BALTIMORE, Maryland (October 28, 2016) — The Obama Effect 2.0 Conference at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) presents a mosaic of perspectives regarding the Barack Obama presidency and its impact on various aspects of American culture and society. Organized by Dr. Kimberly Moffitt (UMBC), Dr. Heather Harris (Stevenson University), and Dr. Catherine Squires (University of Minnesota), panels and research presentations capture perspectives on President Obama’s tenure that span far beyond the “left” and the “right.”
The three-day conference began with a keynote address by Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, preceded in speech by Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, world-famous president of UMBC and Obama-appointed chair of the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans. Dyson was part preacher, part comedian, and part next door neighbor, with just a sprinkle of that Oswald Bates alliteration you’d also recognize from stand-up poetry. This style combination proved to be the perfect vehicle to take the audience on the journey of the Obama presidency, exploring America’s and Black America’s emotional ups and downs through the analogy of courtship and marriage. Police terrorism was not left out of the examination, as Dyson explained, “We became his proxy.” In other words, they can’t get him, so they’ll get us.
The second day of the conference, Friday, October 28th, included panels regarding President Obama and: the media; the Right; his education legacy, and millennials. In “Manipulated Meaning: Media and the Obama Administration,” Catalina Byrd (On Point Media Solutions) and Ging Shamberger (UMBC) approached the topic of manipulation differently. Shamberger focused on the president’s use of humor, self-awareness, and pop culture media, while Byrd’s interpretation considered the downside of pop culture media, blogging, and the 24-hour news cycle, and what they mean to how we seek and receive information. Byrd, a Baltimore resident, journalist, and political commentator, also spoke about the manipulation of national television news coverage after the unrest in April 2015 and how non-residents used it to profit from the nonprofit grants game.
Another session, “Michelle Obama and the First Family: Race, Roles and Representations” featured three presentations on the First Lady by students and professors. Ph.D. students Shawntay Stocks, M.A. and Sherella Cupid, M.A. presented their qualitative study on girls aged 7-11 and their associations to the impact of Michelle Obama. Results indicated that girls this age, in their generation, may be more aware of the beauty and power of Black womanhood than we would expect them to be.
The conference ends on Saturday, October 29th, with panels on community organizing in the Obama era, policy challenges, racial identity and boundaries, and history and symbolism during the Obama years. The conference is open to the public at $20 per community member and $50 per university-affiliated academic. See the full schedule here.