Clarksville, TN – During the 2016 Presidential Election, CNN sent reporters to Welch, West Virginia, for a piece on “why America’s white working class feels left behind.” The story painted Appalachia as a homogenous region, populated only by poor, white coal miners and farmers.
But when Puerto Rican poet Ricardo Nazario y Colón traveled through the area’s wooded, rural hills, he noticed something different.
“It is not homogenously white,” he said on the PBS show Connections with Renee Shaw. “It is also diverse in languages, it’s diverse in people, and the African American experience is very well known in Appalachia, to everybody in Appalachia. So how come it wasn’t well known to individuals outside of Appalachia?”
Colón, author of the poetry collection “Of Jíbaros and Hillbillies,” co-founded the Affrilachian Poets to defy “the persistent stereotype of a racially homogenized rural region.” At 1:00pm on Wednesday, March 1th, he’ll visit the Austin Peay State University (APSU) Morgan University Center, Room 303, to deliver the keynote lecture, “A Puerto Rican/Latinx Journey in Appalachia,” at the 2020 Asanbe Diversity Symposium. At 2:30pm, he’ll also participate in a panel discussion in that same room.
The symposium, sponsored and organized by the APSU Department of Languages and Literature, was established 25 years ago in memory of Dr. Joseph Asanbe, the first professor of African and African-American literature at APSU. The event is co-sponsored by the Office of Academic Affairs, the Hispanic Cultural Center, the Honors Program, the African-American Studies Program, the International Studies Program, the Latin American Studies Program, the Women’s and Gender Studies Program, the Center of Excellence for the Creative Arts and the Hispanic Alumni Club.
Colón, a former U.S. Marine, is a published poet, artist, author, language teacher, and a former security analyst at Deutsche Bank. He now serves as Western Carolina University’s (WCU) Chief Diversity Officer, and he is currently a doctoral candidate in Educational Leadership at WCU.
He earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Kentucky in Latin American Studies and Spanish Literature and a Master of Science from Pace University. In 2016, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper appointed Colón to serve on the Governor’s Advisory Council on Hispanic/Latino Affairs.
The Asanbe Diversity Symposium is free and open to the public. For more information, contact the APSU Department of Languages and Literature at 931.221.7891.