The DPAS Niche Report
 

   I. Black Studies/Pan African Studies (BLST/PAS), as an informal activity, is two centuries old in this country, traceable to the founding of the first Black Churches in America The African Baptist (1750) and African Methodist Episcopal (1787) and the articulations of their doctrines, and in the writings of early Black intellectuals like Richard Allen, Daniel Payne and David Walker. BLST/PAS began to take shape as a formal area of study a century ago, with the establishment of the American (Black) Academy in 1897, and the introduction of courses that treated the literature, history and culture of people of African descent into the curricula of Morehouse, Fisk and Howard Universities, a decade and a half later. Today, Black Studies Departments around the nation are unlike other traditional departments. The former are gener- ally younger having usually come into existence only within the last three decades. These Departments are products of the modern Civil Rights Struggle and the Black Consciousness Movement. As such these Departments have a dual mission one academic, and the other social. The Pan African Studies Department (DPAS) at KSU, like its counterparts around the nation, is holistic, multidisciplined, interdisciplinary and multifaceted in its structure and pro- gram.

Initially, this field of studies consisted of literature, history, culture, and the study of the social, political and religious life of the African Descendant, primarily, with the work of a few notable exceptions like Melville J. Herskovits and Zora Neale Hurston. In recent decades, however, research, and therefore curricula, have expanded deeply into the more traditional disciplines like archaeology, anthropology, biology (especially genetics), physics, engineering, linguis- tics, etc. Traditionally, this field of study has been localized, primarily, to a few disciplines within the Humanities and Social Sciences. Today this field of study is vectored toward the Natural Sciences and deeper into the other two Academic Divisions.

  II. Trends in this area of study are affected by several factors: Developments within the uni- versity; circumstances within the Black Community; and Research in the field. After a period of decline, ''there appears to be a resurgence of interest and activity in the development of Black Studies Programs/Departments around the nation. This is tired directly to: increased interest among -- current and potential students in the area; an explosion of research in the area over the last two decades; shifting conditions in the social, economic and political life of Black America; and a large increase in the need for experts in the market places of material goods and ideas, who have knowledge in this area. As this area of study matures, and begins to take its place in the curricula of major universities, we witness the growth of graduate pro- grams, which is a clear sign of recognition and respect for this legitimate area of research and study.

Black Studies Departments, in general, and this Department, in particular, continue to contri- bute to the various national, regional and local discussions on the issues that emerge from the educational enterprise (K-PhD). Furthermore, as Colleges of Education, around the nation, begin to realize that they need to expand their curricula to include meaningful and strategic content about the history and culture of Black Americans, and other non-Whites, and then move positively to do something about it, then there will be greater collaboration between those

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Colleges and these Departments (the location of the experts in these fields), and greater opportunities for students in these areas. DPAS continues to provide a sound and reasoned voice of expertise on these issues.

The scholarship in this area continues to challenge the old models and static orthodoxy of the academy. New research contributes new insights into all the traditional disciplines of the Social Sciences, Humanities and Art. In doing so it is causing researchers throughout these fields to rethink assumptions, their work, its implication and the entire academic enterprise how it functions, its structure, purpose and mission. Moreover, the trends in Black Studies/ Pan African Studies have a domino effect on other non-traditional disciplines, as well. They provide an example and insight for such areas as Women's Studies and other Ethnic Studies programs/departments.

Nationally, there is increased interest in this area of study, and we see the same here at KSU.

 III. The structure of DPAS includes two subunits and another multidiscipline [sic] component: 1) The Center for Pan African Culture, which houses the African Community Theatre (ACT) and the Uumbaji Gallery; 2) the Institute for African American Affairs, which is the research arm of the Department, and primarily responsible for extramural production; and 3) the Com- munication Skills Component a the joint program between the English Department and DPAS which has as its main goal the development of reading and writing skills of the stu- dents that take courses from this Department, by using the literature of the Black Experience. The idea here is to fuse familiar materials that will help in the transition from one cultural experience to another. Fran Dorsey is the Director of CPAC, and Diedre Badejo is the Director of IAAA. Both report to the Chair of DPAS.

CPAC is a multifaceted operation. It provides socio-cultural educational programs, which includes theatrical and other performance programs each semester. Additionally, it organizes lectures and contributes to the overall Outreach Program of the Department. The African Com- munity Theatre is required to stage two plays, minimally, per academic year. The individuals involved include students, community people, and sometimes other faculty and staff. The plays performed represent a slice of the Black Experience. They sometime [sic] involve social commentary, but are always intended to be part of the learning experience of the students that participate.

IAAA is the oldest part of the Department. It was originally established over two decades ago, and later developed into what is now called DPAS. Its function has become more specific and focused. It is now the subunit that is primarily responsible for encouraging scholarship, organ- izing research projects that are Departmental, and in some cases, interdepartmental in scope. IAAA has sponsored conferences, published scholarly monographs, written grants and con- ducted other activities that tend to encourage research and scholarship between colleagues, colleagues and students, both on and off this campus.

The Communication Skills and Arts Component combines English faculty with the DPAS faculty that teaches the Black Experience courses. They meet regularly, and coordinate their courses. Chris McVay is the coordinator of this component, and she works closely with Tim Moore who

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coordinates the Black Experience courses. The marriage between these two areas is an example of the holistic approach that we take in this Department toward education.

