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.”