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Stone Center Writer’s Discussion Series highlights innovative research

The Sonja Haynes Stone Center pictured on UNC's campus on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020.

The Sonja Haynes Stone Center will be virtually holding the second part of its annual Writer’s Discussion Series on Thursday, where Ricardo A. Wilson II, an assistant professor of English at Williams College, will be discussing his new book.

Wilson's new book, “The Nigrescent Beyond: Mexico, the United States, and the Psychic Vanishing of Blackness," seeks to understand Mexico’s withdrawal from Black identity and presence originating with New Spain. The event will be held over Zoom between 3:30-5:00 p.m., Stephanie Cobert, the public communications officer for the Stone Center, said. 

Cobert said Joseph Jordan, the director of the Stone Center and the creator of the Writer’s Discussion Series, will give a brief introduction of Wilson, who will then speak for around 30 to 40 minutes about the book and his research. Cobert added that the informal format of the event allows for interactive discussion between the author and the audience. 

Jordan said the series’s purpose is to highlight scholars who are writing about provocative topics that expand knowledge as well as issues specific to the African diaspora. 

“We also wanted to let folks know that this is a vibrant and active part of the scholarly community,” Jordan said. “UNC has always been a place that welcomes new, innovative, far-reaching and challenging discourse. So for us, this was a natural mission.”

Cobert said the programs associate at the Stone Center, Sheriff Drammeh, researched an array of different books, authors and publishers until coming across Wilson’s work. Drammeh reached out to Wilson at the beginning of the year to invite him to be a speaker. 

“I know about the Stone Center,” Wilson said, “so I was flattered for the invitation.”

Wilson, a born-and-bred Los Angeleno and son of a Panamanian dad, lived in different areas of Mexico, Colombia and Spain throughout his studies. Through these lived experiences, Wilson became particularly drawn to the lack of conversation surrounding African presence in these countries. This observation is part of what inspired his project.

“The book is a comparative project that investigates what I understand is the psychic vanishing of Blackness in the Mexican context, in order to construct a conceptual framework to think about ideas of post-raciality here in the United States,” Wilson said.

Jordan described Wilson as being curious and driven, as well as having a sense of social responsibility linked to his work. Jordan said he also has experience with research and observations similar to Wilson’s. 

“For about the last 15 to 20 years, we've been looking at these communities in Latin America that historically have been reluctant to acknowledge Blackness as part of their history and as part of their community,” Jordan said. 

The origins of Wilson’s research, his lived experience as a graduate student and the content of his book are all topics he hopes to talk about more in depth during the event.

In addition to giving young and established individuals a platform to talk about their innovative research, Jordan hopes this event will answer audience member’s questions and leave them wanting to learn more.

“When folks leave, I'm hoping that for younger students and others that they say to themselves that this is the kind of person they want to be when they start doing their own work,” Jordan said.

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