A Message from Scott

Thumbnail image for Picture1.gifGreetings Alumni & Friends,

We are on the move this academic year. We know in research the ability to draw connections between fields, translate ideas into action, and spur practically-minded innovation is crucial. A quick visit to our website, www.aaas.umn.edu, and you can observe that faculty and staff are deeply involved with the continued exciting research and teaching that relates to the experiences of Africans in the diaspora. This focus has led to increased enrollment in classes and students majoring in African American & African Studies.

As alumni & friends, you sustain us. Throughout the year, many of you call or visit to share your successes with us. Your calls and visits help us to "keep on keeping on." Through you, we remain connected to the true purpose of our work: putting theory into practice to improve our communities. Please make it a priority this year to join us for department and university events. As always we look forward to your suggestions and continued engagement with the department. Our ability to continue on this path of growth means having our alumni friends engaged in our shared endeavors. We welcome and invite your presence.

We hope you enjoy this issue of The Village. Take special care and be well.

Author Patricia Smith to begin the NOMMO Series

P.Smith.jpgThe seventh annual NOMMO African American Authors series hosted and moderated by Alexs Pate will begin it's spirited dialogue journey with author Patricia Smith on November 6, 2010. Smith, lauded by critics as "a testament to the power of words to change lives," is the author of five acclaimed poetry volumes. Blood Dazzler, which chronicles the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Katrina, was a finalist for the 2008 national Book Award.

Smith's work has been published in Poetry, The Paris Review, TriQuarterly, and other literary journals/anthologies, and performed around the world. A four time individual champion in the National Poetry Slam-the most successful slammer in the competition's history. Smith has also been a featured poet on HBO's Def Poetry Jam and has performed three one-woman plays one produced by Nobel Prize winner Derek Walcott. Smith teaches in the Stonecoast MFA program at the University of Southern Maine and is a professor of creative writing at the City University of New York/College of Staten Island.

Faculty in the News

The following is an excerpt from Insight News by Professor Rose Brewer.

ethnicstudiesweek.jpg The right wing educational attack in Arizona expressed in the May 11 passage of HB 2281 banning the teaching of Ethnic Studies in all levels of education, k-12 through Higher Education, and new social standards by the Texas State Board of Education, confronts directly the historic struggles of people of color. These are attacks on our ability to tell our stories, to speak our truths, and to transform the curriculum regarding the history of the United States. These transformations in US education came from hard-fought struggles. From the 1968 Third World Strike at San Francisco State College resulting in the establishment of a Third World College, to the 1969 Morrill Hall Take Over by Black students at Minnesota and the struggles for American Indian and Chicano Studies on that campus, these fields emerged out of struggle.

Indeed, the Third World Strike at San Francisco State College might be called the borning struggle of contemporary Ethnic Studies in the academy. "On strike! Shut it down!" resonated on the campus from November 1968 to March 1969. This five-month strike, according to Helene Whitson, archivist of the San Francisco State College Strike Collection, was "longer than any other academic student strike in American higher education history." http://www.library.sfsu.edu/about/collections/strike/essay.html

It led to the creation of Third World College, which spawned hundreds of other Black, Chicano, Native and Asian Studies programs in the late 1960s.

The current period demands that the struggle continues since present political realities have everything to do with whether African American, Chicano/a, Native American and Asian Studies will survive. Let us not forget either that the buying and selling of Black bodies, African men, women and children, the seizing of Native, Latino/a and Asian lands and labor have been constants in the crafting of the United States as a nation.  HB 2281 reconnects to this history of exploitation with its passage by attempting to erase the history of people of color in the US. Not surprisingly, it has emerged during a period of intensified racism, xenophobia and anti-immigrant hostilities and practices. While attention has been rightfully focused on the draconian anti-immigration policies in Arizona, this attack on Ethnic Studies is another key feature in our struggle for educational and social justice in the US and globally.

In short, these are chilling times for peoples of color. The Ethnic studies programs, departments, centers in this country cannot / must not rest easily. The Ethnic Studies project has been named in conservative public discourse as the site of political divisiveness. Our status is fragile within the white academy that dominates higher education and K-12 , as institutional decisions too often embrace this logic. While those of us in Ethnic Studies have chastised and railed against conservatives, in fact, we face a neo-liberal reality where liberal and conservative sensibilities merge. The attacks on the conceptual playing fields of Ethnic Studies are matched by the politics of retreat and efforts to dismantle the fields altogether.

