Tag Archive for African American Studies

Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Wesleyan in the News

1. Marketplace Tech: “Twitter Bans Political Ads, But Is That All Good?”

Associate Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project, is interviewed about Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s announcement that the platform would no longer run political ads. Fowler says implementing this ban is likely to be more complicated than it sounds, and she is skeptical that it will help to reduce the impact of disinformation and improve political discourse. Fowler was also interviewed on Marketplace Morning Report and quoted in Quartz on the ban.

2. NPR’s Throughline: “Zombies”

On Halloween, NPR’s Throughline podcast interviewed Professor of Religion Elizabeth McAlister as part of a deep dive into the history of zombies. Now a global phenomenon in pop culture, the idea of zombies originated in Haiti, back when it was a French colony called Saint-Domingue and many enslaved Africans were worked to death on plantations. The Haitian people ultimately rose up in revolution and defeated their colonizers. But after the revolution, many Haitians were forced back onto plantations when the French demanded reparations in exchange for recognizing their independence. “I think that the figure of the zombie is a reminder that slavery happened to people, that they freed themselves from it, that it still happens in a kind of an afterlife, and it echoes in social practices,” said McAlister. An abbreviated version of the story also aired on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

3. Connecticut Public Radio’s Where We Live: “Acknowledging Middletown’s Ties to Slavery”

Haitian Band Performs, Teaches Dance and African Drumming Students

Haiti’s “Roots” band RAM came to campus for a one-day artists’ residency and led drumming and dance workshops for Wesleyan students. They met with students in two classes on Oct. 8.

The group, led by Richard Morse, has produced music for more than 25 years. They recently released their seventh album, August 1791.

In the morning, RAM led a dance workshop for two combined classes: Afro-Brazilian Dance taught by Joya Powell, visiting assistant professor of dance, and Contemporary Dance Technique II/III taught by Katja Kolcio, chair and associate professor of dance. And in the afternoon, they led a workshop for the West African Music and Culture class, taught by John Wesley Dankwa, assistant professor of music.

“My students were thrilled to be in the company of such talented artists. They thoroughly enjoyed the uplifting dance workshop experience facilitated by Isabelle Morse, and were blown away by the powerful live drummers and singers,” Powell said. “They were able to make significant connections to the movement nuances and dance steps found in folkloric Haitian dances and Afro-Brazilian dances.”

RAM led students in the traditional Afro-Haitian dance and rhythms, and spoke to students about how these art forms had their source in West Africa, were brought with enslaved Africans to Haiti, were part of the 1791 slave uprising, and have been passed on through the generations since Haiti won its freedom and abolished slavery in 1804.

Photos of the workshop with the West African Music and Culture class are below: (Photos by Nick Sng ’23)

RAM

Hatch Authors New Book on “The Secret Drugging of Captive America”

Associate Professor Anthony Hatch (Photo by Robert Adam Mayer).

Associate Professor Anthony Hatch (Photo by Robert Adam Mayer).

Associate Professor of Science in Society Anthony Ryan Hatch is the author of a new book, Silent Cells: The Secret Drugging of Captive America, published on April 30 by University of Minnesota Press.

The book is a critical investigation into the use of psychotropic drugs to pacify and control inmates and other captives in the vast U.S. prison, military, and welfare systems.

According to the publisher:

“For at least four decades, U.S. prisons and jails have aggressively turned to psychotropic drugs—antidepressants, antipsychotics, sedatives, and tranquilizers—to silence inmates, whether or not they have been diagnosed with mental illnesses. In Silent Cells, Anthony Ryan Hatch demonstrates that the pervasive use of psychotropic drugs has not only defined and enabled mass incarceration but has also become central to other forms of captivity, including foster homes, military and immigrant detention centers, and nursing homes.

The Vanguard Class of 1969 Offers Reflections After 50 Years

Steve Pfeiffer ’69, Bernard Freamon ’69, and Barry Checkoway ’69 addressed a standing-room-only seminar on May 25.

On Feb. 21, 1969, black students, faculty, and staff staged a historic takeover of Fisk Hall, Wesleyan’s main academic building at the time, to protest racism and advocate for increased administrative support for people of color at the University. Dubbed the “Vanguard Class” for their place at the forefront of that movement, several members of the Class of 1969 reconvened at Fisk Hall on Saturday, May 25, 2019, to reflect on what being a part of that momentous event 50 years earlier has meant for them and for Wesleyan since.

Speaking to more than 100 attendees in a standing-room-only crowd, the panel included moderator Alford Young ’88, Howard Brown ’69, Barry Checkoway ’69, Bernard Freamon ’69, Steve Pfeiffer ’69, and Rev. Edwin Sanders ’69 and featured each panelist’s personal recollection of the watershed moment, as well as a brief discussion of how life at the University for students and people of color—both on and off campus—continues to evolve today. That evolution has included Wesleyan faculty voting African American Studies into full departmental status in December 2018.

