Bestselling author Imani Perry to headline ETSU conference

Bestselling author Imani Perry to headline ETSU conference

Critically acclaimed author Dr. Imani Perry will serve as the keynote speaker for East Tennessee State University’s fifth annual Equity and Inclusion Conference. The conference, open to the public, will take place Sept. 28-30.

Perry is renowned for her work that explores the intersections of history, race, law and culture. Born in Birmingham, Alabama, in the aftermath of the horrific 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, Perry’s life and work have been deeply imbued with a commitment to justice and progressive change.

Perry’s academic and literary contributions, including her National Book Award-winning work “South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation,” explores how the South shapes American history and culture. Her numerous accolades, including awards for her exploration of the life of underrecognized Black artist Lorraine Hansberry, firmly position her as a significant figure in contemporary literature and academia.

ETSU’s Equity and Inclusion Conference features keynote speakers and presenters from across the country, focusing on topics such as Appalachian identity, culture, race, ethnicity and accessibility. This year’s conference theme is “Beyond ‘Checking a Box’: Building and Sustaining Campus-Wide Engagement for Belonging,” underscoring the institution’s commitment to fostering an inclusive environment for all people.

Perry, known for her insightful works like “Breathe: A Letter to My Sons” and “Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry,” was selected to inspire and provoke thoughtful discussion in line with this theme.

“If there were one impact I’d like my work to have, it would be that people would cease talking about African American history and culture in terms of deprivation or inadequacy and actually acknowledge its depth and complexity and beauty,” Perry said.

Registration for the conference is open; details and a complete schedule. Tickets to the full conference are $75, while tickets for Dr. Perry’s keynote alone are $20. For disability accommodations, contact the ETSU Office of Disability Services at (423) 439-8346.

Smokey Mountain News Logo
Go to top
Payment Information


At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.