Times Square Subway Station and graffiti. Photo by Erik Calonius, 1973
The final day of our Annual International Conference in London concluded on Friday. We’ve summarised the final and inspiring plenary session:
Understanding Black lives and geographies in the US and UK
Rashad Shabazz from Arizona State University, presented a stimulating final plenary session on Black geographies in the United States, demonstrated through the 1970s hip-hop cultural movement born in the Bronx, New York. He showed how, against the backdrop of racial and economic segregation, mass incarceration, isolation, and joblessness, hip-hop danced its way out of these constrictions and created geographies of hope. He further revealed how hip-hop turned the contained world of the South Bronx into fertile ground for the development of art and culture, birthing and nurturing the world’s most powerful youth culture and demonstrated that poor and working class youth were architects of social and spacial transformation.
Rashad said: “Geographies or spaces are never static. What that means is they can be these places of hopelessness, violence and containment, yet in the midst of these spaces, there is an evolving response. These young people in the Bronx and other similar parts of the world use art and creativity; it becomes a mechanism, a place for them to dream. That’s why young people look to art and culture to respond to their condition. And the brilliance of that is that it’s infectious and beautiful. If we look to that beauty, consumers of this art are forced to revaluate their assumptions about the people who create it, opening up new space for empathy and transforming perspectives.”
Patricia Noxolo (University of Birmingham) and Caroline Bressey (University College London) from the panel added commentaries after Rashad’s talk. They looked at Black geographies of the UK which mirrored the cultural elements of hip-hop such as dance, focusing on embodied movement of Black bodies in and through cities, Black male containments, the Windrush scandal, Drill and Grime music and austerity connected to the removal of resources in schools.
Patricia concluded: "The Windrush scandal revealed what we already knew but perhaps had begun to hope we could forget: that the connection between Black and British is still, oh still, not settled, is yet still to be argued and affirmed. To move through a city that has shaped you, or to dance in a packed inner-city club with a multiracial crowd of people who are dancing together, is to feel a real sense of actually-existing belonging, of not just having a right to be here, but of feeling a rightness in being here. Black geographies in Britain will be an important arena for reinforcing this embodied work."
Yesterday we welcomed close to 2,000 delegates from across the world to the first day of this year's Annual International Conference.
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