College of Humanities and Social Sciences Presents 'Contexts,' the Eighth Annual Multidisciplinary Conference, Focusing on Topic of Historic Injustices

Khalilah Brown-Dean, keynote speaker

What responsibility do people in the present have for dealing with the consequences of our predecessors’ actions? Students and faculty filled the University Commons Ballrooms on campus for the day-long multidisciplinary conference titled “My Ancestors’ Crimes, Not Mine” held at William Paterson on October 24.

Khalilah Brown-Dean, political science professor at Quinnipiac University and author of the newly published book, Identity Politics in the United States, gave the keynote speech focusing on “Lessons from the Past, Prospects for the Future: Reconciling the Peril and Promise of American Democracy.”

 “The Contexts conference series seeks to engage current topics using the disciplinary lenses found in the departments of College of Humanities and Social Sciences,” says Wartyna L. Davis, acting dean of the College. “William Paterson University as a stakeholder in the community is committed to creating a forum for critical engagement for the campus and the surrounding community.”

The event was divided into two panel sessions and the keynote address. Speakers discussed how can we achieve restorative justice for past wrongs while addressing the problems we encounter and live with today. The conference strived to create space to grapple with present injustices by stretching one arm bravely to the past, and the other arm towards hope and the future.

The morning session, “America’s Legacies,” featured Jules Gill Peterson, assistant professor, English and African American studies, Princeton University; Autumn Womack assistant professor, Departments of English and African-American Studies, Princeton University; and Vanessa Agard-Jones assistant professor, Department of Anthropology, Columbia University.

During the afternoon session, “Global Visions,” speakers included Nada Ayad, assistant dean, Cooper Union, and Alumna Lissette Acosta-Corniel ’99, MEd ’05, assistant professor, Center for Ethnic Studies, Borough of Manhattan Community College/City University of New York.

For more information about the annual conference, contact Tia N. Cherry at