“At most 50th reunions, you are celebrating and remembering football games, or the glee club,” said President Michael Roth ’78 during his introduction. “Not at Wesleyan. We’re unusual in that we celebrate the takeover of a building and waking up administrations to get them to do the right thing . . . and the Vanguard Class marks that important turning point in Wesleyan’s history.”

Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Wesleyan in the News

  1. Inside Higher Ed: “The Need for a Recovery of the Humanities”

In this essay, President Michael S. Roth responds to the “flood of negativity” in public discourse about higher education, in general, and the humanities, in particular. He suggests that “in order to recover the trust of students and their families, we must overcome our cultivated insularity.”

2. NBC News: “Carbon Dioxide Hits a Level Not Seen for 3 Million Years. Here’s What That Means for Climate Change — And Humanity.”

Dana Royer, professor and chair of earth and environmental sciences, comments on new evidence that the concentration of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere has climbed to a level last seen more than 3 million years ago. According to the article, shorter term impacts include loss of vegetation and sea-ice coverage, while other things, like the melting of ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland, will occur more slowly. “But these impacts are going to persist for a very long time,” said Royer. “Once that happens, we can’t really reverse it.”

Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Wesleyan in the News

1. The Middletown Press“Wesleyan Students Helping Former Prisoners to Gain Job Skills”

Wesleyan Students for Ending Mass Incarceration (SEMI) is a group of students working to help formerly incarcerated individuals acclimate back into society by providing them with job skills. The goal, according to member Asiyah Herrero ’22, is “making re-entry into the workforce a little bit easier. There are usually a lack of resources when people get out of prison, and starting to look for work, especially because there are a lot of jobs that do discriminate or have discriminatory ideas about people who have been in prison.”

Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Recent Wesleyan News

  1. Inside Higher Ed: “Career Path Intervention–Via a MOOC”

An open online course by Gordon Career Center Director Sharon Belden Castonguay, which helps young people explore their interests and career options, is featured.

2. NPR: “Midterm Election Could Reshape Health Policy”

Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Recent Wesleyan News

  1. Inside Higher Ed: “Career Path Intervention–Via a MOOC”

An open online course by Gordon Career Center Director Sharon Belden Castonguay, which helps young people explore their interests and career options, is featured.

2. NPR“Midterm Election Could Reshape Health Policy”

Associate Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project, explains why Democrats are “laser-focused on health care” this election season. Fowler also recently was quoted on advertising in the midterm elections in The Washington Post and USA Today, and interviewed on NPRMarketplace, and The Takeaway.

3. Religion & Politics“Russia’s Journey from Orthodoxy to Atheism, and Back Again”

Associate Professor of History Victoria Smolkin’s “engaging book is full of striking analysis and counterintuitive insights,” according to this review. The book, A Sacred Space Is Never Empty: A History of Soviet Atheism, was also recently reviewed in Foreign Affairs, while Smolkin, who is also associate professor of Russian, Eastern European, and Eurasian Studies, was quoted in The Washington Post.

4. AnthroBites: “Queer Anthropology”

Margot Weiss, associate professor and chair of anthropology, speaks about the study of queer anthropology in this podcast interview. Weiss is also associate professor, feminist, gender and sexuality studies; associate professor of American studies; and coordinator, queer studies.

5. The Hill: “The Memo: Trump Remark Sparks Debate Over Nationalism”

Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought Peter Rutland, who has taught courses on nationalism for 30 years, says it was “surprising” that Trump called himself a nationalist. “The words ‘nationalist’ and ‘nationalism’ are not part of the normal American political vocabulary. It has got very negative connotations.” Rutland is also professor, Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies; professor of government; and director of the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life.

6. WNYC’s Soundcheck“Composer and Drummer Tyshawn Sorey [MA ’11] Explores Time”

Assistant Professor of Music Tyshawn Sorey performed live, in-studio with his newly formed ensemble that incorporates turntablism, electronics, and spontaneous composition. Sorey is also assistant professor, African American studies.

Recent Alumni News

1. Forbes: This New $100 Million VC Fund Is Looking to Help Crypto Startups Bridge China and Silicon Valley

Alexander Pack ’14 and his new $100 million venture capital fund, Dragonfly Capital Partners, are profiled. With his partner, Bo Feng, Pack will “look to invest in a mix of crypto-first funds, protocols, and applications, as well as tech startups building infrastructure for crypto-driven economies.” The company is also featured in Venturebeat.

2. UMass Med Now: UMMS Alum Raghu Kiran Appasani [’12Addresses UN General Assembly on Global Mental Health

Raghu Kiran Appasani ’12 helped launch the United for Global Mental Health campaign with an event at the United Nations General Assembly cohosted by Appasani, United for Global Health campaign CEO Elisha London, and Cynthia Germanotta of the Born This Way Foundation.

3. XO Necole: “4 Gems ‘Women In Media’ Can Learn From Angela Yee [’97]”

Entrepreneur and radio host Angela Yee ’97 was recently honored by Women In Media during their annual conference. XO Necole celebrates Yee’s “hustle hard” mentality and breaks down 4 “top-notch takeaways” from Yee’s motivational speech.

4. Coronado Eagle & Journal: Documentarian Matt Tyrnauer [’91] To Be Honored With Coronado Film Festival Director Award

Producer/director Matt Tyrnauer ’91 will receive Best Director honors at the Coronado Island Film Festival (Nov. 9-12). His prolific career as a writer and filmmaker is discussed, as is his latest film, Studio 54, which is generating industry-wide Oscar buzz.

5. MariaShriver.com: “Where There Is Anger There Is Hope

Shriver highlights the book by Dr. Helen Riess ’87,The Empathy Effect: 7 Neuroscience-Based Keys for Transforming the Way We Live, Love, Work, Connect Across Differences, as well as The Good Men Project, founded by Tom Matlack ’86, MALS ’87, P’16.

 

 

Haitian Musicians Lead Drumming Workshop, Performance for Students

Boukman Eksperyans band members toured Wesleyan while visiting campus Sept. 20-21.

On Sept. 20-21, core members of the Grammy-nominated Haitian “roots” band Boukman Eksperyans, along with the band leaders’ son Paul Beaubrun (band leader of Zing Eksperyans), engaged with several groups on campus. Boukman, founded in 1978, is one of Haiti’s best-known bands and performs traditional Vodou rhythms with pop, reggae, and blues.

After learning that the group was touring between Brooklyn, N.Y., and Montreal, Canada, faculty from African American Studies and the Music Department invited and coordinated their visit at Wesleyan.

On Thursday, band members led a workshop for students enrolled in the West African Music and Culture course, taught by John Dankwa, adjunct assistant professor of music. Boukman Eksperyans’ drummer Hans Dominique, known as “Bwa Gris,” taught the students about traditional Haitian drumming and rhythm.

Later that evening, the group performed an acoustic set in Downey Lounge, bringing to Wesleyan their distinctive style that fuses the traditional rhythms of Afro-Haitian religion (known as Vodou) with rock and reggae. Singing in the Haitian Kreyol language, they bring attention to the different ways of knowing and living in the Caribbean. The younger Beaubrun has been bringing the family tradition in new directions, performing as the opening act for Lauren Hill’s latest tour. They are also celebrating the release of Paul Beaubrun’s new album “Ayibobo” on Ropeadope Records.

On Friday, the musicians worked with students from the Music Department’s experimental music and sound design programs to record new tracks in the Music Department’s recording studio.

“Boukman Eksperyans is long known for their political activism critiquing the Haitian class system, American meddling in Haitian affairs, and racism and colorism throughout the world,” said Liza McAlister, professor of religion and professor and chair, African American studies. “Boukman Eksperyans are ambassadors for a better understanding of the Vodou religion; they have served as U.N. Goodwill Ambassadors too. We are thrilled that they were able to visit campus and share their experiences with us.”

A video of the drumming workshop is on Facebook, Photos of the drumming workshop and concert are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake and Chloe de Montgolfier ’22)

Blackness, Race, Sexuality, Power Explored During AFAM’s 50th Anniversary

Center for African American Studies.

The Center for African American Studies is celebrating its 50th anniversary during the 2018–19 academic year.

On Feb. 21, 1969, a group of brave students chained the doors shut to their Fisk Hall classroom and demanded that Wesleyan offer more support to its black community. As a result of this peaceful protest, Wesleyan established the Center for African American Studies, the Malcolm X House dormitory, and the black student union, Ujamaa. The black students who graduated that spring became known as the Vanguard Class of 1969.

During the 2018–19 academic year, African American Studies is commemorating its 50th anniversary with a plethora of events surrounding the topic of “Blackness, Race, Sexuality, and Power.” In addition, the Vanguard Class will be honored at their 50th reunion, along with other students of that era, for their groundbreaking efforts. Their courage helped spur Wesleyan’s now cutting-edge scholarship and teaching in black history, literature, and the arts, along with race theory and critical approaches in anthropology, religion, science, and beyond.

The fall events include:

“Solidarity, Intersectionality & Resisting Oppression”
Feminist philosopher Carol Hay
Sept. 20 at 4:30 p.m.
Russell House
Sponsored by Philosophy Department

Boukman Eksperyans & Paul Beaubrun – Haitian Music
Sept. 20 at 7 p.m.
Downey Lounge
Sponsored by African American Studies and Music

McAlister in The Conversation: For Some Catholics, It Is Demons That Taunt Priests with Sexual Desire

Elizabeth McAlister

Elizabeth McAlister

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In a new article, Elizabeth McAlister, professor of religion, writes about a lesser-known factor contributing to the abuse of children uncovered in the Catholic Church: In some strands of Catholic thought, priests who abuse children have succumbed to temptation by demons. McAlister is also chair and professor of African American studies, director of the Center for African American Studies, professor of American studies, professor of feminist, gender, and sexuality studies, professor of Latin American studies.

