The Bahá’í Chair for World Peace Series on Structural Racism and the Root Causes of Prejudice Presents:
Sheri Parks, First Director of the Arts and Humanities Center for Synergy at the University of Maryland
Fear of the Dark: Cultural Myth, Psychological Schema, and Prejudice
Tuesday October 10,2017
Atrium, Stamp Student Union, University of Maryland, College Park
We often think of prejudice as an individual attribute, but there are cultural and psychological underpinnings that lead to the generation and stabilization of attitudes related to stereotypes and prejudice. In this session, we will explore the Western cultural conceptualization of darkness, as exhibited in old and new mythologies, and how it has created a foundation and rationale for racial marginalization of people described as “dark.” We will examine how myths are represented in psychological schemas that form the bases of our cognitive organization and social expectations and how present day examples reflect their mythic legacies.
About the speaker: Sheri Parks is a former associate dean for research, interdisciplinary scholarship and programming for the College or Arts and Humanities, an associate professor of American studies, and the first director of the Arts and Humanities Center for Synergy at the University of Maryland (UMD) at College Park.
A public intellectual, she has appeared frequently in national and international media. She is a long-time and award-winning public radio host and commentator and is now a regular cultural critic for WYPR-NPR and the Baltimore Sun podcast, “Roughly Speaking.” Her general research area is that of public aesthetics, the ways in which people find and create meaning and beauty in their everyday lives, with specific emphasis on race, gender, social class, and sexuality. She is a well-known black academic feminist, whose work has been identified as part of the black feminist canon. She is the leader for one of the first National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) in the Public Square grants for “Baltimore Stories: Narratives and the Life of an American City.” She is one of the co-leaders of a $1.2 million grant awarded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for Synergies among Digital Humanities and African American History and Culture and co-leader of Home Stories, a new NEH grant in which UMD students collaborate with recently arrived immigrant youth to develop digital stories.
Her most recent publication is Fierce Angels: Living with a Legacy from the Sacred Dark Feminine to the Strong Black Woman. In the book, now in its second edition, Parks traces the archetype of the nurturing and strong “Sacred Dark Feminine” from early creation stories, through religion, literature, and in the secular version of the “Strong Black Woman,” into popular culture, including interviews with black women about the roles’ uses and costs. In all of her work, she strives to explain the deeper cultural histories that inform the expectations, attitudes and relations that Americans have with each other, so that richer understandings will lead to more sophisticated and mutually rewarding interactions. Fierce Angels was an editor’s pick by Essence magazine.
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Photo Credit: Lori Evelyn Allan