Sounds of Belgian hip-hop music filled the Ahmadieh Family Conference Hall in the John Hope Franklin Center on a recent Wednesday. As a musician in a video rapped in French, the audience sat attentively watching and listening, even taking notes.
The song was the base for Daphne Lamothe’s presentation about people of African descent navigating social spaces of the European Union. Lamothe, a visiting faculty fellow from Smith College, tasked her audience with finding a connection between the video and lyrics to her lecture.
It was a thought-provoking prompt, which is typical for the Wednesdays at the Center series.
“The variety of things I’m exposed to in this series is astounding,” said Al McMahill, a Durham resident who attended Lamothe’s presentation. “This program makes it easy to seek out the unknown.”
Wednesdays at the Center, a weekly series in which scholars, artists, journalists, student and others give an informal talk about their work, runs from noon to 1 p.m. on Wednesdays during the academic year. A free lunch is included during the talk.
Some upcoming sessions of Wednesdays at the Center include "Food Insecurity on College Campuses and Beyond" on February 28; “Africa’s ‘Scramble for Europe’” on March 7; “Everyday Conversions: Islam, Domestic Work & South Asian Migrant Women in Kuwait” on March 21; and “Blood Letters: The Untold Story of Lin Zhao, a Martyr in Mao’s China” on March 28.
“It’s a welcoming space,” said Catherine Angst, multimedia communication and marketing specialist for the center. “If you are an academic or student, you’re welcome. If you work in facilities, you’re welcome. If you’re a nurse, you’re welcome. If you’re retired 20 years, you’re welcome.”
Christina Davidson, a history instructor at Duke, has been both visitor and speaker at the series. In February, Davidson delivered a talk on religion in the Dominican Republic at the end of the 19th century.
“This series is an opportunity to get feedback on my work from people in other fields and the community,” Davidson said. “It is a chance for me to communicate what I do and see what grabs people’s interest.”
The Duke community can apply to speak at the series through the John Hope Franklin Center website. Twice a year, before each semester, a committee selects speakers based on diversity and scheduling availability.