What is it like to be black in Western North Carolina?

Black Mountain News

Imagine being invisible. Or prized. Talked about. Stigmatized.

The third annual African Americans in Western North Carolina Conference will be Oct. 27-30 at UNC Asheville’s Sherrill Center and the YMI Cultural Center in Asheville. Conference activities are free and open to everyone, and they include an evening reception on Thursday, Oct. 27, panel discussions and documentary films on Oct. 28, and Buncombe County’s celebration of “Unsung Heroes” on Oct. 30. 

Poster by Jason Krekel

The conference starts on Oct. 27 at the YMI Cultural Center with a 6:30 p.m. reception and special presentation for community service, followed by a keynote speaker for The Jesse and Julia Ray Lecture. 

Friday, Oct. 28 will feature panel discussions in UNC Asheville’s Sherrill Center, as well as invited presentations introducing two documentary film projects. The films will include "Beneath the Veneer," which explores race, class and income mobility by taking a glimpse beneath the veneer of life in a progressive, affluent, Southern city as seen through the eyes of its “invisible black boys,” and "Testify Beyond Place," a documentary film that pays homage to the Mount Zion AME Zion Church and its relationship to Western Carolina University. 

Buncombe County’s celebration of “Unsung Heroes” will be Oct. 30, at 3 p.m. in Lipinsky Hall on UNC Asheville’s campus. This inaugural event recognizes African American and Latino leaders in the community and is sponsored by Buncombe County Health & Human Services, in addition to UNCA. The emcees for the celebration will be Kahlani Jackson, Miss Asheville 2016, and Alejandro Adron. The house band for Unsung Heroes will be led by Terry Letman, and the celebration will include storytelling, music, and dancing. 

“The university is pleased to host this third conference on the history of African Americans in Western North Carolina,” said Darin Waters, assistant professor of history and conference organizer. “From its inception, the goal of the conference has been to raise awareness about the presence, and contributions of African Americans to the history and development of this region of our state and nation. This year’s conference will be provide further evidence of how this goal continues to be met. We are excited about the broad range of scholarship that is being done on the historical experiences of African Americans in this region.”