DPAS is broader than these component parts, however. It maintains a major and minor, and a curriculum of courses that reflects its dual mission. It has the same academic mission as other Departments in the College of Arts and Sciences, and across the University. The goals and mission of the University are reflected in those of this Department. Because of the incom- pleteness of the curriculum and programming of most predominantly White Universities in this country, this Department has a unique function in helping the University provide a more com- prehensive body of courses, slate of majors and minors and programs that will not only reflect the true development of the history and cultures of this diverse society of ours, but which will help students obtain a more relevant, useful and authentic education one that will be abso- lutely necessary to their success in the much larger multicultural and multiracial world, once they leave the campus as well. The curriculum of DPAS adds greater depth and richness to the general curricula of the both the College and University.

DPAS, through its various lecture series, and cooperative endeavors with other units around campus, bring [sic] in speakers, performers, artists, etc. local, regional and national/inter- national who expand the life of the university, broaden the educational experience of stu- dents, and contribute to the scholarly discussions of our colleagues. Moreover, this Depart- ment has an Outreach Program that addresses its second mission. Because of the many pro- blems, historically, that have confronted the Black Community in America, and because of the unique origin of Departments like DPAS born in struggle against injustice, neglect and over- sight there is a community expectation, and a sense of obligation on the part of the mem- bers of these Departments, to get involved with finding meaningful and lasting solutions to the array of problems this Community faces. This has entailed providing service to the community: by getting involved with committees, organizations and agencies whose efforts are designed to improve life in that community; by working with the public school system (K-12); by being a resource to the community, and providing expertise to the larger community on issues that affect us all; etc. The service component in DPAS is large, in that faculty are expected to pull a double duty in this area part to the university and part to the community.

DPAS has nine faculty members, trained in various disciplines. Because DPAS is multidisci- plined there are natural pathways into other Departments on this campus. Currently we have faculty that are trained and do research in the disciplines of Literature/English, Communica- tions/Theatre, Art/Graphic Design, African Languages, Education, Political Science, Philo- sophy/Theology. We are attempting to build bridges into these, and other areas of the Univer- sity, through cooperative endeavors, meetings and various other exchanges with colleagues from these Departments, and in other areas of the University. We also have working relation- ships with the Honors College, College of Continuing Studies, Hillel Jewish Student Center, and other units on this campus.

Five members of the faculty have been working in DPAS 6 years or less. The other four have been on board more than a decade. Two members are in the area of Literature (Badejo and Okantah); two have been trained in the areas of Communication (Barnes and Dorsey) the latter 

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is Director of CPAC; one is an artist (Moore); another's discipline is Education (Rowser), while the other two (Temu and Nantambu) are trained in the areas of Languages and Political Science, respectively. My own training is in the area of Philosophy. Most of us have expanded our research and teaching into other disciplines. As mentioned earlier, the curriculum of this Department in particular, and Black Studies, in general, is multidisciplined and interdisciplin- ary. Hence, most of us cut across the discipline in our research and courses. It is part of the . philosophy of this Department that teaching and learning can not be compartmentalized, but rather, knowledge is connected across the barriers of discipline, and it is easier to make sense of the world, and the human experience, when we see these connections. Moreover, effective instruction requires a grasp of subject matter within a multidisciplined and interdisci- plinary context.

 IV. The faculty of DPAS has changed significantly over the last 6 years. We are at the dawn of a new day for this Department. This Department is currently poised to make the transition to the next level, viz., graduate studies and increased scholarly/creative productivity. The first decade and a half (two and a half decades, actually), was spent building the Department, establishing it as a legitimate enterprise and field of study. The next phase must involve build- ing upon what has already been established. This will require new relationships, a new way of thinking about the Department and its old relationships, a new approach to promoting the Department and accomplishing its legitimate goals, professional development of the faculty, a review and revision of the curriculum, etc. The time is right for the Department to completely reexamine itself.

DPAS' faculty are diverse in their areas of research and scholarship. Furthermore, the faculty have taken different paths in the fulfilment of their academic duties and responsibilities. Some are researchers, while others are primarily teachers. Both approaches are recognized, valued and supported by this Department. DPAS values teaching equally to traditional scholarship. Service is also valued highly in this Department. However, the demands of graduate studies will require that all faculty be significantly involved in research and scholarship.

Over the next 5-10 years it is expected that the graduate program will have been put into place, the curriculum will have been revised, the LER list of courses will have been expanded, the Department spaces will have become more modernized with current technology, and the physical plant will have been renovated. All of these areas are in need of strong support.

  V. In order for DPAS to advance academically to the next level, where it will join the ranks of nearly every other major Department within the College of Arts and Sciences by establishing a sound and attractive graduate program, and to continue as one of the most respected Depart- ments in the nation, it is necessary to receive support in the following manner . .

      1) It is important that ORH be given the priority necessary to assure capital funds alloca- tion sufficient for complete renovation. This should be done as quickly as possible.

      2) The continued professional development of the faculty will require that they all have computers in their offices, with access to the INTERNET. Currently four faculty members do not have the modern equipment that is found in most offices around this campus. DPAS needs four additional

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computers ASAP for these individuals. INTERNET access is also crucial to the work of stu- dents in our Computer lab. The assignment of research papers require that students be able to retrieve information using the new technology.

      3) Many of our classes have multimedia needs. As the recent equipment request indi- cated, support in this area is a high priority for DPAS. I should also add that aged office equip- ment has now begun to malfunction in a manner that is hampering the operation of the Depart- ment. We have an urgent need for a new copier.

      4) The LER courses of the Department generally fill up each semester. There are increas- ing demands for these courses. Additional support to enlarge our part time instructor pool, would go a long way in alleviating this problem, and to make additional courses available to students.