Africana Studies Launch Reception

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Art by Nicole Freewalt

Emma Coffey ~ Staff Writer

     The new Africana Studies major at the University of Lynchburg will be launched on Tuesday, March 17, from 3 to 5 p.m. in the Flint Family Lobby in Schewel Hall.

     Dr. Lindsay Michie, associate professor of History  and co-chair of Africana Studies, said that she and fellow Co-Chair, Dr. Ghislaine Lewis, began brainstorming for ways to get the word out about the major and the launch party was one of those ideas. 

     According to Dr. Michie, invited guests will include faculty, staff, students and members of the community including Mayor Treney Tweedy and Community Organizer Leslie King. 

     She said the new major “answers some concerns that were raised in previous town hall meetings about diversity in the curriculum. It is set up to act like a bridge between the university and the Lynchburg community. The capstone course is an internship in the community and a number of courses emphasize community service and involvement.”

     According to Dr. Michie, if students major in this field, then they can stand out when obtaining employment in a diverse setting. She also said that it is easy to double major with this and that “it is a way of learning about our society and world from a different perspective than the standard one.”

     Dr. Robert Canida, diversity and inclusion officer, said, “As our beloved University continues to become an institution of inclusive excellence, having the Africana Studies major will definitely move us in the right direction. Additionally, students who enroll in this major will have a better world view of Africa, understand inequality on a whole different level, and be able to engage in outstanding learning experiences.”

     Dr. Chip Walton, associate provost and dean of General Studies, said, “I would argue that the Africana Studies major is an important addition to the university because it offers students an interdisciplinary opportunity to explore a neglected area of study that is imperative in our quest to have greater understanding of the ethnic and racial foundation of American society, in addition to the larger African diaspora. Africana Studies has the potential to offer a cultural critique of Eurocentrism and to give voice to those that may have been suppressed, oppressed, or in some cases, erased from history. I think it is important for students to be exposed to works such as W.E.B. Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk (1903), Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Maks (1952), Martin Bernal’s Black Athena (1987), and Bell Hooks’ Black Looks: Race and Representation (1992) to challenge hegemonic assumptions regarding history and culture.”

     Dr. Walton also said that Africana Studies will be housed under General Studies, which is under his purview as the Associate Provost and Dean of General Studies. Dr. Walton said, “I would encourage students to consider a major in Africana Studies because, like many liberal arts majors, students will acquire and develop the skills that will be critical for the contemporary workplace. I think Africana Studies students will be able to leverage their ability to shift perspectives and better navigate the organizations and diverse institutions in which they will work in the future. Ultimately, I think that Africans Studies will raise the cultural literacy, not only of the students who engage in this curriculum, but it will also contribute to the betterment of our institution.”

     Senior communications and criminology major, Darrian Geddis, aided in the initial survey to see if students were interested in the Africana Studies major being offered at the University. Geddis said that a major like this is important to the campus because of representation and “the curriculum as well, that allows students to study their heritage and celebrate their history.”

     Geddis also said students should major in this field “because of the diversity. They spread from history all the way to psychology giving a broad aspect to the African diaspora.”

     The Africana Studies major will be officially offered in the fall of 2020. Some of the classes included will be AFRS101 – Introduction to Africana Studies, AFRS 400 Capstone – Internship, Hist 243 Contemporary Africa, Psyc 243 Psychology of Diversity, and  many more.