Toward the Antiracist: Reckoning with the Past, Reimagining the Present
The 2021 Watson Conference focused on policies and practices for planning and convening antiracist conferences. This year's uprisings for Black liberation have only reaffirmed the need for institutions of higher education to confront their roles in perpetuating a white supremacist system, and to create just and equitable structures in its place.
In 1995, Dr. Thomas R. Watson donated 1.2 million dollars to the University of Louisville English Department to endow a biennial International Conference in Rhetoric and Composition and a Visiting Distinguished Professorship. The gift is a mark not only of Dr. Watson's extraordinary generosity but also of his imaginative and far-sighted vision.
The 2021 Watson Conference organizers strive to create a different kind of conference environment, a brave space that "emphasizes the need for courage rather than the illusion of safety" (Arao & Clemens, 2013, p. 141). To accomplish this will take work from all involved. We therefore invite all participants—presenters, moderators, attendees—to support our project by committing to several values.