Ground Together II:   Interdisciplinary Conference Facilitates
Crucial Dialogue On the State of Black Arts at Howard University

Sandra C. Shannon, Ph.D.

     They were beautiful as they came. Some were garbed in richly colored African fabrics. Others wore conservative business attire, and still others joined us in the comfort of denim. In this wonderfully interdisciplinary mix were poets, dancers, Hip-Hop Theatre and rap artists, international and national scholars, arts administrators, university administrators, and masters of the internet--all interested in advancing dialogue on the state of Black arts at the millennium. On March 4, 2000, the halls of the Armour J. Blackburn Center quickly reverberated with the buzz of their friendly greetings and logistical queries. From the very outset Karma was quite positive, and, for the second time since October 10, 1998, The Ground Together Interdisciplinary Conference had set the stage for a day-long series of productive forums. The Blackburn Center and, later in the day, the new Howard University Bookstore contributed immensely to this Karma by providing state-of-the art technological facilities, comfortable space for concurrent sessions, and helpful support staff.

     It did not really matter whether this diverse community of Black arts supporters and practitioners were aware that the catalyst for “The Ground Together II--Assessing the State of Black Arts for 2000 and Beyond” was provided by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright August Wilson. Nor did it matter that the various breakout session titles were lifted from his now infamous speech “The Ground On Which I Stand,” in which he proclaimed, “We need to develop guidelines for the protection of our cultural property, our contributions and the influence they accrue. It is time we took the responsibility for our own talents in our own hands . . . We can make a difference. We can be the spearhead of a movement to re-ignite and reunite our people’s positive energy for a political and social change that is reflective of our spiritual truths rather than economic fallacies.” What did matter to them, it seemed, was that they realized the intense need to grapple with some tough issues regarding the future security and direction of Black arts.


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May 2000