Schomburg Symposium highlights focus on Afro-Latino experience, heritage at Taller Puertorriqueño
With an annual symposium dedicated to the legacy of Afro-Latino pioneer and scholar Arturo A. Schomburg, along with an emphasis on Afro-Latino studies in school education programs, Taller Puertorriqueño paves the way toward a better understanding of an identity and culture often invisible in educational programs and curricula.
The symposium, founded by scholar and activist Evelyne Laurent-Perrault, currently an assistant professor at the University of Santa Barbara, CA, is distinct from traditional academic conferences, said Flora Ward, development associate at the Taller Puertorriqueño, because its objective is to “bring together community-based and academic perspectives on the issues.”
“The audience tends to be a mixture of academics interested in the issues, members of our own community and people working in the field,” Ward said, adding that many social workers and educators are able to receive continuing education credits for their attendance.
The symposium on Saturday will brings together scholars, activists, and organizers for presentations, panels, and plenaries, as well as Q&A sessions to address the question, “Does Violence Have Color?”. Participants and audience members will examine “the multiple aspects and facets of violence as the perpetration of these acts relates to race, power, and socio-economic structures,” according to the program’s website.
The question of race and violence is “very much at the forefront of everyone’s mind,” said Ward, especially in the context of police brutality and the work of Black Lives Matter to address the racial violence and injustice embedded in law enforcement, courts, and systems throughout the country — though Ward explained that the organizers of the symposium chose to not directly affiliate with Black Lives Matter due to their specific focus on the Afro-Latino experience.
“We do have speakers who I would say broadly speaking identify with and align with Black Lives Matter,” Ward said, but explained that “another element that is being folded into this conversation is, of course, the debates around immigration.”
“There will be people speaking about how the intersections of race and immigration come together for communities of color,” she added.
Arturo A. Schomburg, whom the symposium is named after, was an historian and activist dedicated to documenting and raising awareness about Black history. He became a significant intellectual figure in the Harlem Renaissance in New York after moving to Harlem in 1891.. Born in Puerto Rico in 1874, Schomburg was told one day as a child in school that black people had no history, an assertion which he refuted through his lifelong work in collecting, curating, and presenting the vast cultural knowledge and intellectual contributions of Africans and the African Diaspora around the globe. The historic Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, named after Schomburg, is one of the leading Black History centers nationwide and works to preserve and extend his work.
Ward said that the symposium is an important piece in the overall work Taller Puertorriqueño has done throughout their 44 years of existence in highlighting and exploring the Afro-Puerto Rican and broader Afro-Latino experience.
“It’s part of what we do in our educational programs as well as our exhibitions,” Ward said. “It’s embedded in our DNA as an organization.”
This is particularly significant for younger generations of Afro-Puerto Ricans and Afro-Latinos, Ward noted.
“We want them to see themselves in what we do and feel that they have home here and are reflected in what we do,” Ward said of Afro-Latino students and members of the communities Taller Puertorriqueño serves, adding that the organization aims to “provide a space for representation of this identities as well as a space to express those different identities.”
The symposium will be held Feb. 24 from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the El Corazón Cultural Center in North Philadelphia, with tickets available for purchase for $25 in advance and $30 at the door.