Report of the 2020 Virtual Race, Ethnicity, and Place Conference, October 21-23, 2020.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a smaller, virtual Race, Ethnicity, and Place (REP) Conference was held from October 21-23, 2020 and the in-person REP Conference, to be held in Baltimore, Maryland, was postponed until October 2021. The Baltimore REP conference had been scheduled jointly with the Middle Atlantic Division of the American Association of Geographers (MAD-AAG) and was intended to showcase Baltimore’s resiliency in the face of longstanding structural racism and offer a number of opportunities for attendees to engage with community leaders and activists. At same time, REP Board members recognized the need of many faculty members and students to present papers in 2020 as part of their professional development. The Board requested that conference organizers develop a scaled-back virtual conference to run the originally scheduled dates in 2020. Beyond the larger REP theme of social justice, the virtual conference had as an organizing theme the coronavirus and vulnerable populations. This report summarizes the success of the virtual REP Conference in 2020.
Conference Format. The virtual conference had nineteen paper and panel sessions and three evening plenary sessions, beginning on Wednesday, October 21 and concluding on Friday, October 23. Of the twenty-two sessions, twenty-one sessions were hosted on Zoom by Texas State University and one was hosted by the American Association of Geographers. Sessions were arrayed in two concurrent tracks, with one devoted primarily to paper sessions and one primarily to organized panels. Highlights of the conference include:
Participation. Total participation as measured by registration was 155 people. Of these, 61 were students, and 94 were non-students. Some sessions and panels drew as many as 35 participants at any one time.
Registration. The cost of registration was set at $25 for faculty and professionals and $15 for students to ensure commitment to participation. A number of waivers were issued to support students not located in the United States—we had student participation from India and Jamaica, for instance—and members of non-profit organizations providing community-based panels.
Income. Altogether, REP generated $2,435 in registrations and $12,405 in sponsorships and donations for 2020, the bulk of that raised for the postponed in-person conference, including a $10,000 host sponsorship from the University of Baltimore. The Middle-Atlantic Division of the AAG, through the American Association of Geographers, provided the honorarium for the Thursday welcome plenary speaker, Dr. Leana Wen, and the American Geographical Society provided the technical support and recorded the plenary. Baltimore’s Arch Social Club’s Arch Community Network provided the speaker and film used in the Wednesday and Friday plenaries. All surplus income over expenses will support the in-person REP Conference in Baltimore in October 2021.
Expenses. Expenses for the virtual conference were minimal. Organizers contributed their time at no cost, as did administrative staff at Texas State University. Texas State University provided the platform for the concurrent paper and panel sessions as well as the plenary sessions. A Texas State University Geography graduate student was paid to provide technical support to the organizers: maintain the REP website and email, manage registration and submissions, produce the program, and provide overall troubleshooting for Zoom sessions. Other Texas State University Geography graduate students volunteered to monitor paper and panel sessions so as to provide technical support as needed in real time. The only other direct expense was $600 for Student Research Presentation Awards, paid for with the registration income. As noted, surplus income over expenses will fund the 2021 REP Conference.
Sponsors. Texas State University provided necessary administrative and technology support the conference, without which the virtual REP could not have taken place at all. The American Association of Geographers (AAG) provided the honorarium for the welcome plenary speaker. The American Geographical Society (AGS) provided in-kind support for the plenary, and the Arch Social Club (Baltimore) provided a second plenary film. Additional sponsors include: AAG African Specialty Group, UNC-Charlotte, University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, Kent State University, and Binghamton University. Individual sponsors were Derek and Donna Alderman, Caroline Faria, Ibipo Johnston-Anumonwo, and Rebecca Torres.
Plenary Sessions. We held three plenary sessions. The keynote session for the conference included Dr. Leana Wen, formerly the health commissioner of Baltimore and now a professor of public health at The George Washington University, columnist for the Washington Post, and frequent commentator on CNN. Dr. Marie Price, Professor of Geography at The George Washington University, President of the American Geographical Society, and a REP Board Member interviewed Dr. Wen on the coronavirus and vulnerable populations, a theme of the virtual conference. Wednesday evening’s opening plenary focused on celebrating Baltimore. Following welcome remarks, Mr. Leon Smith-Bey of the Arch Social Club’s Community Network introduced and presented a film entitled “By Any Means Necessary: Story of Survival” that discussed the entrepreneurial efforts of West Baltimore young men—”Squeegee Boys”—to make money while highlighting the effects of structural racism on employment opportunities in Baltimore.