The perennial question for Ethnic Studies programs is why are we here? How must we connect to our students and wider constituencies? The Ethnic Studies paradigm is rooted in critique of Eurocentrism. The key actors who founded Ethnic Studies were young men and women of color who refused to accept their educational erasure. The Ethnic Studies task today remains the decolonization of knowledge, educating and creating the institutional basis for sustaining these fields. Most importantly, our task is refusing to be brought into the circle of domination that keeps injustice alive. No doubt, the attack on Ethnic Studies is one expression of an especially difficult set of inequalities in the US: the dismantling of living wages, intensified poverty, the destruction of welfare state supports which reach the poorest women and children in this country, and the mass incarceration of hundreds of thousands Black and Brown men and women. This is happening in the context of global economic exploitation. These retreats from social justice are part and parcel of the same logic that led to HB 2281. Our struggle continues.

Atkins.jpgIn this course Professor Atkins will examine the social and cultural contexts surrounding eras of athletes such as Jack Johnson, Jackie Robinson, Joe Louis, Jesse Owens, Althea Gibson, Wilma Rudolph, Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, and Tiger Woods. The impact of these athletes on national and international events will also be examined. The course also explores periods when it was not uncommon for black entertainers and athletes to become involved in politics and community activism.

Quote of the Month

"Every one of us gets through the tough times because somebody is there, standing in the Oprah.jpggap to close it for us."

Oprah Winfrey

Upcoming Events

Community Health Fair

Date: October 15, 2010

Time: 1:00pm - 3:00pm

Location: 953 Olson Memorial Highway, Minneapolis

Cost: Free

Students from Summit Academy OIC host a Community Health Fair to educate low-income community residents and minorities about a variety of health issues including diabetes, heart disease, low birth weight prevention, STD's and obesity.

A Night of Shining Stars Gala

Date: October, 23 2010

Time: 5:00pm

Location: Hilton Garden Inn, 411 Minnesota Street St. Paul

Cost: $50.00 a person

For more information or to order tickets go to www.aabcainc.org

The African American Breast Cancer Alliance is celebrating its 20 year anniversary with a celebration of cancer survivors. Reception, Awards, Dinner, Celebration Dancing.

Urban Bush Women: Zollar Uncensored

Date: October 24, 2010

Time: 7:00pm

Location: Ted Mann Concert Hall University of Minnesota West Bank

Cost: $27.00 $37.00 $47.00 To purcahse tickets go to www.northrop.umn.edu

Through a special partnership with Northop Auditorium the Dept of AA&AS will provide a total of 10 free tickets to African American & African Studies alumni women. Tickets will be distributed on a first come first served basis. Conact Scott Redd at redd0002@umn.edu.

An evocative journey of Jawole's creative history from 1984 to the present. Jawole chose sections of works that speak to her early investigations into eroticism, sensuality, and the reclaiming of the broken parts of the self after trauma. This is a tribute to all of the women who have been Urban Bush Women.

NOMMO African American Authors Series: Patricia Smith

Date: November 3, 2010

Time: 7:00pm

Location: Cowles Auditorium, Hubert H. Humphrey Center, University of Minnesota

Cost: $15.00

To order tickets go to www.tickets.umn.edu

A Message from Scott

Communication is always a major challenge for any organization. As a department how do Thumbnail image for Picture1.gifwe let people know what is going on, what our plans are, what we need them to do, and where we are going? In the Department we believe communication can always improve. In 2009, we
launched two new communication links, joining the worlds of Facebook and Twitter.

Along with The Village, these communication links will allow the Department to post ideas and information for you to think about and comment if you so desire. Please be sure to become a friend of the Department on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and as always share these links with your friends and colleagues.

There is so much going on in the world and on campus. I hope you find the Departments communication efforts are a good way for us to share thoughts and stay connected with you and I look forward to hearing from you.

Take special care and be well.

Faculty Spotlight: Professor John S. Wright

Prof. Wright.jpgDR. JOHN S. WRIGHT Morse-Amoco Distinguished Teaching
Professor of Afro-American & African Studies and English at the University of Minnesota. Born in Minneapolis Wright received degrees in three different fields from the University of Minnesota his Ph.D. (1977, American Studies), M.A., (1971, English and American Literature), and B.E.E. (1968, Electrical engineering). Before leaving the University in 1973 to develop a program in Afro-American & African Studies at Carleton College, he participated in the student movement that helped found its Martin Luther King Program and its Department of Afro-American & African Studies. While chairing the Afro-American & African Studies Program at Carleton from 1974-82, he spent research leaves at Harvard and Atlanta Universities, and in 1977 directed a study program in London on postcolonial literatures in English. He returned to the University of Minnesota to chair the Department of Afro-American & African Studies from 1984-89 and 1995-96.

