A stage reading and writing workshop helped kick off the 42nd annual Pan African Student Leadership Conference at MSU.

The conference welcomed Minneapolis-based artists Junauda Petrus and Erin Sharkey to share their passion for culture and conversation.
"Everybody has something to share. There are ways that we're creative and bring our artistry and insights to everything," Petrus said.

Petrus's stage reading of "There Are Other Words" focuses on a mother serving prison time for the murder of her daughter's molester, and ties into this year's conference theme, "Vindicating the Suffering of Our Ancestors and Earning the Respect of Future Generations."
"This year we have a really intersectional approach to looking at the Pan African conference. So making sure we're covering issues related to women, other marginalized communities, LGBT groups," MSU Associate Professor and Chair of the Gender and Women's Studies program Shannon Miller said.

The annual conference is an opportunity for students, professors and community members to come together and discuss issues that affect African-Americans.

"All of these sub-themes are things that are very much something that Black Lives Matter wants to make sure is covered, so we're making sure that we integrate that into the conference," Miller said.

The conference continues through Feb. 9 at MSU's campus.