Paper Sessions. Paper sessions touched on a range of traditional REP themes as well as the unique conference theme of coronavirus and vulnerable populations. Students presented almost half (47 percent) of the 38 papers presented, and competition for the student awards was competitive due to the high quality of the presentations. Papers with an explicit international focus accounted for 42 percent of papers, and those with an explicit Covid-19 focus accounted for 37 percent. Only three presenters did not ultimately attend their scheduled sessions, and all sessions took place as scheduled.
Organized Panels. Organized panels included several with a Baltimore focus, including with respect to the theme of coronavirus and vulnerable populations. Three were presented by non-academic participants focusing on housing and neighborhood issues in Baltimore. One was on social justice and education and another on monuments and symbolic naming. The American Association of Geographers presented two panels on advancing geography.
Student Research Presentation Award. The first-place winner in the Undergraduate/Masters category went to Raymond S. Jennings (Sorbonne-Paris), Race, Privilege, and Mobility: A Case Study of High School Youth in a Paris Banlieue, Mantes la Jolie. Second place went to Sara S. Moya (Texas State University), The Cocaine Wildlife Connection: Conservation Crime in Central America. In the Doctoral student category, first place went to Junghwan Kim (University of Illinois), How Neighborhood Effect Averaging Might Affect Assessment of Individual Exposures to Air Pollution: A Study of Ozone Exposures in Los Angeles. Second place had co-winners: Alisa Hartsell (Texas State University), Unequal Justice for Central American and Chinese Asylum Seekers; and Shamayeta Bhattacharya (University of Connecticut), What Happened Afterwards: The Transgender Community’s Successes and Challenges in Substantively Accessing Their Human Rights in India.
NSF Workshop on Advancing Geography. REP organizers received an award from the National Science Foundation to work to advance geography at HBCUs and other MSIs (PBIs, HSIs, Tribal Colleges). The award was to support a workshop at Morgan State University as a part of the in-person REP Conference. NSF agreed to allow us to postpone the workshop for one year while developing set of online workshops in the intervening time. Although we have not tied those workshops to the virtual conference, they serve as an extension of the conference.
We extend our sincerest thanks to the many REP and MAD-AAG participants who gave time to chair sessions and judge student research presentations, as well as to the Texas State University Geography graduate students who provided technical support and the Geography Department administrators who provided moral and in-kind support.
Submitted by the conference director and organizers:
Professor Emeritus, Joseph Wood, University of Baltimore
Professor Mark Barnes, Morgan State University
Professor Sarah Blue, Texas State University
Professor Jeremy Tasch, Towson University
2020 REP Student Competition results
- Raymond S. Jennings, Race, Privilege, and Mobility: A Case Study of High School Youth in a Paris Banlieue, Mantes la Jolie
- Sara S. Moya, The Cocaine Wildlife Connection: Conservation Crime in Central America
- Junghwan Kim, How Neighborhood Effect Averaging Might Affect Assessment of Individual Exposures to Air Pollution: A Study of Ozone Exposures in Los Angeles
Second place (co-winners):
- Alisa Hartsell, Unequal Justice for Central American and Chinese Asylum Seekers
- Shamayeta Bhattacharya, What Happened Afterwards: The Transgender Community’s Successes and Challenges in Substantively Accessing Their Human Rights in India
Watch a recording of the REP/MAD-AAG Keynote Program with Dr. Leana Wen, George Washington University
Dr. Leana Wen, formerly the Baltimore Health Commissioner and now a CNN contributor and Washington Post columnist, speaks about Covid19 and vulnerable populations with a particular focus on Baltimore in an interview with Professor Marie Price of George Washington University.
Sponsored by the American Association of Geographers and the American Geographical Society
2020 REP/MAD-AAG Sponsors
Derek and Donna Alderman
(in memory of George Floyd, Minneapolis, Minnesota)
REP Conference Coordinator
Sarah Blue, Texas State University
2020 REP/MAD-AAG Planning Committee
REP Board of Directors
Dr. Derek Alderman, Chair, UT-Knoxville (Tennessee)
Dr. Mark Barnes, Morgan State University
Dr. Sarah Blue, Geography, Texas State University
Dr. Sean Crotty, Texas Christian University
Dr. Norah Henry, Binghamton University (New York)
Dr. David Kaplan, Kent State University (Ohio)
Dr Yongmeil Lu, Texas State University
Dr. Edris Montalvo, Cameron University (Oklahoma)
Dr. Jay Newberry, Binghamton University (New York)
Dr. Kefa Otiso, Bowling Green State University (Ohio)
Dr. Marie Price, George Washington University (Washington, DC)
Dr. Selima Sultana, University of North Carolina, Greensboro
Dr. Emily Skop, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs
Dr. Rebecca Torres, University of Texas-Austin
Dr. Joseph Wood, American Geographical Society