Jordan Henderson

Pitt Joy: Presenting at the National Council for Black Studies Annual Conference

Jordan Rosalyn Henderson

Class of 2017


            As a senior approaching graduation in a few weeks, I find myself reflecting more often over my four years as an undergraduate student at Pitt. Without a doubt, I have had some joyful, life-changing experiences. When I decided to major in Africana Studies, I had no idea of the many opportunities that would be afforded me. By far, one of the most memorable experiences for me has been attending and presenting at the National Council for Black Studies (NCBS) 41st Annual Conference this March in Houston, Texas. I was very excited when I found out the Department of Africana Studies would sponsor my attendance.

            NCBS has been around since 1975 and it is dedicated to advocating for social justice and the promotion of scholarship on the people of African descent around the world. The many sessions at the conference certainly exhibited these objectives, resulting in three days full of people with shared goals disseminating cutting-edge research and knowledge. The topics covered everything from Black aesthetics to how to move the discipline forward. Some presenters offered historical perspectives on the matters of our race, while others discussed some of the more current pressing issues Africana people are facing, including mass incarceration, police brutality and matters involving the Trump administration.

           Every presentation seemed so intriguing it was hard for me to decide which panels I would attend each day. I found myself jumping around from session to session to observe and take in as much as I possibly could. The sheer amount of talent that I encountered is still astounding to me. I was able to even network with likeminded individuals, ranging from undergraduate students, all the way up to professors and historians. While I was shy about being social at first, I quickly opened up and I do not think I have ever felt so at home in a sea of strangers. Once I began communicating more freely with other attendees, the conference became more enjoyable and I was able to celebrate in the work of new friends and be celebrated by them.

            During my time in Houston, I also had the pleasure to listen to talks by many forerunners in the field of Black/Africana Studies. In particular, I had the pleasure of seeing Dr. Molefi Kete Asante and Dr. Maulana Karenga in person. I cannot express well enough how honored I felt to be in the presence of two of the most distinguished men in my discipline. I have heard their names and I have even read some of their works in my classes, but listening to them first hand was indescribable. What shocked me the most with both of them, as with everyone with whom I came in contact, was how grounded they were. I sincerely appreciate that senior scholars are committed to the development of younger generations.

            Still, the most exciting part of my experience at NCBS in Houston was my own presentation. I presented my paper titled “Yes, I AM a Woman: How White Feminism Made Africana Womanism Necessary,” which discussed the discriminatory practices typically found in predominantly white feminist movements. I first developed the idea for this paper in one of my courses in the Department of Africana Studies and I was able to perfect it for the conference. Leading up to the presentation, I was incredibly nervous and found myself practicing a lot, however. In the end, all of my hard work paid off and my presentation went really well! I received great feedback and ideas about getting my work published.  

            Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the NCBS 41st Annual Conference. This conference was honestly one of the most rewarding experiences of my life and I am beyond grateful to have not only attended but also to have had the privilege of presenting some of my own work. The time I spent at the conference allowed me to grow intellectually as well as gain additional ideas about my post-graduation plans. I am grateful to have had the opportunity and I hope that I will someday be able to attend and present once again. Overall, the professional training I was able to obtain while at Pitt will serve me well in my future endeavors.