Youssef Labriny '22 presents to a packed Pickle Lounge at the Colket Center during the Virginia Conference on Race in 2022.

Youssef Labriny '22 presents to a packed Pickle Lounge at the Colket Center during the inaugural Virginia Conference on Race in April 2022.

By Roanoke College News

Roanoke to host second annual Virginia Conference on Race

Roanoke College will host the second annual Virginia Conference on Race on March 30-31, 2023, inviting students and faculty from higher education institutions across Virginia and beyond to engage in thoughtful and productive conversations about race.

The conference was founded last year by Carrie Murawski, assistant professor of English and communication studies at Roanoke, who continues to organize the event with sponsorship from the College’s Center for Studying Structures of Race (CSSR). The theme of this year’s conference, matching this year's CSSR theme, is "After/Math." It is expected to draw students from nine schools, including Virginia Tech, University of Richmond, Concordia College, James Madison University, Harvard University, Washington and Lee University, Randolph College, Hollins University and Roanoke College.

This year’s conference will be anchored by a keynote lecture delivered by Ernest McGowen III, associate professor of political science, inaugural program coordinator of the Africana Studies Program, and director of the Race and Racism Project at the University of Richmond. McGowen specializes in political behavior, campaigns and elections, and race and ethnicity. His talk, which is titled “What happens between the independent and dependent variables? Student activism and institutional change," is scheduled for Thursday, March 30 at 7 p.m. in Wortmann Ballroom.

Throughout the day on Friday, more than 30 student presentations will take place in various locations within the Colket Center. The presentations will be grouped into a number of themes: reclaiming history, disrupting whiteness, critical environmental studies, critical (public) health studies, equity in higher education, creative works, and race in/and communities. Nine of the presentations will be given by Roanoke College students. Examples of their topics include “The Gentrification of Black Hair Care and Culture” (Esther Darko ’25), “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline: Racism in the Development of Modern Infrastructure” (Jim Nichols ’25) and “My Name is Rong Tong, Not Judy: A Discussion on How Names Carry Cultures, History and Identities” (Makenna Prillaman ’23).  

Friday afternoon, a documentary about the CSSR research project, “The Genealogy of Slavery,” will be screened and followed by a Q&A. Afterward, attendees will be invited to participate in CSSR’s walking tour of the Histories of Enslavement at Roanoke College, which last year received a historic preservation award.  

Students, faculty, staff and community members are invited to attend the Virginia Conference on Race at no cost, but organizers request that attendees register in advance at this link.

“I am excited to see how the conference is growing from year to year," Murawski said, "However, I am more excited to take this time to listen and learn how to be a better anti-racism advocate in my own communities.”