William R Jones Award For UKZN AcademicGeneral

Professor Rozena Maart, the recipient of the William R Jones award.Professor Rozena Maart, the recipient of the William R Jones award.

Former Director of the Centre for Critical Research on Race and Identity (ccrri) housed within the College of Humanities, Professor Rozena Maart, has been presented with the William R Jones award at the 23rd Philosophy Born of Struggle Conference at the A&M University in Texas, USA.

The award is named after Dr William R Jones (1933-2012), a foundational theorist and thinker of Black philosophy in the United States. Jones was known for his infamous text on the theodicy of Black suffering: Is God a White Racist?: A Preamble to Black Theology (1973).

It was his commitment to the independence of Black thinking, and the activity and presence of the Black philosopher in essays such as: The Legitimacy and Necessity of Black Philosophy: Some Preliminary Considerations (1977) that best characterise the legacy and honour he lends to the Philosophy Born of Struggle.

The William R Jones award is a lifetime achievement award given to a senior philosopher who has dedicated their life and work to the advancement of Black philosophy the world over.

This award, decided upon by nominations and majority votes by the board of Philosophy Born of Struggle, honours the dedication, intellectual fortitude, and scholarship of a scholar who has become an indispensable voice and made incalculable contributions to the ongoing struggle for the humanity of Black people the world over.

Executive Director of the Philosophy Born of Struggle Organisation, Professor Tommy Curry, said: ‘Rozena Maart is a thinker who has made multiple efforts to enrich the ongoing conversations in race theory in the United States by demanding that the works and problems illuminated by African thinkers are explored on this side of the Atlantic. Her scholarship has shown the necessity of bringing African theory to bear on questions of White supremacy and sexual exploitation as well as the benefits of comparing the US and South Africa.

‘This scholar has embodied the persona of William R Jones, an Africana thinker and produced work which has touched all corners of our Diaspora. She has established an impeccable record of service to the field of Philosophy, Black Studies, Gender Theory, and Literature.

‘Her work has had a remarkable impact on the aforementioned fields, and she has demonstrated an interdisciplinary competence that few scholars can match. Her scholarship, her international collaborations, and her international reputation are a standard of professionalism that the whole of Philosophy Born of Struggle wish to celebrate,’ said Curry.

Maart described receiving the award as an honour. She also presented and chaired the keynote panel at the conference, where she was joined by her students, Ms Philile Langa and Ms Zaria Govender, on Skype.

Of the students’ work that Maart supervises, she said: ‘Both Philile Langa’s paper, “The Black Man’s Innocence Within the Context of Armed Conflict: A Philosophical Discussion on the Denial of the Victimhood of Black Men”, and Zaria Govender’s paper: “The Impact of Culture and the Inherent Internalisation of Trauma in South African Black Masculinity”, received a hearty round of applause. Professors at the conference were in disbelief that Philile and Zaria were Masters students.’

Upon receiving the award, Maart was congratulated by students, colleagues, family and friends across the country and in the USA, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Morocco, Norway and Senegal.

She is currently on sabbatical and still working with students on two research projects while trying to meet deadlines with publishers for her forthcoming publications.

Melissa Mungroo