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The Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire (BHTNH) and the University of New Hampshire will host the 12thAnnual Black New England Conference (BNEC), a two-day event on October 19 and 20, 2018.  The theme of this year’s conference is ExpressYourself: Identity, Style and Adornment. 

The theme focuses on how style — whether expressed through art, music, literature, performance, speech, or bodily adornment — operates as a visible and tangible marker of identity and group affiliation.

In exploring the traditions, artistry, and social histories that have shaped different forms of African American style, this conference will highlight the historical and present impact of artistic expression on the development of African American identities and cultural production.  Presenters will also explore how African American style functions as a means of communications and as forms of self-expressions.

This conference is for anyone who wants to dialogue around the significance of individual and collective style as more than just a social and climatological necessity. It will be an animated and vibrant celebration of an individual’s drive to define and redefine what it means to be human.

The conference begins on Friday with an intriguing and enlightening Black History walking tour along the Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail, exploring the compelling true story of Ona Marie Judge, who was enslavement to the President and Martha Washington. Tour guests will visit the historical sites where her courageous story unfolds. Guests will learn how Ona runs away from and eludes the Washingtons’ efforts to recapture her and meet some of Portsmouth’s most famous families, the Langdon’s and the Whipples along with members of the local Black community who all defy the most powerful man in the country to help Ona stay free.

At noon on Friday, there will be an artist reception at the UNH Museum of Art, featuring the exhibit DO or DIE: Affect, Ritual & Resistance by internationally known artist Famou Picou’s. The exhibit serves as one artist’s action in opposition to the overwhelming threats of death and violence which plague Black existence. Through performance, painting, drawing and video, Pecou reframes our view of Black mortality and shapes a story that seeks to affirm life via an understanding of the balance between life and death.

On Friday afternoon and continuing into Saturday, the conference panels includes dialogues on:

  • The Social Brain and the Creation of Black Identities
  • African American Representation & Aesthetics in The Movie, Black Panther
  • African American Cool: Commodification, Erasure & Appropriation
  • Strange Fruit: Exploring the Style & Art of Black Protest
  • Heads Up: It’s All About the Hair
  • The Souls of Black Folks: Stepping Forward, Redrawing Boundaries

In addition to the panels, Dr. Lucius Turner Outlaw Jr., professor of philosophy and of African American and Diaspora Studies at Vanderbilt University,and Karen Chambers, Vice President of IMAN Cosmetics, will present engaging keynote address at Friday’s Awards Dinner and at Saturday’s Lunchtime Address respectively.

Continuing the theme of style, the BNEC will conclude with an Afrofuturism theme fashion show, aptly entitled “Back to the Future”.  The fashion show will feature clothing from international designer and trendsetter Francis Hendy whose client list includes Missy Elliot, Wyclef Jean, Samuel L Jackson, Britney Spears, Beyoncé, Usher, and Snoop Dogg. Fashions by Emelyne Adios from Manchester, NH and various other New England based designers will also be featured.

JerriAnne Boggis, Executive Director of the BHTNH commented on the event. “I am excited to be participating in what is sure to be a fun conference as we explore the significance of style in the creation of one’s identity.”

“Black stylistic expressions represent a creative journey through a history of marginalization, struggle, individuality and empowerment,” continued Boggis. “People of Color have long been judged by Eurocentric ideals of beauty and made to feel inferior by those standards.  However, today we are once again seeing a resurgence in afro centric style that is reclaiming our voice and selfhood.”

This public event is sponsored by the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire, the University of New Hampshire, TD Bank, Eastern Bank, Eversource, Northeast Delta Dental, Kennebunk Savings, & the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire.

For more information or to register for the conference please visit: