Arcadia University will host a panel discussion with Cornel West, a prominent and provocative democratic intellectual, and Molefi Asante, an African-American scholar, historian and philosopher. The event takes place on Thursday, Oct. 25, at 6:30 p.m. in the Commons Great Room.
The panel discussion, “Who Is Responsible for Healing In Our Communities in Post-Modern Times?” will be moderated by Attorney Michael Coard, and includes Arthur C. Evans, the Philadelphia Commissioner for Behavioral Health, and Ama Mazama, a professor and linguist.
Register for the event online (http://west-asante.eventbrite.com) for a discounted rate ($20) or pay at the door ($25). For additional information contact Cecil A. Hankins, The Ark of Philadelphia, (215) 843-4673, or the BMDS hotline 215-572-8510. The event is free for Arcadia University students, faculty and staff with ID.
The event is sponsored by The Ark of Philadelphia, the Molefi Kete Asante Institute, the Black Male Development Symposium and Arcadia University’s Office of Institutional Diversity and Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice
Martin R. Delany (1812–1885) has been called the “Father of Black Nationalism,” but his extraordinary career also encompassed the roles of abolitionist, physician, editor, explorer, politician, army officer, novelist and political theorist.
Despite his enormous influence in the 19th century and his continuing influence on Black nationalist thought in the 20th century, Delany has remained a relatively obscure figure in U.S. culture, generally portrayed as a radical separatist at odds with the more integrationist Frederick Douglass. Moonstone Arts Center Director Larry Robin is leading the local commemoration of Delany’s 200th birthday in May.
“He is just the most amazing character to have been ignored by history,” Robin said. “He is incredibly important because while there were lots of people that were anti-slavery, he’s the first person, I think, who challenges the thinking behind it. He says the thinking is wrong. The whole paradigm of white supremacy, of race, is wrong. What he does, and the reason why he is the ‘Father of Black Nationalism,’ is that he embraces his Blackness.”
Delany was one of the first Black men to found a Black newspaper; be admitted to Harvard Medical School; negotiate a treaty with the Yoruba chiefs so African Americans could emigrate to Africa; write a novel and be an officer in the Union army.
“The arch of the idea of these 20 programs is here is a guy who is neglected by most history books,” Robin said. “But there’s more than that because now with DNA research we know there’s no biological basis of race, so what does that do to those definitions? What does that do to the concept of white supremacy? What does that do to the concept of Black Nationalism — if there is no race? But there is racism, and we still need to confront that.”
Moonstone Arts Center hosts Martin Delany Week which begins May 3. The “150 Years Challenging Racism” program speakers include Molefi Asante, Bill Ayers, Erica Armstrong, Robert Levine, Frank Meeink, Alondra Nelson, Ewuare Osayande, Clarence Page, Sonia Sanchez, Linn Washington and Tim Wise. Details on all this and more about Delany is available at www.moonstoneartscenter.org/martindelany or (215) 735-9600. There is also printed material at the Philadelphia Free Library.
With the passage of the Civil Rights act in 1964, and the Higher Education act of 1965, universities nationwide saw an exponential increase in the number of Black students.
With the influx of Black students, and the tumultuous nature of the times, activism inevitably followed.
According to Ibram H. Rogers, associate professor of history at SUNY-Albany, the Black Student Movement was born in the early 20th century, but its peak and ending spanned from the mid-’60s to the early ’70s.
“The ideal of diversity on a college campus barely existed before 1965,” said Rogers to a small gathering at the Molefi Kete Asante Institute on Germantown Avenue. “The exclusion of Blacks from higher education was standard.
“Universities had no diversity office, and few courses were offered in Black studies, even at HBCUs,” he added.
In his new book, “The Black Campus Movement: Black Students and the Racial Reconstitution of Higher Education,” Rogers, the graduate of Temple University’s African-American studies doctoral program, tracks the activity of Black student activism across the nation during this period.
During his lecture, Rogers explained how universities were dominated by “Eurocentric ideals,” and still are today. However, the activity of Black student activists ushered in an era when the idea of diversity was finally embraced.
“Activism spread across 49 states,” Rogers said. “Every state except for Alaska had some degree of Black student activism. This book is considered the first national study of the Black campus movement of the late ’60s.”
During the eight-year period from 1965 to 1973, Black Student Union groups sprang across hundreds of schools making demands and organizing protests.
Chief among their concerns, was the inclusion of Black studies in higher education. While reading an excerpt from the book, Rogers related an anecdote about Black students at Harvard demanding an autonomous department for Black studies.
“The demand for Black studies was a part of a larger movement,” Rogers said.
At the urging of student demands, universities began instituting courses in the Black experience, and hiring Black professors to teach them.
“We take many of these achievements for granted, but these changes had to be forced upon universities,” Rogers said.
Ama Mazama, provost of the Molefi Kete Asante Institute, and Rogers’ former teacher, said, “The Black student movement created a paradigm for African American studies, and that paradigm is Afrocentricity.”
Molefi Kete Asante, the institute’s namesake, and former participant in the Black Student Movement added, “We thought we were bringing in a revolution. We were emboldened by the likes of Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael.”
At historically Black colleges, where student activism was the strongest, students protested against what Rogers termed “moralized contraption” — that is strict regulations instituted at HBCUs in order to regulate the actions and schedules of students.
“Students at Black schools were subjected to strict dress codes — students were not allowed to hold hands walking across campus,” Rogers said. “Some HBCUs even had curfews for their students. Conservatism was a pervasive force at Black universities, as administrators assumed an almost paternalistic role in the lives of their students.”
Asked whether there is a need for another Black campus movement, Rogers responded, “Yes, I do think we need a new Black Student Movement,” he said. “There is an illusion of progress among Black people when it comes to their condition.”
In quieting critics and perhaps allaying the concerns of a riled-up undergraduate student body, Teresa Soufas, the dean of Temple University’s College of Liberal Arts, has announced Molefi Asante as the new chair of the university’s Department of African-American Studies.
Recently, Soufas came under attack for the sluggish pace in appointing an interim chair, and for selecting one that wasn’t African American. Asante’s appointment would seem to cure both.
By any standard, it would appear that Asante is the perfect candidate for the position, as Asante served as longtime professor within the department, focusing his curricula on Afrocentric theory, Diopian analysis and African civilizations, among other disciplines.
An accomplished and well-regarded author, Asante has written many subject-related books, including “Afrocentric Infusion for Urban Teachers,” “Erasing Racism,” “Speaking My Mother’s Tongue: Introduction to African American Language,” and “As I Run To Africa.” Asante also co-edited several books with Temple collegue Ama Mazama, including “Race, Rhetoric, and Identity: The Architecton of Soul,” “Erasing Racism: The Survival of the American Nation,” “Ancient Egyptian Philosophers,” “Scattered to the Wind,” “Custom and Culture of Egypt” and “100 Greatest African Americans.”
Deeply rooted in Afrocentric studies, Asante has travelled extensively throughout Africa, and has held similar African-centered posts at schools prior to Asante coming to Temple. Asante was chairman of the Department of Communication at State University of New York at Buffalo from 1973 to 1982, where he was also chairman of the Department of African Studies from 1977 through 1979.
Asante also served as Associate Professor, Department of Communication and Director at UCLA’s Center for Afro-American Studies from 1969 to 1973, where Asante is credited as founder of the Journal of Black Studies and created the African American Library. Asante served as advisor to the Black Student Organization during the 1968-69 academic years, when Asante was the assistant professor in Purdue University’s department of Communication.
“Asante has been recognized as one of the ten most widely cited African Americans. In the 1990s, Black Issues in Higher Education recognized him as one of the most influential leaders in the decade. Molefi Asante graduated from Oklahoma Christian College in l964. He entered Pepperdine soon afterwards and Asante completed his M.A. at Pepperdine University in l965. He received his Ph.D. from UCLA at the age of 26 in l968 and was appointed a full professor at the age of 30 at the State University of New York at Buffalo,” read an excerpt from Asante’s official biography. “He chaired the Communication Department at SUNY-Buffalo from l973-1980. He worked in Zimbabwe as a trainer of journalists from l980 to l982. In the fall of l984 Dr. Asante became chair of the African American Studies Program at Temple University where he created the first Ph.D. Program in African American Studies in 1987. He has directed more than 140 Ph.D. dissertations. He has written more than 500 articles and essays for journals, books and magazines and is the founder of the theory of Afrocentricity.”
A Temple University African-American Studies professor is alleging that an administrative decision made in early January to not renew his contract for the 2014-15 academic year was an act of retaliation for a protest he led in the spring of 2013.
Anthony Monteiro, Ph.D., an associate Professor and W.E.B. Dubois scholar, said he received a letter in early January from Temple’s Dean of College of Liberal Arts, Teresa Soufas, Ph.D., stating that effective June 2014, his professorship would be ending.
“This is a retaliatory act and firing for the [protest] we held to get Dr. Molefi Kete Asante as the chair of the [African-American Studies] department over her objections,” Monteiro said. “It’s nothing except her anger.”
The protest that Monteiro refers to is one he helped lead — with the participation of students and the community — against Soufas’ selection for chair of the African-American Studies department. Monteiro and other organizers lobbied to have Molefi Kete Asante, Ph.D., appointed to the position, and won. That was in the spring of 2013.
Later that year, in November, Soufas removed Monteiro from chairing doctoral dissertation committees. Monteiro said that was an act of retaliation as well because there were no bylaws that prohibited non-tenure and non-tenure track professors from chairing dissertation committees.
