“Stories of Resistance, Resilience, and Restoration” shared at the Pan African Conference

The 2023 Pan African Conference’s theme was “Transnational Resistance Resilience and Unadulterated Black Joy.”

The two-day conference, held at Minnesota State, ranThursday through Friday. Henry Morris, Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, gave the welcoming address Wednesday followed by a theme elucidation by Interim Director of African American Affairs BalenciaSariah Crosby, an art presentation by students Joy Teah and Love Quetee, live music and a closing address.

Author Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts of “Black Joy: Stories of Resistance, Resilience, and Restoration,” gave a virtual keynote address.

The event’s theme was inspired by a quote from educator and writer JJ Bola, “I think about transgenerational trauma a lot, but I think of transgenerational joy more. I would like to think that my ancestors pass on love and joy and happiness, that they knew I would need peace to survive this world, and so they sewed it in my blood.”

MSU Alum Iman Mohamoud said the annual event was bigger in years past and included more non-Black and non-BIPOC attendees. 

“The people that I’ve met attended because it’s a requirement. But when I meet people that are non-white they’re coming because they’re interested. They want to be part of this and included but I think the conference would be more beneficial for white people because a lot of this is stuff that I already know and I know my Black and BIPOC friends already know about this stuff,” she said. “If we could get more white people to come to conferences and events like this then I think we could see some change.”

Mohamoud said she attended every Pan African Conference during her time at MSU, and this year’s theme was in line with a shifting conversation around the Black experience.

“It was always about trauma, which is good to talk about but it’s also good to focus on Black joy because it’s not talked about and we don’t see it as much. It’s not talked about and it’s not marketed,” she said. “With police brutality and how we portray and present Black people, it’s always attached with trauma and negative things that are going on.”

Local high school teacher Melissa Lowell attended the conference to “bring more Black joy” into her classroom, where she teaches English as a second language. She said she came to educate herself on practices to create spaces for her Black and BIPOC students and for students outside of her classroom.

“Bringing ideas of Black joy and racial justices into all content areas. Math, science, there were a lot of language pathologists today. Finding out how to integrate experiences and joy into different areas, not only in Black spaces.”

MSU sophomore Nana Mensah attended the conference for the first time and said, “I love it so far. I feel included, I feel heard, I feel educated.”

Hailing from Africa, Mensah was interested in discussions about the cultural separation between Black Americans and Black Africans.

“Me, being an African, I feel in the Black community there is a separation between Black Americans and Africans. So, this being ‘Pan African,’ it’s not just a Black American thing, every single Black person originated from Africa. To me it feels like one people learning the same thing and growing the same way, that’s what it means to me,” Mensah said. “I had so many questions about why, in the Black community, there is a separate division between Black Africans and Black Americans, and she actually elaborated on it.”

MSU students got free attendance to the annual conference and the public attendees purchased access for $50.

Header photo: The Pan African Conference allowed attendees to learn more about transgenerational traumas and joy through a variety of panels, conversations and how to bring their lessons into the classroom. (Dominic Bothe/The Reporter)

Write to Carly Bahr at

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