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Kick-Off Event: Why Do Stories Matter?: Engaging History, Black Identity, & Return Migration in Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing.

October 30, 2023 @ 7:00 pm UTC-4

Join us as we kick-off our Big Read month! This lecture by Hope College’s Ernest Cole (English department) and Dr. Fred Johnson (History department) will focus on the legacies of slavery in the context of history, culture, and identity. It explores the role of neo-slave narratives in engaging official historical narratives of the past and their representations of the human experience. It examines the attempts of African Americans to negotiate the struggle for integration and gestures to the possibilities of returning to their ancestral homeland, as both a recognition of a hybridized identity with Africans and the projection of an alternate and futuristic form of existence.

Dr. Ernest Cole is the John Dirk Werkman Endowed Professor and Chair of English at Hope College, Holland, Michigan, where he teaches Postcolonial literatures of Sub-Saharan Anglophone Africa, India, and the Caribbean. Previously he taught African literature at Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone; The Gambia College; and the University of The Gambia. He has published two monographs — Theorizing the Disfigured Body (2014) and Space and Trauma in the Writing of Aminatta Forna (2017), and two collected volumes — Emerging Perspectives on Syl Cheney Coker (2014), with Eustace Palmer, and Ousmane Sembene, Writer, Filmmaker, & Revolutionary Artist (2016), with Oumar Cherif Diop. His essay “Decentering Anthropocentrism: Human-Animal Relations in Aminatta Forna’s Happiness” won the Abioseh Porter Prize for the best article on African literary studies published in a major peer-reviewed journal in 2019. His current research is on return migration of the African diaspora and his monograph (under review) is titled Black Bodies in White Spaces: The Challenges to Migration and Possibilities of Return. He is married to Everetta Cole, and they have two daughters, Ernesta, and Tunde.

Dr. Fred Johnson III is the Guy Vander Jagt ’53 Endowed Professor of History at Hope College, and has taught there since 2000. Dr. Johnson’s primary field of study is 19th century U.S. history, specifically, the Civil War. His other areas of expertise are 20th century U.S. history, U.S. military history and African history. Dr. Johnson is also an award-winning public speaker. A member of the Michigan chapter of the National Speakers’ Association and a member of Toastmasters since 2004, he advanced to the semifinal round of the Toastmasters World Series of Public Speaking in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2016, 2017 and 2018, taking second place in 2017 and 2018. Prior to his career in higher education, Dr. Johnson served in the United States Marine Corps as a Communications-Electronics Officer and as an Infantry Officer in the Marine Reserves. He subsequently worked as a production scheduler for Packard – Electric Division of General Motors, an operations specialist for Con-Tel Page Telecommunications, and as a corporate trainer for Aircraft Braking Systems (formerly Goodyear Aerospace) in Akron, Ohio.

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October 30, 2023
7:00 pm UTC-4
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Hope College Maas Auditorium 264 Columbia Ave Holland, MI 49423