Tag Archive for African American Studies

Students, Faculty Perform West African Drumming and Dance

African Studies and Akwaaba Wes invited members of the Wesleyan community to a West African Music and Dance performance on Sept. 25 on the Rugby Practice Field. 

African Studies and the African Students’ Association (ASA) invited members of the Wesleyan community to a West African Music and Dance performance on Sept. 25 on the rugby practice field.

The socially-distanced event featured live student performances and a welcome message from the African Students’ Association.

The socially distanced event featured live student performances and a welcome message from the ASA.

Assistant Professor of Dance Iddi Saaka performed a solo dance. Saaka is teaching DANC 111: Introduction to Dance; DANC 260: West African Dance I; and DANC 360: West African Dance II this semester.

Assistant Professor of Dance Iddi Saaka performed a solo dance. Saaka is teaching DANC 111: Introduction to Dance; DANC 260: West African Dance I; and DANC 360: West African Dance II this semester.

John Dankwa, assistant professor of music, also performed a solo. Dankwa is teaching MUSC 300: Seminar for Music Majors and MUSC 446: West African Music and Culture this fall. 

John Dankwa, assistant professor of music, also performed a solo. Dankwa is teaching MUSC 300: Seminar for Music Majors and MUSC 446: West African Music and Culture this fall.

West African dance is a gateway to the cultures and ways of life of its people. It is the medium on which the very existence of the people is reinforced and celebrated. In this introductory course, students will learn the fundamental principles and aesthetics of West African dance through learning to embody basic movement vocabulary and selected traditional dances from Ghana. The physical embodiment of these cultures will be complemented with videos, lectures, readings, and discussions to give students an in-depth perspective on the people and cultures of Ghana. Students will also learn dances from other West Africa countries periodically.

The socially distanced event featured live student performances and a welcome message from the ASA.

The event was sponsored and organized by the Provost, the Fries Center for Global Studies, the Freeman Athletic Center, and Physical-Plant Facilities.

The event was sponsored and organized by the Provost, the Fries Center for Global Studies, the Freeman Athletic Center, and Physical-Plant Facilities. (Photos by Simon Duan ’23)

Black Lives Matter Events Celebrate History, Navigate Race Conversations

On Sept. 4, Student Activities and Leadership Development (SALD) hosted a four-part series of Black Lives Matter-themed workshops celebrating the contributions of the Black community at Wesleyan.

black lives matter

Alphina Kamara ’22 and Qura-Tul-Ain “Annie” Khan ’22 hosted the event’s opening remarks and provided an interactive history of racism at Wesleyan. Pictured, the students discuss the Fisk Hall Takeover, in which Black faculty, staff, and students took a stand against racism and occupied Fisk Hall on Feb. 21, 1969. Fisk Hall was one of the main academic buildings at the time.

The workshop was meant to inform, create conversation, promote activism, and persude participants to take action. "While we might seem so liberal, people still have certain views and having these conversations can help mitigate these views," Kamara said. 

The workshop was meant to inform, create conversation, promote activism, and persuade participants to take action. “While we might seem so liberal, people still have certain views, and having these conversations can help mitigate these views,” Kamara said.

Kamara and Khan discussed Wesleyan's first Black Lives Matter march in December 2014, where approximately 1,000 students, faculty, and staff marched through downtown Middletown as a show of solidarity with national protests against discriminatory treatment of blacks in the criminal justice system and incidents of police brutality.

Kamara and Khan discussed Wesleyan’s first Black Lives Matter march in December 2014, when approximately 1,000 students, faculty, and staff marched through downtown Middletown as a show of solidarity with national protests against discriminatory treatment of Blacks in the criminal justice system and incidents of police brutality.

In another workshop, members of the Wesleyan African Student Association spoke about their experience being Black on campus and shared advantages of being in the ASA group.In another workshop, members of the Wesleyan African Student Association spoke about their experience being Black on campus and shared advantages of being in the ASA group.

