Issac Julien and bell hooks at the Black Popular Culture conference, December 1991. Photo: Lyle Ashton Harris.
In collaboration with the Studio Museum in Harlem, Dia Art Foundation presented a three-day conference titled “Black Popular Culture” on December 8-10, 1991. Conceived by Michele Wallace, the conference brought together about thirty black scholars, critics, and cultural producers representing disciplines ranging from film, television, and advertising to literature, politics, music, and urban planning. In her introduction to the Black Popular Culture volume published subsequently, Gina Dent declared: “Do we, peoples of the African diaspora, any longer have the right to invent an Africa?” This question summarized the political move of the project: “Rather than policing the borders of black culture, these critics attend to the high and the low, the progressive and the conservative, the general and the particular.” Participants included Manthia Diawara, Coco Fusco, Stuart Hall, bell hooks, Issac Julien, Tricia Rose, and Valerie Smith, among many others.