by Sarah Geegan
The African American and Africana Studies Program (AAAS) at the University of Kentucky and the Department of Modern & Classical Languages, Literatures and Cultures (MCLLC) have combined forces to organize a special event, In Search of our Hearth: Reinventing the Odyssey, which will take place April 19-20 at various campus locations.
Speakers include: Jacqueline Couti, assistant professor of French and Italian studies; Ebony Patterson, assistant professor of fine arts/painting; Jackie Murray, assistant professor of classics (Skidmore College); and Mark Lawrence Kornbluh, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
These events will explore the interdisciplinary nature of humanities and arts. The presentations represent current rethinking on the nature of the humanities in the 21st century. On Thursday at 4:15 p.m. in the Room 103 Main Building, Jackie Murray will examine the connections between classical authors and writers of color. On Friday at 5 p.m. in the Centre Theater in the Student Center, the panelists will highlight the connections between Homer’s Odyssey and the diasporic black experience.
In 1977, the renowned artist Romare Bearden created a series of collages based on the Odyssey. In his book Romare Bearden: A Black Odyssey, Robert O’Meally argues that the characters in the classic epic resonate with the African-American experience. The motif of wandering grief and the search for one’s hearth and home are paralleled in the ancient poem and in Bearden’s contemporary art.
The conclusion of Friday evening will feature black Greek organizations. Traditionally black Greek letter organizations rarely examine their connection to "real" black Greeks or the culture and history of Greece that acknowledges Africa's influence, beyond the Greek letters in the names of their organizations or memorizing the Greek alphabet. Using Romare Bearden's Odysseus series as an entry point, this event seeks to bring the artistic, academic and social aspects of black Greeks into the same space and examine the rich history, overlaps and surprises between the traditions.
Representatives from UK fraternities and sororities will demonstrate "stepping" and discuss what it means to be black and Greek in 2013. Delta Sigma Theta and Phi Beta Sigma are celebrating their 100 year anniversaries this year and next. These centennial celebrations are the perfect time to examine the origins of these offspring of the ancient mystery school system.