Conference Report: College Language Association Convention, 2015

[by Meredith Wiggins]

The 2015 College Language Association Conference for 2015 was held April 8-11, 2015, in Dallas, Texas, with the theme of “Expanding Frontiers: Freedom, Resistance, and Transnational Identities in Languages and Literatures.”

CLA is always a challenging and welcoming community of scholars of African American literature and culture. This year, however, was especially exciting, as 2015 marked the 75th annual meeting of CLA’s conference.

As has become tradition, representatives from HBW and from KU were out in full force – tabling, giving presentations, and generally having a great time!

This marked the second year HBW has sponsored the New Scholars Panel. Last year’s panel was made up exclusively of graduate students from the University of Kansas, but this year HBW pulled from a wider range of colleges and universities.  We also paired each student presenter with a dedicated respondent.  On Friday, April 9, the morning kicked off with “Writing and Reading Beyond the Boundaries,” chaired by Dr. Darryl Dickson-Carr of Southern Methodist University.  The panel featured presentations by:

  • Alexis McGee, University of Texas at San Antonio – “Minaj’s “Anaconda” and Black Feminisms in the Classroom,” responded to by Dr. Joanne Gabbin, James Madison University
  • Reanna Roby, University of Texas at San Antonio – “The Unacknowledged Roles of Science in Black Feminist Social Media,” responded to by Dr. DoVeanna Fulton, University of Houston, Downtown
  • Simone Savannah, University of Kansas – “The Politics of Genre, Race, and Gender in Ann Petry’s The Street,” responded to by Dr. Ayesha Hardison, Ohio University
  • Mudiwa Pettus, The Pennsylvania State University – “Beyond the Domestic: Nineteenth-Century Black Clubwomen and their (Re)Definition of Community,” responded to by Dr. Gwendolyn Pough, Syracuse University
  • Anthony Boynton, Georgia College & State University – “Solidarity and Aesthetic: Black Uplift in Gwendolyn Brooks’s Primer for Blacks,” responded to by Dr. Doretha Williams, George Washington University


At the same time, HBW founder Maryemma Graham and former HBW staff member Kenton Rambsy gave a digital humanities exhibit and presentation on “The Histories of African American Short Stories.”

HBW tabled throughout the day on Thursday and Friday, spreading the word about our mission and projects and seeking applicants for KU’s Jayhawk Sneak Peek events. 

 (Know someone who might be interested in taking part in a similar event in the future?  Contact the KU English Department for more details!)

Friday night was the annual CLA banquet, when attendees put on their finest garb and join together to share a meal, recognize the CLA Executive Committee, announce the winners of CLA’s awards and scholarships, and enjoy a keynote address from a notable speaker.  This year we were fortunate to hear author NoViolet Bulawayo read from her acclaimed novel We Need New Names. Bulawayo noted that CLA was her “first time at a conference where people look like me” and spoke about the need for transnational writers to maintain their voices and stories through resistance to dominant English narrative.

 HBW concluded its business at CLA on Saturday, holding our annual board meeting.  A group of 10 staff, board members, and outside supporters gathered to check in on the year’s accomplishments, discuss future directions for growth, and generally touch base on where the organization is and where we want it to go.  In the coming weeks and months, we’ll be sharing some of those plans with you.

All in all, HBW had a great showing at #CLA2015.  Until next year!

ETA: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Dr. Jerry Ward took part in the presentation “The Histories of African American Short Stories.” HBW apologizes for the error.