He has twice been appointed a Research Associate at Harvard University's W.E.B. Dubois Institute (1982 and 1991), and was a member of its Working Group on Black Intellectual History from 1991-93. In 1991 he was also Scholar in Residence at the Schomburg Research Center in Harlem. His scholarly research and writing focuses on the literary, cultural and intellectual history of the African diaspora and on the meanings of American cultural pluralism. Representative publications include A Ralph Ellison Festival, a 1980 special volume of The Carleton Miscellany, co-edited with poet Michael Haper; the major catalog essay for the Harlem Renaissance exhibit, A Stronger Soul Within a Finer Frame: Portraying African-Americans in the Black Renaissance (1990); and an extended essay on African American intellectual life commissioned for the multivolume Encyclopedia of African American History and Culture (1995).

He is the Principal Scholar for the Archie Givens, Sr. Collection of African American Literature and Life, a nationally acclaimed archive of Afro-Americana, and its Harlem Renaissance national touring exhibit, originally sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities. He currently serves as Principal Scholar for a traveling exhibition project, Say It Loud: The Black Arts Movement and American Culture 1960-1975. He leads a variety of Givens Collection teacher training and community outreach projects, helps sponsor poetry and fiction readings and conferences. A former board member of the Minnesota Humanities Commission, and a former Lila Wallace Consulting Scholar for the Tyrone Gurthrie Theater ( in which capacity he fostered the Gurthrie production of Theodore Ward Big White Fog and its adaptation of George Schuylers Black No More), he is a continuing Advisory Board member of Penumbra Theater in St. Paul -- August Wilsons theatrical home for many years. Selected honors include his being named a CLA Scholar of the College of 1987-89, and being awards the Bush Foundation Leadership Fellowship in 1990. In 1994 the University of Minnesota Alumni Association made him an inaugural member of its teacher Hall of Fame.

PSA's Students Making the Difference

Health disparities based on race and socioeconomic status are a critical issue facing both our state and nation today. In order to begin addressing these disparities, it is important that young voices from African American communities are adequately represented in the field of public health as individuals willing to expose the truth about this injustice and to effectively communicate vital health messages to diverse audiences.

In the Department of African American & African Studies, we are continually looking for ways to expose young people to the vast resources of a public research institution, our partners and the role they can play as future leaders.

With the explosion in popularity of YouTube and the expertise and inventiveness of young people in creating their own videos, the Department of African American & African Studies, the School of Public Health and African Health Action Corporation developed a project called "Taking Control". Taking Control will partner high school students from North Community High School with (1) graduate student from the School of Public Health, (1) undergraduate student from the Department of African American & African Studies and (1) staff member from African Health Action Corporation. The team will develop a public service announcement (PSA) of 30 seconds or less that creates public health awareness in communities of color; specifically the African and African American communities.

The project will offer both access and mentorship opportunities to North Community High School students. Students involved in the project will receive supplemental education about developing effective messages and then actually conceptualize and craft their own PSAs under the guidance of current University of Minnesota students. The partnership will create awareness of career pathways available that project participants might not have had direct exposure to otherwise. Finally the Department want to make it "cool" to be healthy. Research shows the academic success of students is strongly linked to their health. It is our goal that this project jump starts a movement of student associations dedicated to making healthy choices.

African Americans are "America's metaphor," Richard Wright declared, posing both a riddle and a riff that together reverse conventional perspectives and intimate how we might discover in the shadows of American literary life our brightest mirrors. Following his lead, Professor Wright will help students to "see ourselves"--and the paradoxes and potentialities of our national experience--through the world of words and images conjured up over the past two centuries by African American writers. In the course, Professor Wright will employ a cornucopia of literary texts, oral traditions, audiovisual materials, and internet resources to bring the figures of black literary tradition out of the shadows and under an extended exploratory gaze. Understandably, African American literature evolved as a heavily committed tradition with both ancient African and Euro-American antecedents. Much of its mythological system and special equipment for living has been built on the communal base of the most elaborate vernacular tradition in American English--epic tales and legends, spirituals, blues, work songs, ballads, rhymed toasts, riddles, proverbs, jazz, jokes, and the rhetoric of rap music. During the semester, students will be lead forward from pre-modern Africa itself and the era of the earliest African American literary works. 18th and 19th century slave autobiographies, oral folk texts, abolitionist essays, orations and poems on to the contemporary period of literature marked by burgeoning diversity and modernist innovation, by growing critical acclaim, and by the Jazz Age politico-aesthetic art movement known as the Harlem Renaissance.