The lives of Black men will be the focus of William & Mary Lemon Project’s 12th annual spring symposium, scheduled for March 25-26 at the W&M School of Education.

The event will include two keynote addresses, a spoken word event and a variety of panel discussions on topics ranging from Black male well-being to racial battle fatigue.

“We’re excited to build on our success of reaching not only local communities, but we are also looking forward to growing our national and international audiences in this hybrid event,” said Lemon Project Associate Director Sarah Thomas.

The symposium will begin March 25 at 8:50 a.m. with a welcome followed by the plenary panel discussion focused on the theme of the event: “The Time is Now: The Lives of Black Men Past, Present and Future.” Panelists will include novelist Daniel Black, sociocultural critic and scholar O’Shan D. Gadsden, California State University Associate Professor T. Hasan Johnson and W&M Associate Professor of Education Jamel K. Donnor.

“The topic is a call to action to recognize the humanity of Black males,” said Jajuan Johnson, postdoctoral research associate with The Lemon Project. “Given the historical marginalization of Black males and the evident atrocities over the past decade with the violent deaths of Black men and boys, there is an urgency to lean into the humanity of Black males and imagine equitable futures. The theme rouses a realization of harsh realities and hope.”

Following the plenary panel, the rest of the day will include panel discussions on topics including:

  • Brief Remarks by Provost Peggy Agouris
  • Future of Ethnic Studies (co-sponsored by the Asian Centennial)
  • African American History: Oral history, Genealogy and Performance
  • Identity, Transformation, Reclamation
  • Black Male Well-Being
  • Justice, Belonging, Autonomy

Day one will culminate with a keynote address by scholar and author Tommy Curry, who holds a Personal Chair in Africana philosophy and Black male studies at the University of Edinburgh. His book, “The Man-Not: Race, Class, Genre, and the Dilemmas of Black Manhood,” won the 2018 American Book Award. The next year, he became the editor of the first book series dedicated to the study of Black males.

The second day will begin with a keynote by author Kiese Laymon, whose book “Heavy: An American Memoir,” won the 2019 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction among other awards and was counted among “The 50 Best Memoirs of the Past 50 Years” by The New York Times. Laymon is also the author of the award-winning novel “Long Division,” and his work has appeared in myriad media outlets.

“I had the opportunity to meet and hear Mr. Laymon at the University of the South when I was a visiting assistant professor and consultant there,” said Assistant Professor of History and Robert Francis Engs Director of The Lemon Project Jody Allen. “He’s a gifted writer whose insights are valuable for African American males of all ages to hear. He’s the perfect keynote, and I’m also excited that he will host our closing event that will include spoken word and musical performances, etc.” 

Topics for panel discussions throughout the rest of the day include:

  • Black Men Navigating and Shattering Stereotypes
  • African American History – Freedom, Ingenuity, Legacy
  • Roundtable with Highland’s Council of Descendant Advisors
  • Trauma, Truth and Triumph: The Journey of Black Professionals in Corporate America
  • (In)Valuable: Black Boys at the Williamsburg Bray School, 1762
  • Interrogating the Narrative of “the Fear of Black Men” as a Defense for the Unjust Killing of Black Males in America
  • Black Male Supervisors Navigating Racial Battle Fatigue in the Workplace

A spoken word event in the Reveley Garden will close out the symposium.

“The diverse list of speakers and presenters will offer perspectives on Black males from various disciplines,” said Johnson. “We hope attendees will learn about the transformative work Black men are doing in their communities. In the spirit of elevated civic engagement, we want participants to have meaningful dialogue with stellar scholars in the field of Black Male Studies.”

The events are free and open to everyone, but registration is required. People may also attend the symposium virtually, but they are required to register for each session individually via the links on this page. In-person registration will end March 17, and virtual registration will remain open.Additional information on the speakerspanel discussions and panelists is available on the symposium’s website, along with a complete schedule. More information about The Lemon Project is also available online and its newly launched blog.

, Senior Associate Director of University News