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Who We Be: Jeff Chang + Kiese Laymon

One of the most surreal images of post-Obama America has to be Jay-Z, a former drug dealer turned record executive from Bed-Stuy’s Marcy Projects, and Beyoncé, Who runs the world?, sauntering across the U.S. Capitol balcony to witness the second swearing-in ceremony of the current president. Among a sea of white-haired men, they took their seats. But also in attendance that cold January morning was Myrlie Evers-Williams (Medger Evers’s widow who offered the Invocation), Richard Blanco (the first Latino, the first self-identified LGBTQ person, and the first immigrant to read an Inaugural poem), and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor (who administered the Oath of Office). Had we finally arrived? And what did this all mean for understanding of race and power in the US, which we’ve all been told, will soon be a majority-minority nation?

In Who We Be: The Colorization of America (Fall 2013), Jeff Chang (Can’t Stop Won’t Stop, Stanford) carefully analyzes the gaps between what we see and what we think. He asks us to consider, how did multiculturalists, in fact, win the culture wars? And despite the change in our visual culture and the proliferation of representations of people of color (a process Chang so aptly describes as “colorization”), why do we still not have frank conversations about race?

Chang will be joined in conversation by Kiese Laymon (Long Division [forthcoming June 2013] and How To Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America [forthcoming August 2013]) about the post-civil rights movement, the paradox of the post-racial, and the implications of the rapidly changing national demographics on culture and politics. With an introduction by DJ Rekha.

Co-sponsored by the NYU Center for Multicultural Education and Programs, NYU Program in American Studies, and NYU Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.

Please RSVP by Tuesday, April 16, 2013 using the form below. Reservations are also accepted via phone (212.992.9653).


Jeff1Jeff Chang is the executive director of the Institute for Diversity in the Arts + Committee on Black Performing Arts at Stanford University. Named by the Utne Reader as “one of the 50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World,” Jeff Chang has been a USA Ford Fellow in Literature and a winner of the North Star News Prize. His first book, Can’t Stop Won’t Stop, garnered many honors, including the American Book Award and the Asian American Literary Award. He was the editor of Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip Hop. His current projects include  3 new books: Who We Be: The Colorization of America (St. Martin’s Press, 2013), Youth (Picador Big Ideas/Small Books series), and a biography of Bruce Lee (Little, Brown). He was a founding editor of ColorLines magazine, and a co-founding member of the SoleSides hip-hop collective, now Quannum Projects. Born of Chinese and Native Hawaiian ancestry, Jeff was raised in Hawai’i where he attended ‘Iolani School, a school that many have described as “better than Punahou, for whatever that’s worth.” He lives in Berkeley, California.



Laymon_headshot_b&wKiese Laymon is a black southern writer, born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. Laymon attended Millsaps College and Jackson State University before graduating from Oberlin College. He earned an MFA from Indiana University and is the author of the forthcoming novel, Long Division (Agate Bolden) June 11th 2013 and a collection of autobiographical essays,  How To Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America (Agate BoldenAugust 13th 2013. Laymon is a contributing editor at Gawker.com. and a columnist for ESPN.com. He has written essays and stories for Esquire, ESPN, Gawker, Longman’s Hip Hop Reader, NPR, Mythium, and Politics and Culture. Laymon is currently an Associate Professor of English, Creative Writing and co-director of Africana Studies at Vassar College.




British born, New York City based, DJ Rekha, DJ, curator, record label owner, educator and activist. Called the “Ambassador of Bhangra” by the New York Times and named one of the most influential South Asians by Newsweek, Rekha is among the first DJs to merge classic Bhangra and Bollywood sounds into the language of contemporary electronic dance music. Since establishing herself on the club scene with her inaugural event, Basement Bhangra at SOBs nightclub in 1997,Rekha has produced some of the longest running and most successful parties in New York including Bollywood Disco, and Mutiny. 2006-7 A/P/A Artist-in-Residence, Rekha has given lectures and led workshops on hip hop, politics, and South Asian art for various universities and institutions including the Smithsonian, Brooklyn Museum, and Columbia University. She teaches at The NYU Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music.

Organizer: A/P/A Institute at NYU
Venue: NYU Global Center, Grand Hall
238 Thompson Street, Fifth Floor
New York, NY 10012 United States
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