Exhibition and Symposium on April 13 to Share Multiple Life Lessons of African American Seniors

The celebratory exhibition of genealogy books, works of art, autobiographies, and community histories produced by The Wisdom of the Elders classes (2012-2015) and African American Voices of Past and Present classes (2015-2017) will be held Thursday, April 13, from 10 am-12 pm at the Sarratt Center Promenade. Seniors will be on hand to showcase and discuss their work, revealing talents and wisdom that even they did not know they had.

The Wisdom of the Elders began in 2012 as an interdisciplinary health study, linking the interests of Vanderbilt faculty with the needs and knowledge bases of African American older adults, family doctors, genealogists, the Parks and Recreation Department in the City of Murfreesboro.

“It was rooted in the idea that African American older adults have life-sustaining wisdom about maintaining one’s mental health in the midst of challenging circumstances, about effective strategies for facing and overcoming trauma, and about resilience that could be invaluable as the bases for programs, manuals, and templates for programs that can help sustain and advance the mental health of other African American older adults as well as that of individuals from different generations and backgrounds,” said Ifeoma Kiddoe Nwankwo, associate professor of English and American Studies and founding director, Voices From Our America and The Wisdom of the Elders.

Also on April 13 the inaugural Voices from Our America: Preservers, Pathbreakers, and Pioneers symposium, featuring community-rooted innovators, researchers, and sustainers, will be held from 1-2 pm at The Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center on the Vanderbilt campus.

“Preservers are individuals who document and preserve the history of a community, be it in a formal, archival setting, or in an informal archival setting,” said Nwankwo. “Pathbreakers are innovators from any generation who come up with a new concept, method, tool, perspective, or approach to a problem or issue. Pioneers are the foundation generation, the individuals who are the first to triumph over a particular structural, intellectual, or institutional obstacle or challenge; the individuals who had to fight the battle to be the first ones.”

The featured panelists are four community-rooted experts from middle Tennessee and southcentral Kentucky: Edward T. Kindall, attorney, Metro Nashville Council Member, and author of A Walk Down Historic Jefferson Street: From the 1940s to the Early 1970s; Maxine Ray, folklorist and member of the Board of Trustees of the African American Museum/Bowling Green area; George Smith, founding member and treasurer of the African American Heritage Society of Rutherford County, TN; and Mary R. Patterson Watkins, genealogist, founding member and president of the African American Heritage Society of Rutherford County, TN.

Lucius T. Outlaw, Jr., professor of philosophy at Vanderbilt will moderate the discussion. Seating is limited in the Black Cultural Center’s auditorium. To reserve a seat, RSVP to Delores Holland at delores.a.holland@vanderbilt.edu. Free parking spaces will be reserved for the first twenty people to RSVP for the symposium, including special guests.

Funding has been provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Vanderbilt Wisdom Trans-Institutional Program, Chancellor’s Higher Education Fellowship, and Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center.

For more information about the exhibition, email Brooke Hazen at brooke.hazen@vanderbilt.edu. For more information about the symposium, email Delores Holland.

*Sarah Knox displays wood panel visual art at “African American Voices Past and Present” exhibition in 2016 (photograph by Delores Holland/Vanderbilt)

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