In another workshop, members of the Wesleyan African Student Association (ASA) spoke about their experience being Black on campus and shared advantages of being in the ASA group.

BLM

“ASA is my home away from home,” said Alvin Kibaara ’22 of Kenya. “It provides a space for me to relate to people who come from the same continent that I do, and we find similarities, and it gives you confidence.”

Sydney Ochieng '22 of Kenya said, "Coming to Wesleyan, being called a person of color, I didn't know what it really means. That in itself made me upset. I was given a label. At the end of the day, I'm African."

Sydney Ochieng ’22 of Kenya said, “Coming to Wesleyan, being called a person of color, I didn’t know what it really means. That in itself made me upset. I was given a label. At the end of the day, I’m African.”

The third workshop, titled "Did My Professor Just Say That?" focused on navigating race among conversations with college professors.

The third workshop, titled “Did My Professor Just Say That?” focused on navigating race in conversations with college professors.

"All of us are born and raised and living in systemic racism," said Candice Etson, assistant professor of physics. "So nobody is exempt from that.
 Remember we all went through this too. You can talk to us."

“All [faculty] are born and raised and living in systemic racism,” said Candice Etson, assistant professor of physics. “I had to deal with micro-aggressions and people … so nobody is exempt from that.
 Remember, we all went through this too. You can talk to us.”

 "I see myself engaged in long game. You know, in a, in an Epic struggle for, for human freedom, there's many front lines of battle.
There's many different strategies and tactics that have to be deployed
to overcome. So, you know, black folks, at least I'm speaking as a black person, we need to survive.

“I see myself engaged in a long game,” said Tony Hatch, associate professor of science in society. “In an epic struggle for human freedom, there are many front lines of battle. There are many different strategies and tactics that have to be deployed 
to overcome. So, Black folks, at least I’m speaking as a Black person, we need to survive.”

ted shaw

Keynote speaker Professor Theodore Shaw ’76, the Julius L. Chambers Distinguished Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Civil Rights at the University of North Carolina School of Law at Chapel Hill, was the fifth Director-Counsel and President of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., for which he worked in various capacities over the span of 26 years.

shaw

“The essence of the Black Lives Matter movement: It’s extraordinary that the simple statement that Black lives matter should provoke the reactions that it does. You know, all lives matter, you know, blue lives matter.
 I don’t know that there was any doubt about those other lives mattering. But we can look at American history and look at Black and Brown lives
 and they haven’t mattered in the same way.
”

 

Young ’88 Addresses the Severity of the COVID-19 Crisis for Black Americans

Al YoungAlford “Al” Young Jr. ’88 is the Arthur F. Thurnau Professor in the Department of Sociology and professor of Afroamerican and African studies at the University of Michigan. Young’s research focuses on low-income, urban-based African Americans, African American scholars and intellectuals, and the classroom-based experiences of higher-education faculty as they pertain to diversity and multiculturalism.

In this Q&A, Young addresses the severity of the COVID-19 crisis for black Americans, particularly in Michigan. Michigan is ranked fourth in the country for having the most coronavirus-related deaths (4,915+).

How has COVID-19 affected your research interests?

Alford “Al” Young Jr.: I have spent the better part of my career studying the plight of socioeconomically disadvantaged African American males who live in large or midsized cities. I am interested in their vision of how mobility unfolds in America, especially the extent to which that broader vision relates to their conceptions of personal possibilities for advancement. In doing this work I pay a lot of attention to how these men talk about perceived challenges, problems, and struggles concerning the effort to get ahead. They argue that some of these factors are created by others (racism, public fears of black men, etc.) and some were created by themselves (black-on-black violence, etc.).  The basic point of the research has been to assess how much whatever they imagine to be pathways forward are grounded in their broader understandings of pathways for Americans more generally. I seek to know whether they maintain distance or connection between how they think other Americans get ahead and how they think they might do so.

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.