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BRAVO and KUDOS to Program Chair Vershawn Young and to Local Arrangements Chair Brenda Whitley—and to all their teams—for a truly memorable CCCC. I can never remember so many “must see and hear” sessions at every time slot. And thanks to all who attended this one, which is for the history books.
As far as I know, Erika Lindemann holds the record for attendance, with 46 consecutive CCCC meetings. But I can come close to that: since 1973, I’ve missed only one CCCC and that was in 2012 when I was in Vietnam teaching on an around-the-world Semester at Sea. So I’ve been to a lot of 4Cs gigs. In the early days, the meeting was pretty small: I recall Richard Lloyd-Jones in the 70s writing to say he needed “more proposals” in order to put a program together. Compare that to this year when each time slot offered between 40 and 50 concurrent sessions. This is just one small mark of how much our field has grown in size and stature.
I arrived at the Pittsburgh Convention Center on Wednesday, just in time for the Coalition of Feminist Scholars in Rhetoric and Composition’s celebration of the group's thirtieth anniversary (!) and the inimitable Cheryl Glenn’s exemplar award—and in time to hear four outstanding speakers. From there, the race was on to see how many sessions I could learn from.
When I close my eyes and try to conjure up the conference and its attendees, my mind’s eye focuses on the many young scholars of color I saw there. I don’t know yet what the total attendance numbers were—and I know that some people didn’t make it because of the huge blizzard and “bomb cyclone” that hit Denver and closed the airport—but I felt the presence of colleagues of color keenly and with great gratitude. I attended several sessions that put a spotlight on the outstanding work being done by graduate students and new assistant professors of color, such as “Black Disruptive Rhetorics: The Novel, the Pubic Sphere, and the Classroom,” featuring standout talks by Mudiwa Pettus, D’Angelo Bridges, Brandon Erby, and Gabriel Green, all from Penn State. “’Walk It Like I Talk It’: Performance Composition in Black Education and Beyond” was another session that held me spellbound, as Khadija Amal Bey (NCA&T) traced the changing labels used to designate people of color and introduced us to archives she is working with at the Moorish Science Temple of Philadelphia, and Landy Watley (Howard) examined the embodied performance of #blackwomenatwerk. I also took copious notes at “Our Liberation Wasn’t Never Gon’ Be Televised. . . Black News Ain’t Fake,” featuring Khirsten Echols (U Pittsburgh) on “Tougaloo Student Got Something to Say,” Brandon Erby (again!) on Mamie Till Mobley’s tactical work that kept her son Emmett’s name and image circulating through the Black Press in ways that eventually set the record of his murder straight, and Rhea Estella Lathan (Florida State) on redemptive literacy activism. And these were just three sessions that highlighted brilliant young scholars of color, who taught me so much in three days that I’m still trying to absorb all of their wisdom.
If this is a trend, it’s one that gives me a great deal of hope for the future of our organization and field of study. I’m grateful to have been a witness at this event and expect that many other conference-attendees feel the same way. I came away with renewed inspiration and renewed commitment to the work outstanding teachers of writing and rhetoric are doing every single day.
Image Credit: Pixabay Image 3964054 by rawpixel, used under the Pixabay License
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