Undocumented. Black. Citizen. (Event full, walk ins pending capacity)

A Transnational One-day Symposium Featuring a Performance by Josefina Báez
Apr 12, 2024, 8:30 am5:00 pm


Event Description

Hosted by Professor Lorgia García Peña in collaboration with Medhin Paolos

Undocumented. Black. Citizen.

Brings together scholars, activists, and artists from Europe, Latin America, Africa and the United States to think together about the relational and transnational experiences of people who identify as Black and immigrant (or descendants of immigrants) and who are living in diasporic communities in Europe and the Americas. Centering Black immigrant lives in dialogue with other minoritized people (Asian, indigenous, and mixed race Latinx) through a humanistic and artistic lens, the panelists will speak to the intersections of anti-blackness and xenophobia shaping citizenship exclusion across the Globe, and share some of the important lessons learned through their work, while connecting contemporary artistic and social movement across geographies. The symposium is envisioned as a first step in a series of events and projects aimed at advancing a conversation about global anti-blackness and xenophobia on Princeton University campus.

The United States occupies a paramount place in the global imaginary of blackness. The legacy of Black freedom struggles in the United States have shaped how Black communities across the globe think about revolution and anti-colonial struggles and liberation. The language and symbols that have emerged from the 1950s and 1960s Civil Rights Movement (Black is beautiful, a raised fist) to the present (#Black Lives Matter) have allowed Black people across the globe to engage transnationally and, at times, to find a way to share their own struggles beyond the local. Likewise, the immigrant movement in the United States, particularly as embodied in the figure of the DREAMer, has resonated worldwide. Symbols like the monarch butterfly, and slogans like “Undocumented and Unafraid” resonate in places like Italy and Haiti, as immigrants and children of immigrants demand their right to belonging and citizenship. And while in the United States these two struggles—the one for Black lives and the one for immigrant rights—are often seen parallel and confronted as separate issues both in local and national politics, in other parts of the world Black and immigrant are often deployed as entangled categories of citizenship exclusion. That is, to be Black and citizen can be perceived an impossibility. Our symposium is then a contradiction to what is deemed impossible and a gesture towards imagining new connections, communities and possibilities for the future we seek to co-create.


Event Program

8:30 - 9:00 am Registration and Continental Breakfast

9:00 - 9:15 am Welcome Remarks

Lorgia García Peña, Latino Studies Program Director, Professorof the Effron Center for the Study of America, Professor of African American Studies, Princeton University

9:15 - 11:00 am The Black Mediterranean: A Conversation Among Activists, Scholars, and Artists

Activists, Scholars, and Artists

Selam Tesfaye, Community Organizer

SA Smythe, Transmedia Storyteller, University of Toronto

Angelia Pesarini, Assistant Professor in Race and Cultural Studies, University of Toronto

Ariman Scriba, Co-founder or MUN Magazine

Moderator: Medhin Paolos, Filmmaker, Activist, Scholar, Lewis Center for the Arts, Princeton University.

11:00 - 11:15 am Coffee Break

11:15 - 1:00 pm In the Belly of the Beast: Undocumented Lives from the Rio Grande to New Jersey

Alan Pelaez Lopez, Poet, Installation, and Adornment Artist

Erik Cruz Morales, Policy and Advocacy Manager, New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice

Keish Kim, Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow, Rutgers University

Hellen Zamora-Bustos, Leonard Lieberman Philanthropy Fellow, The Fund for New Jersey

Moderator: Aisha M. Beliso-De Jesús, Chair, Effron Center for the Study of America, Olden Street Professor of American Studies, Princeton University

1:00 - 2:00 pm Lunch

2:00 - 4:00 pm Bordering the Sea: Denationalization and Crossings in the Caribbean

Amarilys Estrella, Sociocultural Anthropologist, Rice University

Marisel Moreno, Professor of Romance Languages & Literatures, University of Notre Dame

Elena Lorac, Founding member of Reconoci.do movement

Moderator: Raj Chetty, William A. Ackman Professor,Harvard University

4:00 - 4:15 am Coffee Break

4:15 - 5:15 pm Performance “As Is” by Josefina Baez

Storyteller, ArteSana, performer, writer, theatre director, Founder and Director of Ay Ombe Theatre

5:15 - 5:30 pm Closing Remarks

Lorgia García Peña

5:30 - 7:00 pm Reception



Alan Peleaz Lopez - Afroindigenous (Zapotec) poet, installation, and adornment artist from Oaxaca, México.


Angelica Pesarini -  Assistant Professor in Race and Cultural Studies/Race and Diaspora and Italian Studies at the University of Toronto.


Amarilys Estrella - Assistant Professor of Anthropology and a faculty affiliate for the Center for African and African American Studies and the Center for the Study of Women Gender and Sexuality at Rice University. 


Elena Lorac - Founding member and co-coordinator of the Reconoci.do movement.


Erik Cruz Morales, Policy and Advocacy Manager at the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice


Hellen Zamora-Bustos - Leonard Lieberman Philanthropy Fellow-Program Associate. 


Ariman Khattat (Iman), Mental Health advocate, co-founder and editor of MUN magazine.

Josefina Baez - Storyteller, ArteSana, performer, writer, theatre director, educator, devotee. Founder and director of Ay Ombe Theatre.


Keish Kim - Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow in Fall 2023 at Rutgers University. 


Lorgia García Peña - A writer, activist and scholar who specializes in Latinx Studies with a focus on Black Latinidades. 

Marisel Moreno - Professor of Spanish, Rev. John A. O’Brien College Professor of Romance Languages and Literature at the University of Notre Dame.


Medhin Paolos - Filmmaker, photographer, electronic musician, and social justice activist.


Raj Chetty - Associate Professor, Assistant Chair, English, St. John's University


SA Smythe - Assistant Professor of Black Studies & the Archive at the University of Toronto, where they direct the Collaboratory for Black Poiēsis


Selam Tesfaye, Community organizer




  • Department of African American Studies
  • Humanities Council
  • Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies
  • Lewis Center for the Arts
  • Program in Latin American Studies
  • Princeton School of Public and International Affairs
  • Department of Spanish and Portuguese
  • Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (PIIRS)
  • Campus Conversations
  • The Bloomberg Center