Penn professor Herman Beavers will speak at a virtual salon hosted by TedxPenn called “Decolonizing Literature: Language and Critical Race Theory” on March 1.
Beavers, who has taught at Penn for over 30 years and serves as a professor in both the Department of Africana Studies and the Department of English, will discuss his work in contemporary African American literature. TedxPenn, a student-run organization that promotes the exchange of ideas on Penn’s campus and in the Philadelphia community, organized the Zoom event.
Beavers said that the virtual salon will provide students with context about Penn’s role as a predominantly white institution in West Philadelphia, a community that largely consists of Black people and other people of color.
Recently, students and West Philadelphia residents have voiced concerns over Penn’s relationship with the West Philadelphia community in a protest against the evictions of residents from the University City Townhomes.
Beavers said that he believes recent calls to ban books by Black authors have made the topic of decolonizing literature especially relevant.
“Students should feel comfortable reading African American literature and not consider it ‘other,’” Beavers said.
Beavers was selected as the salon speaker because of his background in contemporary African American literature and his positions in both the English and Africana Studies departments, according to College junior Ahlam Goran, a member of the TedxPenn Perspectives Team, which is responsible for coordinating the program’s virtual salons.
Within African American literature, Beavers said that he focuses on works from the post-World War II period. Recently, he wrote about jazz and its intersection with American literature.
Students founded TedxPenn in 2010 as a program connected to the parent organization TED Conference. Although the annual spring conference is their primary event, the Penn chapter hosts other speaker salons throughout the year.
College junior Julia Ongchoco, who serves as the marketing director for TedxPenn, said that the virtual salons “keep the conversation about different types of ideas alive here on campus.”
This year’s TedxPenn salons will focus on social justice and the power of words, Goran said.
The virtual salon will take place from 7 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, March 1 over Zoom and requires registration at this link.