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Reflecting Black Plenary Speakers

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Reflecting Black Plenary Speakers

Opening Plenary, Keynote Speaker
10:00 AM – 11:15 AM

Dr. Alexander Byrd Dr. Alex Byrd is the Associate Dean of Humanities for Undergraduate Programs and Special Projects at Rice University. He is also a historian of Afro-America and associate professor in the department of history. He earned a B.A. from Rice University (Sid '90), and received his Ph.D. from Duke University. Byrd began his career as a student of free and forced transatlantic black migration in the era of the American Revolution, and his book Captives and Voyagers was awarded the 2009 Wesley-Logan prize in African diaspora history. He is also the recipient of the 2010 Douglass Adair Award for the best article published in the William and Mary Quarterly  in the preceding six years.
Byrd's current research is focused at the intersection of urban history and the history of education. He recently presented aspects of this work-in-progress on the efficacy of black teachers in black schools, and on diversity as a kind of white privilege) as the 54th Annual Furniss Lectures at Colorado State University. With Celia Naylor he is presently co-editing the Oxford Handbook of African American History. With Brian Behnken and Emily Straus, he is shepherding a collection of essays on the historical significance of race and place in Houston, Texas (under advance contract with LSU Press).
Byrd is a four time recipient of the George R. Brown Award for Superior Teaching (2006, 2013, 2015, and 2018), and in 2010 he was the recipient of the Presidential Mentoring Award. From 2011 to 2016, he served as the faculty master of Wiess College. He is a frequent collaborator on various projects in history and social studies education (most recently with the Georgia Historical Society and the Houston Independent School District).

Black and Brown Freedom Movements, Plenary Speaker
12:30 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.

Dr. Sonia Lee Dr. Sonia Lee is an Associate Professor of History at Indiana University in Bloomington, IN. She was born and raised in São Paulo, Brazil, and has lived in various cities in the U.S. since 1992. Her research is focused on constructions of racial and ethnic identities, Puerto Rican and black freedom movements, immigration, labor, urban, and psychology/psychiatry history. She received her B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, and her Ph.D. from Harvard University. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend and the John W. Kluge Fellowship from the Library of Congress. She has been involved with efforts to preserve and rehabilitate buildings linked to the history of Black-owned businesses in St. Louis through a partnership with the Tillies’ Corner Historical Project. Her second book project explores the intersections of psychiatry and the making of the state in postwar America. She lives with her husband and daughter in St. Louis.





 Black to the Future, Imagining Futures of African Americans
4:00 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.

Distinguished Panelists

Dr. Rachel QuinnDr. Rachel Afi Quinn is an Assistant Professor of Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies and Comparative Cultural Studies at University of Houston. She received her Ph.D. in American Culture from the University of Michigan. Her transnational feminist cultural studies scholarship focuses on mixed race, gender and sexuality in the African Diaspora. Most recently, her essay “El rostro negro dominicano y la Quisqueya queer de Rita Indiana Hernández” was included in the 2016 collection Nuestro Caribe: Poder, Raza y Postnacionalismos para dinamitar el archipiélago LGBTQ, edited by Mabel Cuesta and published by Editorial Isla Negra. She was part of the team that produced the 2015 documentary Cimarrón Spirit about contemporary Afro-Dominican identities. Dr. Quinn’s essay “‘No tienes que entenderlo, solo respetalo’: Xiomara Fortuna, Racism, Feminism and Other Forces in the Dominican Republic” was published in The Black Scholar. Her 2019 essay “Spinning the Zoetrope: Visualizing the Mixed-Race Body of Dominican Actress Zoe Saldaña” was published in Latin American and Latinx Visual Culture.



Charles SavageCharles Savage is the Executive Director of the Urban Enrichment Institute (UEI) and is responsible for the management and development of the agency’s staff, budget, programs, curriculums, policies and procedures.  UEI is a mentoring and leadership development program designed to empower inner-city boys, ages 12 to 19, with the tools to become responsible men and productive members of their family and community. Mr. Savage is celebrating his 23rd year with the agency and has been the executive director since 2007. Mr. Savage has bee n designated as a “visiting professor” for his years of service to the National Urban League’s Black Executive Exchange Program (BEEP).



Nicola Springer Nicola Springer is a Vice President and the PK-12 Education Team Leader at Kirksey Architecture in Houston, Texas. Nicola received her Bachelor of Arts in Architecture from Princeton University and her Master of Architecture from Rice University. At Kirksey Architecture, she oversees the team's projects, manages staff, and maintains client relationships. She is heavily involved in project design, coordination, and execution of construction documents. Nicola has spoken professionally on the influences and advances of 21st century education in design. Nicola joined the Education Team at Kirksey in 1998 as a project architect with responsibilities including project design, coordination and execution of construction documents.  She has 14 years of architectural experience including several college and university projects in addition to her impressive K-12 portfolio. She is a recipient of the Houston Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 and the annual Young Architect award by the American Institute of Architects Houston Chapter.




Reflecting Black Symposium