Ebonics Conference Offers Fresh Perspectives

Berkeley faculty will tackle the issue of Ebonics in a conference scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 22.

The term Ebonics, a combination of "ebony" and "phonics," was coined by a group of scholars in the 1970s to describe the influence of native African languages on the way many African-Americans speak today.

The issue resurfaced when the Oakland school board announced in December that it would recognize Ebonics as a primary language, as a means to improve the academic performance of African-American students.

The decision touched off a nationwide controversy. Many opinions on the subject were based on reportedly biased news stories and secondhand information.

Saturday's conference aims to explore Ebonics openly and from all sides, trying to establish a broader intellectual context than has previously been available to the public.

Featured speakers include John McWhorter, professor of linguistics and African-American Studies; June Jordan, professor of African-American Studies; and William Drummond, professor of journalism. They will discuss such topics as theoretical linguistic background, journalistic distortions and the political implications of the controversy.

The conference, which begins at 1 p.m., is open to the campus community and public. It takes place in Room 100 of the Genetics and Plant Biology Building. For information, email Ron Choy at rchoy@uclink.berkeley.edu.


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