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AfroGEEKS 2004 is dedicated to the memory of
Augustine Obobiafo

C O N F E R E N C E - - H I G H L I G H T S

View the AfroGEEKS slideshow here

AfroGEEKS drew hundreds of people to the University of California, Santa Barbara, to listen as scholars, artists, and entrepreneurs discussed the dynamic interplay of race and technology. Over thirty-five panelists and keynote speakers—from the U.S., Europe, and Africa—attracted a standing-room crowd to the McCune Conference Room for two days of presentations and discussion about the way Blacks contribute to, benefit from, or are excluded by the use and development of information technologies.

Floyd Webb
FRIDAY: What is an AfroGEEK anyway? From the earliest stages of planning, there were passionate reactions to the term "AfroGEEK." Dr. Anna Everett, conference director opened the conference on Friday with this provocative question, after a formal welcome from Chancellor Henry T. Yang. Dr. Everett, conference director, set the tone with the first keynote session, What Is an AfroGEEK Anyway? Engaging the AfroGEEK Identity Problematic, featuring keynote speakers Floyd Webb, Anita Brown, and Charles Harper.

The Infostructures panel was perhaps the most international panel of the conference, examining physical structures and public policy issues that effect access to information technologies in four . The panel featured Abdul Alkalimat, Jorge Coelho, Tony Moore, and Elisa Joy White.

Jorge Coelho, a Visiting Scholar at the UCSB Center for Black Studies doing work in his native Sao Tome, presented "Global Africa: Mastering the Upcoming Technology Complexity at Minimum Cost."

Elisa Joy White

Addressing urban American communities, Abdul Alkalimat offered "Social Cyberpower in the Everyday Life of an African American Community:A Report on Action-Research in Toledo, Ohio." He discussed how traditional African-American institutions, from the church to the beauty parlor, are going digital.

Elisa Joy White presented "No Strings Attached: IT and the African Diaspora of Dublin, Ireland," discussing the deliberate steps Dublin took to make technology easily accessible within the community.

Tony Moore discussed community-based computing in "A Critical Examination of African Tele-centers: A Case Study of UgaBYTES, Inc., and the Nakaseke Multipurpose Community Tele-center."

After the lunch break and an opportunity to stretch and enjoy the Santa Barbara sun, panels resumed with Imaging the Black Body in Cyberspace, moderated by Celine Parreñas Shimuzu. Speakers were Mireille Miller-Young ("Members Only: Black Female Porn Stars Creating Space on the Internet"), Lisa Marie Rollins ("Imagined Worlds, Imagined Life: Black Subjectivity in Science Fiction and Anime"), Nadine Wanono ("Invisible Africa of Invisibility in Africa in the Era of Information Technology"), and Michele White ("Black Is, Black Paint: Erotic Black Avatars and the Erasure of AfroGeeks in the Virtual Places Graphical Communication Setting."

Vectors of Race and the Digital Arts Panelists Guisela LaTorre, Kimberly Steger, and Anna Beatrice Scott.
Vectors of Race and the Digital Arts was moderated by Cristina Venegas with discussant William Jones, a Visiting Scholar at the UCSB Center for Black Studies. Kara Keeling presented a talk of Spike Lee's film Bamboozled: "Bamboozling Cinema: Bamboozled's Digital Critique of Cinematic Representation." Guisela LaTorre compared the work of Guillermo Gómez-Peña and Keith Piper in the context of postcolonial critique. Kimberly Steger's talk was entitled "Digi-pendent." Anna Beatrice Scott performed a dance as part of "Welcome to Grooveland: Black Blogs, Micro-communities, and the Performance Artist."

After a brief break, the presentations concluded with keynote lectures by Carroll Parrott Blue, a distinguished filmmaker, and Kalamu ya Salaam, a poet and performance artist.

The first day concluded with a dinner reception and dance at the UCSB Faculty Club, where geeks (and future geeks) had a chance to unwind with some help from New Vibe, featuring Ron Paris.


SATURDAY: Saturday included panels on mentors and teachers, communities, and—finally—video games. AfroGEEKS was also broadcast live on KPFK by Nnamdi Moweta, the host of Afrodicia. Charles Wolfe, Associate Dean of UCSB's College of Letters and Sciences, started the morning off with a warm welcome.

Juju at the dance

Borderless Communities 1.0 was moderated by UCSB librarian Sylvia Curtis. The panel featured Fenobia I. Dallas—known online as "PennyD"—presenting her own experiences in "Hanging on to My Commodore 64 as I Stream Across the Technological Border: Reaching and Teaching Others." R. Michelle Green's talk was called "Race in the CHATroom: Using Cultural Historical Activity Theory to Understand the Life Experiences of Digitally-Fluent African-Americans." Walter Hough, director of (((emancipate.network))) combined art, technology, and economics in "E-Commerce, Hip-Hop and Global Digital Youth Culture."

Conference Co-Organizer Guisela LaTorre moderated the second panel, Building a Better Geek: Mentors and Teachers, which featured Juan Gilbert ("Building the Future Black Faculty Pipeline"), Sheryl Mebane ("Enhancing Achievement in Chemistry for African American Students through Innovations in Pedagogy Aligned with Supporting Assessment and Curriculum and Integrated under an Alternative Research Paradigm"), and Billie E. Walker ("African Americans Succeed in Library Schools' Undergraduate Information Studies."

After lunch, panels resumed with Borderless Communities 2.0, moderated by the Center for Black Studies' Community Outreach Coordinator, Sojourner Rolle. The three person panel included Art McGee ("We Charge Technocide: Pan-Africanism and the Global Struggle for Communication Rights"), Paul Adams ("The Wireless Internet and the African-American Community in East St. Louis"), and Eric Pierson ("Digital Rewriting: Enduring Questions from Cable to Wireless Technologies").

The final panel of the conference was Sim[s]ulation of Life: Raceing Video Games. Moderated by Tim Cooley, panelist Raiford Guins ("Disidentifying Space Invaders: Black Technocultural Production and the Ephemerality of Presence"), TreaAndrea Russworm, and S. Craig Watkins discussed the various ways race appears in video games. Conference Co-organizer Anna Everett served as discussant on the panel.

The final keynote, Engaging the AfroGEEK Identity Problematic 3.0, was hosted by Dick Hebdige, Director of the UCSB Interdisciplinary Humanities Center. Keynote presentations were given by Greg Tate of the Village Voice, artist Renée Green, and James Fugate, co-owner of EsoWan, Los Angeles's excellent community bookstore.

The two days of thought-provoking discussions and presentations came to a close with final remarks by former director of the Center for Black Studies Claudine Michel and cinematographer and visual artist Arthur Jafa.