In that situation, Temple’s Associate Vice President for Executive Communications, Ray Betzner, said Soufas’ removal of Monteiro and other non-tenured and non-tenured track professors from chairing dissertation committees was not necessarily a rule or law, but enforcement of a university “administrative practice.”
When he received the January letter that said his contract would be renewed, Monteiro said he sought a reason why. He said Soufas did not tell him why she decided to terminate the contract. Instead, she referred him to the chair of the African-American Studies department, Dr. Asante.
In response to the claims of retaliation, Soufas stated:
“All decisions about the renewal of contracts of non-tenure-track faculty members are made jointly by department chairs and the dean’s office. Often when departments revise their curricula, it is necessary to change faculty resources in the non-tenure-track ranks to match the new course directions. Dr. Asante, the chairman of African-American Studies, is making some exciting curriculum changes in the department and wanted different fields of study to be covered by instructors.”
When contacted by the Tribune, Asante explained that Soufas “consulted” with him, informing him of her decision; and that was the limit of his involvement.
“The dean writes the letter when she wants to write a letter about anybody in the department,” Asante said. “Did she consult with me to tell me what she was going to do? Yes, she did. I didn’t provide any guidance at all. My position is he has a year to year contract and it’s up to the dean.”
Asante noted that a new addition to the curricula he has been considering for the African-American Studies department is “contemporary African-American culture,” but that he could not make a connection between Monteiro’s contract termination and such.
“I can’t make that connection,” Asante said, continuing that he was “not worried about” Monteiro’s contract not being renewed because it is year to year and that “there are scores of African-American people who could help us build this program. The thing you can’t worry about … if somebody signs a [year-to-year] contract and then get upset when someone says your year is up,” Asante said.
Others in the Temple community said there would be a void if Monteiro did not return for the next school semester.
“He is definitely somebody we need,” said Melanie McCoy, a senior African-American Studies major. “He has a very strong relationship with the community and students have genuine love for him. We all need different points of view and his is one we might lose. He is a piece to the puzzle.”
Temple University African-American Studies professor Anthony Monteiro, Ph.D, and a crowd of supporters at the 1199 C union office, demanded on Wednesday that he be reinstated to his departmental position. Monteiro’s contract was recently not renewed.
The professor and supporters – some of whom traveled from New Jersey, New York and Washington D.C. – denounced his non-renewal of contract as a retaliatory firing by Temple’s Dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Teresa Soufas, Ph.D, and stated they are willing to protest until the “injustice” is corrected.
“What North Philly are you talking about if you don’t stand up on this issue,” said Henry Nicholas, 1199c Union president. “It is bigger than Tony, [but] only if you know what time it is….Unless we are prepared to have some direction action we won’t [see] change and so if ever there was a time, the time is now.”
Supporters said the efforts made by Monteiro to better students’ knowledge of the African-American experience and the Black community were numerous and far too important for him to have been dismissed.
One of these efforts is the “Free Saturday School,” a weekly lecture and discussion for students focused on topics related to “philosophy, history, economics and literature.”
A Temple student, also a member of the activist organization People Utilizing Real Power (PURP), said Monteiro “was the best teacher I’ve ever had in my life; he is committed to the development of students to fight for justice.”
A petition addressed to Temple president Neil Theobold was circulated around the room, calling upon him to demand that Dean Soufas reinstate Professor Monteiro.
A separate online letter and petition has also been started to raise awareness and build support internationally.
“Educators for Mumia Abu Jamal and its coordinators drafted a letter explaining to the academic community the crisis here at Temple as it concerns Dr. Monteiro,” said Johanna Fernandez, professor of history at Baruch College for City University of New York (CUNY).
“And we explained very clearly the reason why this was a retaliatory firing. We also itemized all of Dr. Monteiro’s contributions — both intellectual and to the Temple community — and we circulated that among scholars and academics across the world. Within 48 hours we got this tremendous response from scholars who are familiar with Tony’s work academically and his commitment to the struggle for justice at the local level, and the names continue to come in.”
State Rep. Curtis Thomas, D-181, urged people to take persistent action because if Monteiro were to leave, it would be a loss to the community and Temple.
“You can’t have an African-American Studies department without African-American scholars who can bring the best flavor,” he said. “[And] you can’t find a growing population of Dr. Monteiro’s in North Philly. If you have not sent a letter or called, sometime in the upcoming days, do something to reiterate to the university [they’ve] made a bad decision.”
At press time, Soufas could not be reached for comment regarding the demands for reinstatement, and African-American Studies department chair Molefi Kete Asante, Ph.D, said he could not comment for legal reasons.
Supporters said their desire is that Temple meets the verbal demands they have presented, if not, they said they are prepared to continue the fight.
“We are going to hand out flyers so students can be aware of the issue and have calls into the president’s office,” said Kashara White, a Temple student and a member of the activist organization People Utilizing Real Power (PURP). “Our plans are to support Dr. Monteiro and the African-American community through any means. We are prepared to do whatever.”