Keynotes

Blackness, Indigeneity, Colonialism, and Confederation: 21st Century Perspectives

May 11–13, 2017
Brandon University, Manitoba

We are honoured to present two distinguished keynote speakers at this year’s conference, as well as a keynote panel. Dates and times are TBA.

Our keynote speakers are Dr. Afua Cooper and Dr. Barrington Walker.
Our keynote panel comprises Sandra Hudson, Cicely-Belle Blain and Amina Abawajy.

Keynote Speaker:

Dr. Afua Cooper

JRJ Chair in Black Canadian Studies at Dalhousie University

A scholar, novelist, historian, poet, and social and cultural commentator, Dr. Afua Cooper’s expertise in and contributions to the arts, history, and education were recognized when she was presented in 2015 with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Award from the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission. The Commission noted that Dr. Cooper is “a tireless community leader, advocate, academic and author in the area of cultural diversity and inclusion, who is dedicated to “to fostering empowerment, engagement and leadership to share and shape the understanding and contributions of people of African descent.”

Afua holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of Toronto. Her major field of study was African history, and she completed other fields in Canadian and Caribbean historical studies. Her doctoral dissertation on Black abolitionist Henry Bibb, engaged the study of Black Canada and the African Diaspora. Dr. Cooper’s expertise includes African Canadian culture, Black women’s history, gender, slavery, abolition, and freedom, Black literatures, and education. She has conducted research on African-descended people and their culture across Canada, and internationally in Jamaica, France, the United States, Martinique, Britain, Sierra Leone, Senegal, and Ethiopia. Her co-authored publication We’re Rooted Here and they Can’t Pull Us Up: Essays in African Canadian Women’s History won the Joseph Brant prize for the best history book. Her ground-breaking book on Canadian slavery, The Hanging of Angelique: The Untold Story of Slavery in Canada and the Burning of Old Montreal was nominated for the Governor General’s award. Afua has curated and worked on five exhibits including, The Underground Railroad, Next Stop Freedom, Enslaved Africans in Upper Canada, and The Transatlantic Slave Trade. In addition, Afua has designed and taught courses on gender, and Black history and culture at several universities. She has also lectured on these topics nationally and internationally. Further, Dr. Cooper served as the co-ordinator and chief knowledge officer of the Ontario Initiative to Commemorate the Bicentenary of the British Slave Trade Abolition, in 2007. Her work on Black Canadian history and culture has made her the leading Canadian scholar in such fields.

Through her outstanding work and practice as a poet, she helped to centre dub poetry in Canada and beyond, and cofounded the Dub Poets Collective. As creative director of the DPC, Afua engaged communities through the literary arts, and thus enhanced the Canadian literary and cultural landscape. Further, she was instrumental in organizing several international dub poetry festivals. Afua has published five books of poetry, including the critically acclaimed Copper Woman and Other Poems. Her poetry has a strong sense of memory, history, place, and spirituality. Further, Afua has published two historical novels, which have garnered Canadian and American awards. Her work in the creative arts has been recognized with the Premier of Ontario Award for Excellence in the Arts, a Governor General’s Award nomination, and internationally with the Beacon of Freedom Award (recently awarded for her book My Name is Phillis Wheatley).

In recognizing the tremendous multi-discipline contributions Afua Cooper has made to Canadian society and life, and internationally, Essence Magazine named her as one of the twenty-five women who are shaping the world.

As a result of her scholarship and praxis, Afua was appointed in 2011 as James Robinson Johnston Chair in Black Canadian Studies at Dalhousie University, Halifax. The Johnston Chair is a senior academic position and is the only one of its kind in Canada. As the Johnston Chair, Dr. Cooper has engaged in research, teaching, and publication on Black Canada. She also launched the Chair’s distinguished lecture series which for the past five years has brought scholars, artists, and activists to Dalhousie University and Nova Scotia as part of the chair’s work in democratizing epistemologies and bridging the gap between the academy and community. Dr. Cooper is also the chair and founder of the Black Canadian Studies Association, and the Dalhousie Black Faculty and Staff Caucus.

Keynote Speaker:

Dr. Barrington Walker

Associate Professor, Queen’s University

An historian of Modern Canada, his work focuses on the histories of Blacks, race immigration and the law.  It seeks to illuminate the contours of Canadian modernity by exploring Canada’s emergence as racial state through its histories of white supremacy, slavery, colonization/immigration, segregation and Jim Crowism. Much of his work considers how these practices were legitimized, and in some instances contested, by the rule of law and legal institutions. He is the author of Race On Trial: Black Defendants in Ontario’s Criminal Courts (University of Toronto Press and the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, 2010) which was shortlisted for the Ontario Legislature Speaker’s Book Award for 2012.  He has also edited two collections: The African Canadian Legal Odyssey: Historical Essays (University of Toronto Press and the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, 2012) and The History of Immigration and Racism in Canada: Essential Readings (Canadian Scholars Press, 2008).