For some Catholics, it is demons that taunt priests with sexual desire

A Pennsylvania grand jury recently released a report on the systematic ways Catholic priests aided and abetted one another to sexually abuse children for 70 years.

It reveals once again how the strict patriarchal hierarchy of the Catholic Church gives rise to conspiracies of silence and allows for routine cover-up of crimes. Cover-ups are also encouraged by clericalism – the belief that ordained priests are inherently superior and closer to God than the laity. This much has been demonstrated by countless observers.

But there is another, lesser-known factor contributing to the abuse, that I want to point out as a scholar of spiritual warfare in some forms of Christianity. This factor lies in the realm of belief: In some strands of Catholic thought, when priests abuse children, it is because they have been tempted by demons, and succumbed.

History of demon beliefs

The Catholic Church invites priests to view sexuality as a battle in the war between good and evil. Spiritual warfare is one name for this view of the world and it has a long history in Catholic teachings.

The idea of demons has been around since antiquity – in the Mediterranean world, the Middle East and elsewhere. In Christianity, preoccupation with demons reached its peak in the Middle Ages. Demons were explicitly defined by the church in 1215 under Pope Innocent III.

Theologians worked to identify classes and ranks of demons who operated under the authority of the devil himself. Demons were seen as fallen angels who disobeyed God and worked to subvert God and goodness.

Demons are malevolent beings who lord over specific domains of sin. Christians are called to battle evil, including evil that comes by way of the demonic. The more pious one is, the more intense will be the attacks from the demons.

After the Second Vatican Council of 1964, demons faded out of focus and exorcisms were rare. But my research shows that the spiritual warfare world view is on the rise in the Catholic Church. This is despite the fact that demons and exorcisms are largely viewed by most American Catholics as remnants of a medieval past.

The return of demons and exorcisms

In 1999, Pope John Paul II brought back a focus on the formal rites of exorcism – the official ritual that priests use to rid a person from demonic affliction or possession. The pope later recommended that every diocese in the Catholic world appoint and train an exorcist.

The Catholic Church in the United States took up the call and in 2012 founded the Pope Leo XII Institute in Illinois to support “the spiritual formation of priests to bring the light of Christ to dispel evil.” To this day it serves as a “school for exorcism and deliverance” of the laity from demons.

The institute offers workshops for clergy such as “Angels and Demons, Natures and Attributes.”

Under this belief system, in the battle for souls, demons can establish relationships with people who open the door to them through sin and disobedience to God. If someone masturbates, for example, which is a mortal sin, they are opening the door wider to demons of more serious sexual perversion.

Such demons include figures mentioned in the Bible such as Baal, the ancient Phoenician sun God, and his consort Ashtoreth, now viewed as a force of sexual immorality and perversion. Jezebel, the ninth-century B.C. Phoenician princess, lives into the modern era as a demonic personality who encourages illicit sexual acts, violence and rape.

Devil and role-play in one church

Writing for Commonweal, an American Catholic journal, one ex-seminarian described a formation, or training, workshop sponsored by his seminary. He described how participants were given nametags with the names of demons on them and asked to play the role of demons to tempt one another. He explained how they would choose one person and “hiss and curse” to entice him to “watch pornography” and “masturbate.”

The point, of course, was to train the participants how to choose chastity and to stand strong against sexual desire.

To be clear, this is only one documented instance. However, I would argue that it points to the Church’s current preoccupation with evil spirits and the need for priests to ritually remove that evil.

It is sobering that one seminary should choose to offer those training for a life of service and celibacy, a role-play of hissing demon impersonators, as a way to govern their conduct.

Medieval practices in today’s church?

Ascribing sexual desire to demonic temptation takes away the blame from the perpetrators. It puts the cause, the consequences, and questions of accountability into an invisible world populated by angels and demons, sin and repentance.

Suggesting that the offending priests were afflicted by demons is a version of “the devil made me do it.”

There is a second heartbreak. Many of the abused report feeling guilty, as if they had sinned themselves. I have heard from my own research participants that because sinning opens the door to more demons and more sin, then some abuse survivors think of themselves as being in relationships with personal demons and more vulnerable to demonic attack.

As investigations continue into the institutional factors allowing for this horrific abuse, it may also be pertinent to look into some of the intellectual and theological elements at the heart of the Catholic tradition.

For some branches of the Church, this includes the medieval world of demons.

Elizabeth McAlister, professor of religion, Wesleyan University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.