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Poet, artist & diversity officer Colón to speak at APSU’s Asanbe Diversity Symposium

Dr. Ricardo Nazario y Colón

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – During the 2016 Presidential Election, CNN sent reporters to Welch, West Virginia, for a piece on “why America's white working class feels left behind.” The story painted Appalachia as a homogenous region, populated only by poor, white coal miners and farmers. But when Puerto Rican poet, Dr. Ricardo Nazario y Colón, traveled through the area’s wooded, rural hills, he noticed something different.

“It is not homogenously white,” he said on the PBS show Connections with Renee Shaw. “It is also diverse in languages, it’s diverse in people, and the African American experience is very well known in Appalachia, to everybody in Appalachia, so how come it wasn’t well known to individuals outside of Appalachia.”

Colón, author of the poetry collection “Of Jíbaros and Hillbillies,” co-founded the Affrilachian Poets to defy “the persistent stereotype of a racially homogenized rural region.” At 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 1, he’ll visit Austin Peay State University’s Morgan University Center, Room 307, to deliver the keynote lecture, “A Puerto Rican/Latinx Journey in Appalachia,” at the 2021 Asanbe Diversity Symposium. At 2:30 p.m., he’ll also participate in a panel discussion in the Wilbur N. Daniel African American Cultural Center.

Colón was originally scheduled to visit Austin Peay in March 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic caused the University to pivot to remote learning and cancel all in-person events, including the symposium.

This important event, sponsored and organized by the APSU Department of Languages and Literature, was established in 1997 in memory of Dr. Joseph Asanbe, the first professor of African and African-American literature at APSU. The symposium is co-sponsored by the Office of Academic Affairs, the Center of Excellence for the Creative Arts, the Wilbur N. Daniel African American Cultural Center, the Latino Community Resource Center, the Honors Program, the African-American Studies Program, the International Studies Program, the Latin American Studies Program, the Women’s and Gender Studies Program and the Hispanic Alumni Club.

Colón, a former U.S. Marine, is a published poet, artist, author, language teacher, and a former security analyst at Deutsche Bank. He now serves as Western Carolina University’s (WCU) Chief Diversity Officer, and he recently earned his doctorate in Educational Leadership at WCU. 

He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Kentucky in Latin American Studies and Spanish Literature and a Master of Science from Pace University. In 2016, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper appointed Colón to serve on the Governor’s Advisory Council on Hispanic/Latino Affairs.

The Asanbe Diversity Symposium is free and open to the public. For more information, contact the APSU Department of Languages and Literature at 221-7891.

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