Recently in September 2010 Category

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.

The following is an excerpt from the Twin Cities Daily Planet by Mary Turck

austin_9537_100.jpgThe Twin Cities metro area has the biggest disparity in black-white unemployment rates of any major metropolitan area in the country. What is going on here?

That's the question addressed by Dr. Algernon Austin, author of the Economic Policy Issues brief that presented the research on national disparities in unemployment by race. He spoke at a "leadership session" organized by the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability at in St. Paul on September 1.

Austin sliced, diced and dissected the numbers from a dozen studies, and came up with three reasons for the disparity. The first reason - plain, old racial discrimination - has a lot to do with the nationwide racial disparity in unemployment. The second two reasons - a high dropout rate and a young labor force - have more to do with why the Twin Cities has a worse record than other cities.

First, racial discrimination in hiring is still a major factor across the country, and in the Twin Cities as well.

Austin cited an African American proverb: "You've got to work twice as hard to get half as far as a Black person in white America." Study after study shows that white job applicants are more likely to be hired than black applicants, even when all qualifications are equal. The most convincing studies - such as a 2001 study in Milwaukee - match pairs of researchers, one white and one black, for similar characteristics and train them to present information in similar ways. When black and white applicants with identical qualifications applied for jobs, the positive employer response- being called in for an interview or offered a job on the spot - was 34 percent for white applicants and 14 percent for black applicants.

Some pairs of applicants were instructed to show criminal records on their applications. For these applicants, 17 percent of white applicants with criminal records received a positive response - higher than the positive response for black applicants with no criminal records.

Austin cited other studies and results in cities across the country - all showing that racial discrimination in hiring persists across the country.

Second, the Twin Cities has a higher high school dropout rate for African Americans and lack of education is a major contributor to unemployment.

The higher dropout rate, however, raises its own question: Why is the dropout rate high for African American youth in the Twin Cities?

While this may be a partial explanation for the difference in unemployment rates, it's only part of the picture.

For example, African Americans with a high school diploma or GED were three times as likely to be unemployed as whites with the same level of education. Even if blacks had the exact same educational profile as whites in Minneapolis, they would still have a much higher unemployment rate.

Not that this is only a Minneapolis, or Minnesota, problem. Austin cited national studies conducted prior to the current recession, which showed that African Americans with some college or an associate degree have unemployment rate similar to those of white high school dropouts.

The relatively young age of the African American labor force in the Twin Cities is also a factor, because younger people have higher unemployment rates.

Younger people have a higher unemployment rate than older workers. A higher percentage of African Americans are younger workers. But that's still only a partial factor. "Even if the black and white populations were identical in high school dropout rates and in their age distribution, there would still be a big difference in unemployment rates," concluded Austin. "People working to improve the employment opportunities for black workers should not underestimate the resistance to hiring."

Two local panels responded to Austin's presentation.

"We have to have race-conscious solutions," said Jermaine Toney, of the Organizing Apprenticeship Project. "We talk about racial disparities, but we nee to talk about race-conscious solutions, so that solutions do not end up reinforcing disparities. ... We have to get racial equity a s a standard of government effectiveness."

Solutions that address the problems of one in five African American males who have criminal records are crucial, said Sarah Walker, of 180 Degrees and the Second Chance Coalition. As a first step, she said, the "ban the box" legislation that says public sector employers cannot ask about criminal records in the first steps of the application process needs to be extended to private employers as well.

State Representative Bobby Joe Champion said that we need to "enforce local laws already on the books - that's part of the solution." Ramsey County Commissioner Toni Carter also called for attention to hiring in the Central Corridor LRT project.

Quote of the Month

Nikki Giovanni "It is not who you attend school with but who controls the school you attend." Nikki Giovanni

Upcoming Events


Date: September 9, 2010
Time: 7:30pm
Location: Trylon Microcinema

3258 Minnehaha Ave. S
Mpls, MN

Cost: $10:00 To register go to

In tribute to the late director Charllotte Zwerin Join JAZZ88 for Thelonious Monk - Straight No Chaser. Straight, No Chaser provides an intelligent portrait of this often reclusive, sometimes difficult artist, including telling glimpses of his volatility. Perceptive interviews and glimpses of Monk's sunnier moments provide added depth, yet the real triumph is the generous catalog of classic Monk songs captured on camera.
Limited to 50 attendees.

"Know Your Numbers" Health Fair

Date: September 18, 2010
Time: 10:00am - 1:00pm
Location: Mount Olivet Baptist Church
451 Central Ave.
St. Paul, MN

Cost: Free

Promoting healthy lifestyles by empowering people through education and screenings, while creating increased awareness of community resources that are available to individuals and families.

Traditional Congolese & Afro Folk Dance
Date: September 18, 19, 20
Time: Saturday 18 1:00pm - 2:30pm
Sunday 19 1:00pm - 2:30pm
Monday 20 6:30pm - 8:00pm
Location: Hennepin Center for the Arts Studio
Suite 2A 528 Hennepin Ave
Mpls, MN

Cost: Pre-registration offer $14.00/Class, $17.00 drop in. Pre-registration ends
September 12.

For more information and to pre-register please visit

Minneapolis City Council

Date: September 27, 2010

Time: 7:00pm - 8:30pm

Location: UROC
Room 105
2001 Plymouth Avenue North
Minneapolis, MN

Open to the public.

5th Ward community meeting.