SUNY Potsdam 'Black History Leap Year' Events Focus on Diversity


TV host, novelist, journalist and cultural critic Touré will travel to SUNY Potsdam to offer talks and speak with classes on Monday, Feb. 27.

As part of its ongoing campus discussion about diversity, SUNY Potsdam plans to “lengthen” Black History Month with a series of important on-campus events that will stretch into the beginning of March to continue the conversation about how and why matters of racial and ethnic difference affect both campus and community.

The SUNY Potsdam Black History Leap Year series will stretch from Monday, Feb. 27 to Monday, March 5, and is aimed at extending the observation of Black History Month to the following month and beyond, as its events spur more exchanges.

As part of the Black History Leap Year series, two accomplished guest speakers will visit the campus to share their perspectives on issues of race and its representations.

In addition, a number of faculty members from various departments will take part in panel discussions and performances designed to stimulate audiences to think in greater depth about the nature and value of racial and ethnic diversity in the contemporary world.

All listed events are free and open to the public. Here’s the schedule:

• Monday, Feb. 27: The series begins with a visit by renowned fiction writer, essayist, journalist and television commentator Touré, whose latest book, “Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness?: What It Means to Be Black Now,” was named a New York Times Notable Book for 2011. Touré will present two lectures pertaining to the concept of “post-blackness,” a term he outlines in his book as the “wish for every black American to have the freedom to be black however he or she chooses and to banish from the collective mind the bankrupt, fraudulent concept of ‘authentic’ blackness.” These lectures will take place in Kellas Hall Room 106 at 1 and 3 p.m.
• Tuesday, Feb. 28: There will be a screening of Spike Lee’s 1998 film “Bamboozled” at 7 p.m. in Kellas Hall Room 105. The film is a biting satire on the ways in which African-Americans have historically been represented on-screen and also on the ways in which they have been complicit in some of these stereotyped and harmful portrayals. The screening will be preceded by an introduction by Luvena Kopp, currently a Fulbright Scholar at New York University and a doctoral candidate in American studies at the University of Frankfurt in Germany. Kopp is writing her dissertation on Spike Lee’s films and will also lead a discussion on the film immediately after its conclusion. Admission is free, though seating is limited to 200 people.
• Wednesday, Feb. 29: There will be a roundtable discussion from 3:30 to 5 p.m. in the Barrington Student Union Fireside Lounge. The discussion will expand on a pair of interrelated concepts. The panelists and the audience will examine the hotly debated assertion that President Barack Obama’s election signaled the nation’s transition into a “post-racial” society, as well as the viability and usefulness of the “post-black” forms of expression Touré advocates for in his recent book. Panelists will include Luvena Kopp, as well as SUNY Potsdam faculty members Dr. John Youngblood (English and communication), Dr. Tom Baker (history), Dr. Jeremy Van Blommestein (sociology), Dr. Lonel Woods (Crane School of Music), and Shailindar Singh (Educational Opportunity Program and Bridges Program). The moderator for this event will be Dr. Derek Maus, an associate professor in the Department of English and Communication.
• Thursday, March 1: Two performances will be offered in Dunn Theater. At 4 p.m., Dr. Lonel Woods, a tenor and an assistant professor of voice at SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music, will perform two vocal pieces, including “Erlkönig,” by the Austrian composer Franz Schubert and “Death of an Old Seaman” by the African-American composer Cecil Cohen. Both pieces are adaptations of poems, the former of a poem by Goethe and the latter of a poem by Langston Hughes, and the juxtaposition of the two pieces is intended as a stark contrast in style and theme. Woods will be accompanied by Max Howard on piano. Immediately afterward, at 5 p.m., Department of Theatre and Dance Associate Professor A’Keitha Carey and students from her CaribFunk dance class will perform several dance pieces. First, they will present a movement sketch performed to selected passages from Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman?,” Touré’s “Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness?” and Brenda Dixon Gottschild’s “The Black Dancing Body.” Then, Carey will perform a piece entitled “Truth Don Die” that employs the power of the “Hip Wine,” a kinesthetic, non-verbal language that encourages female strength, liberation and empowerment. Finally, the company will perform selected works from their CariDanco repertory, including excerpts from “Trinity,” “Suite Soweto” and “Celebration.”
• Monday, March 5: The series concludes with a panel discussion from 5 to 8 p.m. in Kellas Hall Room 104. The talk covers the relationship between feminism and “womanism,” a term often associated with the writer Alice Walker and her explicitly black-oriented feminist philosophy. Sponsored by the Black Student Alliance, this discussion will feature a number of students and faculty from across the campus. Dr. Youngblood will moderate.

For more information about SUNY Potsdam’s Black History Leap Year series, contact Dr. Derek Maus at (315) 267-2196 or, or Dr. John Youngblood at (315) 267-2989 or

The SUNY Potsdam Black History Leap Year series has received support from: the Black Student Alliance, the Global Studies Program, the Honors Program, the Center for Diversity, the Department for English and Communication, the Department of History, the Department of Politics and the Office of Public Affairs. In addition, the President’s office and the offices of the Dean of Students and the deans of The School of Arts and Sciences and The School of Education and Professional Studies also provided support.

In 2012, SUNY Potsdam is going deeper with its Black History Month celebrations. The College is seeking to spark a conversation about the challenges that people of color continue to face across the country and in our region, and what we all can do to combat racism and foster understanding.

SUNY Potsdam is more diverse than ever, with a growing African-American and Hispanic population, thriving international student community and one of the largest Native American student populations within SUNY. For the first time, in Fall 2011, more than 10 percent of the College’s students self-identified as students of color.

SUNY Potsdam’s YouTube channel has several thought-provoking videos about race and diversity, at

To learn more about diversity at SUNY Potsdam, visit

Founded in 1816, and located on the outskirts of the beautiful Adirondack Park, The State University of New York at Potsdam is one of America’s first 50 colleges. SUNY Potsdam currently enrolls approximately 4,350 undergraduate and graduate students. Home to the world-renowned Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam is known for its handcrafted education, challenging liberal arts and sciences core, excellence in teacher training and leadership in the performing and visual arts.