Friday, September 18, 2009

Celebrate 40 Years of Black Studies Programs in America....

"Rivers" cosmogram by Houston Conwill at the Langston Hughes Atrium at the Schomburg Center for Research on Black Culture in Harlem, NY. Another cosmogram by the artist and poet Estella Conwill is located at the African Burial Ground National Monument in the Wall Street financial district.

It's kind of mind-boggling to think about it, but we've had formal Black Studies Programs in public and private colleges and universities in America for about 40 years. And depending on who you ask, that's only a blink in the night or a mighty long time (too long for some folks who cite budget concerns and question its impact on traditional Western studies programs ;-). Most of us just take it for granted that should we choose and happen to be at the right place at the right time, we could take a myriad of classes ranging from African History, Caribbean Literature, Black Women Poets, Yoruba, the Harlem Renaissance, Paul Robeson and McCarthyism, even Black Science Fiction, and so on.

Joel Dias-Porter, a poet and Cave Canem Fellow shared this recently:

"Sonia Sanchez told us some great stories about teaching in the first Black Studies program at SF State in '69. She had to re-type DuBois' 'Souls of Black Folk' (There was only one copy on campus and it was out of print) and mimeograph copies so students could study it. She said among her most diligent students were two white guys who attended every class, sat up front
and took copious notes (they turned out to be FBI agents). We take so much for granted these days, things like the internet which allows us to stay connected and share info instantaneously.
And things like Cave Canem. Let us never forget to give thanks."

Let us give thanks, indeed.

If you would like to learn more about the amazing collective efforts begun perhaps first, with Carter G. Woodson and so many other pioneering, unsung, nameless educators, Tune in to a special edition of the Tavis Smiley Show public radio Sunday, September 20, to hear Greg Carr, chair of Howard University’s Afro American Studies; Elizabeth Alexander, chair of Yale University’s African-American Studies, Tricia Rose, chair of Brown University’s Department of Africana Studies, and regular Tavis Smiley Show commentator Eddie S. Glaude, the William S. Todd, chair of Princeton University’s Center for African-American Studies, discuss the importance and growth of Black Studies programs as they celebrate their 40th year in existence.

Sociologist Nathan Hare (founding publisher of The Black Scholar: A Journal of Black Studies and Research) was given the task and opportunity by San Francisco State to create and coordinate the first formal “Black Studies” department and in 1969, the department officially opened its doors, offering an educational option to ending racial stereotypes, by exposing students of all colors to the vast historical, cultural and theological aspects of African Americans. Now, 40 years later, Black Studies departments are the norm on campuses across the country, yet the questions have grown louder as to the continued relevance of what some call “segregated studies” at taxpayer expense. The show features a conversation with distinguished scholars of African American studies to remember the 40-year journey and chart the collective paths into the future.

Washington, D.C.: WETA-FM (90.9), Sunday, 1 p.m.

Princess Anne, Md.: WESM-FM (91.3), Sunday, 12 p.m.

Baltimore, Md.: WEAA-FM (88.9), Sunday, 9 p.m., WYPR-FM (88.1), Sunday, 6 p.m. Hagerstown, Md., WETH-FM (89.1), Sunday, 7 p.m.

41-year Celebration @ University of Montana...

For more information, or to check your local listings for broadcast times visit www.tavistalks. com.

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