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The Afrofutures of Feminism: Young, Gifted, and Black

By Nick Pulliam
On March 1, 2019


On Wednesday, February 27, Dr. Aria S. Halliday visited Plymouth State University to give a presentation titled “Afrofuture of Feminism: Young, Gifted, and Black.” Dr. Halliday’s lecture was on how black women could know themselves and determine their futures in our world today.

The event was part of a month-long cluster project organized by Professor Mary Beth Ray and Professor Kristin Stelmok to celebrate Black History Month. The lecture was meant to be the conclusion. Throughout the month, faculty and students worked every Friday to make a crocheted piece of the famous black singer and activist, Nina Simone.

Before the lecture began, Professor Ray took the opportunity to thank all the people and organizations involved, some of them being: the PSU Women’s Studies Council, the Peace & Social Justice Council, the PSU Black Student Union, the PSU Afro-Caribbean Culture Club, the President’s Commission on the Status of Women, and Feminist Oasis. She also pointed out the finished crochet piece, which was met with a round of applause.

After that, Professor Stelmok introduced Dr. Halliday and went over some of her credentials and accomplishments (of which there are many).

Dr. Halliday began her lecture by talking about Nina Simone. She explained that Simone was the sixth of eight children and started playing piano around the age of three. Her first recital was when she was twelve, and Dr. Halliday shared with us how Nina refused to begin playing piano until her parents were allowed back in the front row (they were forced to move to make room for a white couple).

She then went into how Nina Simone began her career by singing in Atlantic City and eventually went on to become involved in activism and the Civil Rights Movement. An interesting fact she shared was that Nina’s views were actually more in line with Malcolm X, rather than Martin Luther King Jr.

Finally, she shared that one of Nina’s most famous songs is called “Young, Gifted, and Black,” which is how she got the title for her own lecture.


After talking about Nina Simone for a while, she began to list off some of her other role models and their accomplishments. The first one was Lorraine Hansberry, who is famous for “A Raisin in the Sun,” which is a theatrical adaptation of her family's struggles with segregated housing in Chicago when she was growing up.

Another role model of hers is Claudia Jones, who is famous for founding the first major black newspaper in Britain, “The West Indian Gazette.” There were plenty of other role models she spoke about, all of whom made great contributions.

After that, she explained how Black History Month is meant to help us learn histories we may not know about; so, people like the role models she listed. Dr. Halliday elaborated by saying, “These women form my past and my present as I stand here today.”

That was one of the recurring themes of the lecture; how people need to understand the past to manage their present.

Dr. Halliday also went into her own past. At the age of eight, she joined a group called “Sisterfriends.” This group was led by black women, many who are professors, who taught young girls like Dr. Halliday important life skills.

When she was eighteen, she was accepted into Davidson College, a small school in North Carolina that had only 2,000 students when she attended. She told the audience how she wasn’t entirely satisfied with her time there, because she felt like she could be doing more.

Originally she wanted to be a lawyer, but during her time at Davidson, she realized that she was interested in learning and teaching about culture. Funnily enough, she began to realize this while she was in a class and she thought that she could do a better job at teaching than the professor she was listening to.

Today Dr. Halliday spends most of her time at conferences, in the classroom, and at gatherings like the one that happened at PSU.

Throughout the entire lecture, Dr. Halliday drove home the point that we can control our own future. “The future we create starts with you,” she said.

Dr. Halliday also focused on black women specifically. “We’re not often mentioned,” she said. She also pointed out how Black History Month, “Only focuses on the people we already know,” like Martin Luther King Jr. That’s why she worked so hard to mention black women who contributed so much to society.

But most of the role models she talked about have passed away by this point, and so Dr. Halliday felt it was important to talk about modern black icons, like Cardi B. She explained, “I think of the way black women today are setting up futures for themselves.”

Once she was done with her lecture, there was time for a Q&A session. During this time she made a point of saying that college students should allow themselves time to do things they enjoy because she feels that for her, college took away some of her creativity. She also talked about feminism and the need for women to take action to bring about change.

Overall, the event was well attended, with the entire Hage Room filling up with students and faculty. Dr. Halliday is currently working on a book, which she expects to release in 2020.


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