Armed Resistance 1892-1979,” offers a long history of women’s political engagement with Black militant activism from the Reconstruction to the Black Power era.

She is developing her book manuscript, Black Women with Guns: Armed Resistance in the Black Freedom Struggle, which is the first intellectual and social history of Black women’s use of armed resistance as a tool to achieve freedom in post–World War II America. While historical studies have assumed armed resistance was a male prerogative, she makes a significant intervention in the historiography by recovering a history of Black women who engaged in and advocated armed resistance from 1955-1979. Using archival research and gender theories, the book argues that Black women increasingly politicized armed resistance, both in theory and in practice, as the Black Freedom Movement shifted its objectives from integration to self-determination. Ultimately, Black Women with Guns broadens our understanding of the Black freedom struggle by expanding what we regard as political thought and action. It also reveals a more multifaceted struggle whose objectives and strategies were continually contested and evolving.

She presented her research to a packed house at UCLA’s Black Forum this past year where she fielded questions and led a great discussion on the intersection of state violence resistance and Radical Black Feminism. Dr. Young has presented her work at various national conferences including the Organization of American Historians. Her work has garnered general public attention and has been featured in the media. You can listen to her interview for the Black Agenda Report with Glen Ford HERE. She was also the historical consultant and writer for a documentary entitled, “Tracking Ida.”

Dr. Young is regarded as a rising junior scholar with cutting-edge research that connects the historical and contemporary understanding and contributions of Black Feminism. Many have attested to her accomplishments and many are eager to read her book when published. For example, fellow scholars at UCLA have said, “Jasmin’s intellectual maturity and complete dedication to research are among her most salient qualities. I was particularly impressed by how she theorized on Malcolm X’s intellectual development as influenced by the Detroit activist community, as well as when she investigated the contradictions of hyper-visibility and invisibility of Black women transnationally in hip-hop culture.”

She has been a great scholar to have in UCLA’s African American Studies Department as well as across campus. Dr. Young’s research reflects the caliber and innovation UCLA offers students, faculty, and the broader community.