Black Geographies of Respite: Florida A&M University as a Space of Respite and Affirmative Black Sense of Place

Authors: Douglas Allen*, Florida State University
Topics: Ethnicity and Race, Cultural Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: spaces of respite, black geographies, race, place, HBCU
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: 8201, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

“The years I lived in Paris did one thing for me: they released me from that particular social terror, which was not the paranoia of my own mind, but a real social danger visible in the face of every cop, every boss, everybody” (James Baldwin-Dick Cavett Show-1968). Baldwin's discussion of his time overseas, particularly in Paris, illustrates the importance of spaces of relief from the social and emotional burden of racism. Using data gathered through qualitative interviews and extensive observation with students at Florida A&M University (FAMU), an Historically Black College/University (HBCU) in Tallahassee, Florida, I frame spaces of respite as affirmative black geographies that provides the relief from social terror discussed by James Baldwin. This paper shows that spaces of respite provide affirmative black senses of place and emotional/mental relief from oppressive articulations of space and society. I discuss the cultural benefits of spaces of respite for black students at FAMU and the contradictory relations of power present in the construction and maintenance of these spaces of respite. This paper shows how spaces of respite not only affirm black life but also provide a critique of oppressive articulations of space and society. I finish by arguing that spaces of respite provide scholars of black geographies with an ontological and epistemological object of study that focuses on black life without blunting the critiques of racism and racist articulations of space and society.

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