Sunday, May 04, 2008

The Race and New Media Conference

Our Race and New Media conference yesterday was a great success—putting it mildly. Thanks to all involved for making it work so well! The two of us who organized the event, my fellow NYCCT professor Annie Seaton and I, are extremely pleased to have seen and heard such great enthusiasm and discussion. Estimates are that close to 200 people participated in the conference at one time or another.


The proceedings kicked off with a talk by Dr. Reginald Blake, professor of Physics at New York City College of Technology, also a Visiting Research Scientist at Brookhaven National Laboratory and director of City Tech's Black Male Initiative (BMI). Dr. Blake cautioned us to remember that new and old media are inextricably intertwined, setting a framework for what proved to be a day of intense and instructive conversation.


Following that came four concurrent sessions:


First was “Race, New Media, and Religion.” The Reverend David Dyson of the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn headed a panel that looked at the impact of Reverend Jeremiah Wright on the Barack Obama campaign, among other things.


Second was “How Can New Technologies Be Used As Tools for Community Development?,” a panel chaired by City Tech English professor Richard Hanley, founding editor of the Journal of Urban Technology featuring Sigmund Shipp, director of the public service scholar program and associate professor of planning and urban affairs, Hunter College; Laxmi Ramasubramanian, associate professor in the department of planning and urban affairs at Hunter College; and Christine Stearn, formerly the technology director at Npower.


Third was “GreenWalk,” a reprise of a walking tour held for the first time last Thursday and led by City Tech English professor Mark Noonan and Chemistry professor Peter Spellane.


Fourth was “Questioning OLPC,” a panel made up of Barlow's own Advanced Technical Writing students discussing the pros and cons of the One Laptop Per Child project.


Next came Mizery, a film by Carmen Oquendo-Villar and Joaquin Terrones.


After a break for lunch, Omar Wasow provided a keynote speech that had the audience spellbound—not to mention standing and sitting at his command. Wasow is co-founder and ongoing strategic advisor to BlackPlanet.com and an on-air technology analyst. Under Wasow's leadership, BlackPlanet.com became the leading website for African Americans, reaching over three million people a month. Wasow also works to demystify technology issues through regular TV and radio segments on NBC's Today Show and public radio's Tavis Smiley Show. These days, however, most of his time is spent in graduate studies at Harvard University, where he is pursuing a joint program in Government and African-American studies.


To give a break after that, the teenaged singers of 2Divine sang and danced, raising the energy level in the auditorium even higher, if that were possible, than Wasow had left it.


The next panel proved to be the last, for discussion was so enthusiastic that we did not have the heart (or desire) to stop it. Featured were Wellesley College Professor Diana Williams, Otis Gaddis of Yale Divinity School, Joel Rainey, (Harvard History PhD Candidate), Peter Rosenblum (Columbia Law School Professor, formerly of Harvard Law School), Ebone Bishop (Fordham Law School), Mark Chackerian (MIT alum and digital analyst), and Baratunde Thurston of Jack and Jill Politics.


The final event of the before the evening party was provided by performance artist Kanene Holder, “BlackFace Crime.”


Rounding things out was a party and multimedia show at Superfront, an architecture gallery and project space hosted by Mitch McEwen.


We want to thank everyone who attended or who supported the event, including Provost Bonne August and Dean Sonja Jackson of City Tech, who supported the event in so many ways, and ePluribus Media, which provided, and continues to provide, a Web presence for the conference

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