Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Opportunities for Africology and African American Studies education at Eastern Michigan University

By Victor O. Okafor, Ph.D.
Professor and Head of Department
Dear EMU Student:

Are you aware that the Department of Africology and African American Studies here at Eastern Michigan University offers several academic programs and General Education courses that are designed to help enrich your learning  experience in a way that could better prepare and equip you with knowledge and skills for effective functioning in a world of diverse peoples and cultures?

Are you aware that we offer a bachelor’s degree program in African American Studies which is open to ALL students, regardless of your country of origin, racial, ethnic, or gender classification? Indeed, our students—that is, students who traffic through our myriad of courses each semester—represent a diverse group of learners who come here to join us in our often exciting critical and systematic exploration of the black experience in its domestic and global contexts.

So, besides our 33-credit Major in African American Studies, we also offer a 21-credit Minor in African American Studies, a 12-credit Undergraduate Certificate in African Studies and a 15-credit Graduate Certificate in African American Studies. We also encourage students to double-major in African American Studies and any other discipline of their choice that can fit into the 124 minimum number of credits that you need in order to earn a bachelor’s degree at Eastern Michigan University.

Every semester, we provide a mix of course sections that pertain to not only multidimensional aspects of black life and culture in the United States but also to the Caribbean and Africa. Thus, Africology is designed to provide you with a holistic understanding of the global black experience even though we accord a historically-necessary premium attention to the African American experience in the New World, particularly the United States.

Going back to history, we can recall that there was a distant time in human history when "our world" consisted of our village and destinations to which our most natural means of movement, namely our feet, could take us. At that ancient pre-historic time, our ancestors most likely did not even know that what they thought constituted the totality of their world, was simply a microscopic snippet of it to which they were confined by their limited horizon. Human civilization ultimately achieved greater self-awareness, and advanced technologically away from that simplistic mode of existence and that simplistic horizon to efficient and complex machines, including motor vehicles, watercraft, aircraft, the telephone, and now the internet, as means of expanded and quicker transportation and instantaneous human interaction and human communication. Thus, we now talk in terms of a global village connected by instantaneous modes of personal and mass communications. For Black Studies, one of the implications of all these technological transformations in human existence is a fact that our students are bound to be ill-served and ill-prepared by a tunnel vision of the black experience—that is, one that is simply local and simply domestic. Hence, for our students to be reasonably and optimally equipped to function in a world of diverse peoples and cultures that is increasingly inter-connected by instantaneous digital communications and creeping socioeconomic globalization, including our own heterogeneous society marked by an inevitable diverse work environment, they, in effect, deserve exposure to an Africological scope of inquiry—that is, a global vision of the black experience.

Easily remembered as the father of Black Studies, W.E.B. DuBois was a champion of a broadly-based and worldly educational experience. As he articulated it in The Souls of Black Folk, educational outcomes should include “… intelligence, broad sympathy, knowledge of the world that was and is, and of the relation of men [and women] to it” (quoted in Mullane, 1993, p. 392).[1] In terms of the New World, he posed the following challenge to educators: The problem of education … among [African Americans] must first of all deal with … the problem of developing the Best of this race that they may guide the Mass away from the contamination and death of the Worst, in their own and other races” (quoted in Mullane, 1993, p. 382).

DuBois could not be more correct. Liberal arts education is meant to open minds, not close or contract them. Education is meant to enlighten and broaden our horizons, not cause atrophy.

Thus, in our increasingly-globalized social and digital space, you stand to benefit from and be intellectually strengthened by a course of study which, among other learning outcomes, is designed to help you achieve a deep or deeper understanding of human equality in the context of human differences and commonalities as members of the same human species.

If you have not had a taste of what we offer, you are really not opening yourself up to a rich opportunity that exists here at EMU for you to acquire a critical understanding of race, its intersection with ethnicity and gender, and how race, in particular, influenced the social evolution of our heterogeneous society.

Avail yourself of an opportunity to acquire a critical knowledge of and perspective on how our society evolved from what was once a slave-owning state to what it is now: a country led by a President elected from a minority community of contemporary African Americans, most of whom are descendants of ancestors who were subjected to two hundred and forty-six years of African enslavement in the United States (1619-1865).

Avail yourself of an opportunity to critically learn about how the afore-mentioned transformation consequentially gave a concrete meaning to our ideal of freedom and how it also expanded our democratic space and strengthened our system of representative governance. And, avail yourself of an opportunity to critically learn about how a stratagem of non-violent direct action serves as a tool for positive social change.

So, to summarize, here at EMU, we have available for you a variety of learning options by which you can experience Africology and African American Studies:
  • You have a choice of choosing African American Studies as your major;
  •  you have a choice of double-majoring in African American Studies and another discipline;
  • you have a choice of choosing African American Studies as your minor;
  • you have a choice of using our African American Studies courses to satisfy some areas of EMU’s General Education program, such as AFC 101 Introduction to African American Studies, US Diversity; AFC 102 Introduction to African Civilization, Global Awareness; AFC 232 Politics in the African American Experience, US Diversity; AFC 244 Dimensions of Racism, Knowledge of the Disciplines, Social Science & Global Awareness; AFC 313 Contemporary Africa: the Struggle & Prospects for Development, Global Awareness; AFC 302W Writing for African American Studies, Intensive Writing; and AFC 351 the Social Context of African American Health, Knowledge of the Disciplines, Social Science;
  • you have a choice of completing a 12-credit certificate in African Studies;
  • you have a choice of completing a 15-credit graduate certificate in African American Studies;
  •  you have a choice of using available African American Studies course sections to complete the “free electives” for your bachelor’s degree; and
  •  as we speak, we are in the process of finalizing a proposal for a Master’s degree in Africology and African American Studies.

Take note that though we are known as Africology and African American Studies here at EMU, our field of study goes by a variety of names across US universities, such as Africology, Black Studies, African World Studies, Global African Studies, Pan-African Studies, Black American Studies, and Africana Studies.

In closing, are you aware that on our departmental website, you will find a link that opens up information on various types of careers that were established by individuals who graduated with degrees in African American Studies: http://www.emich.edu/aas/blackstudiesmajor2015.pdf?

Our website and Facebook pages also contain additional information about our department, its academic programs and a colorful list of our students’ dynamic community engagement activities: http://www.emich.edu/aas/programs.phphttps://www.facebook.com/News-about-Africology-Current-AAS-Majors-Minors-Cert-Students-Alumni-364720703546024/timeline/

[1] For more on this, go to Mullane, Deirdre. (Ed.). (1993). W.E.B. Du Bois from the The Souls of Black Folk (1903). Crossing the danger water: Three hundred years of African American writing. New York: Doubleday.