Africana research at SDSU celebrates 50 years of ‘artwork, activism, scholarship’


Adisa Alkebulan was all in favour of Africana research earlier than he even knew the topic existed. He turned fascinated with studying about Black historical past as an eighth-grader after watching an episode of “Eyes on the Prize,” the award-winning tv sequence documenting the historical past of the American civil rights motion. That led to him studying his first guide from cowl to cowl, “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” and from there, he majored in Pan-African research in school. At the moment, he is an affiliate professor in Africana research at San Diego State College and in addition chair of the division, because the division celebrates its fiftieth anniversary.

“We’re celebrating our historical past. We’re celebrating our founders. In African traditions, our elders and ancestors are vastly vital, so our focus is on them,” he mentioned, noting that longtime civil rights activist and educator Harold Okay. Brown was the primary Black administrator at SDSU and served as director of the division he helped to ascertain in 1972. “(Our focus can also be on) the scholarship produced in Africana research, the inventive expression that provides life to the self-discipline, and the activism from which the division emerged and is, actually, nonetheless a cornerstone of the self-discipline.”

Alkebulan selected to hitch SDSU in 2001, after assembly with present California Secretary of State Shirley Weber, who was then a member of the division and had been since its inception. Initially, he’d had no need to maneuver from Philadelphia to San Diego, however he says he was so “overwhelmed and impressed” by Weber’s dedication, management and fervour, he determined to take an opportunity.


Now, he is serving to to shepherd college students into and thru this system, work along with his fellow college members, and have fun their theme of “Africana Research @ 50: A Retrospective of Scholarship, Artwork, and Activism,” which culminates of their anniversary gala tonight at Montezuma Corridor and includes a keynote deal with from Weber, a manufacturing of “A Raisin within the Solar,” an exhibition of art work, and lectures by invited visitors.

Alkebulan, 50, lives in El Cajon along with his 8-year-old son and took a while to speak about his work with the division and the importance of a discipline of examine centering the tradition and historical past of Africa and the African diaspora.

Q: Are you able to discuss a bit about how the Africana research division bought began?

HAS: The college was responding to the calls for of Black college students who wished a curriculum that mirrored their experiences and a college who regarded like them. Extra broadly, our division emerged out of a nationwide protest motion related to the Black Energy motion. Black college students and neighborhood leaders from throughout the nation have been demanding Black research departments and, throughout that point, greater than 300 departments have been fashioned. Many failed as a result of there have been fixed efforts to undermine the departments, and the college needed to frequently struggle to legitimize and defend the brand new self-discipline. Even at this time, we discover ourselves in positions of getting to defend and outline what the self-discipline is, and its relevance.

At SDSU, the programs targeted on historical past, tradition, music, African American rhetoric and psychology. This mirrored the experience of the foundational college who helped form the division. We additionally should perceive that this was a brand new venture that pulled collectively students from quite a lot of fields who have been trying to do one thing new. That they had no concept if they’d achieve success, however the scholar demand and enthusiasm was overwhelming. The scholars helped maintain and energize the division within the early days.

Q: On the division web site, it says that considered one of your considerations is “strengthening the bond between Black college students and the Black neighborhood” and “creating frameworks for social change and the battle for Black dignity.” How has the division labored towards strengthening this relationship between Black college students and the Black neighborhood, and in creating these frameworks for social change? What has that regarded like in observe?

HAS: Quickly after I arrived at San Diego State, a number of of my colleagues and I labored with the Affiliation of African American Educators to assist develop a credential program for native kindergarten by way of twelfth grade lecturers. Our youngsters face a myriad of points in San Diego County, a lot of that are rooted in racism and racial disparities, chief amongst them being unconscious bias. In San Diego County, Black youngsters are punished extra severely for a similar behaviors as White college students, for instance. There’s additionally a common lack of cultural understanding from many lecturers towards their Black college students. The certificates we created was designed to coach and equip lecturers with the instruments to grasp the scholars’ tradition, studying kinds, and so forth. I designed and taught a course referred to as “The Historical past of African American Schooling,” and our division additionally partnered with the College of Public Affairs to supply the course “Blacks within the US Justice System.” It is part of the felony justice diploma program by way of our international campus. Moreover, all felony justice majors are actually required to take this, or an analogous course, due largely due to the efforts of the Africana research division.

We even have a mentoring/tutoring program the place our majors facilitate packages in native excessive faculties, though the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted that. We have additionally taught a few of our programs locally on the Valencia Park/Malcolm X Library. SDSU college students and neighborhood members enrolled within the programs and I’m most pleased with that. It represented this superbly highly effective collaboration between Africana research, SDSU and the neighborhood.

What I like about El Cajon…

I like the variety of El Cajon. I haven’t got the information on this, nevertheless it appears to be some of the numerous communities in San Diego County. Though I’m not a fan of the warmth, life is full of trade-offs.

Q: What has your personal involvement in schooling in Africana research performed for you, personally? In your sense of self, and understanding of your Blackness and what which means?

HAS: The one cause I am in academia is due to Africana research. I can not think about instructing anything. In some ways, the profession that I’ve chosen is a mirrored image of the dedication and consciousness that I started to develop at puberty. That is my life. The content material is my consciousness. The tradition is on the core of my being. At any time when I enter a classroom, or give a keynote or public deal with, it’s a declaration of my Blackness, and what it means to me.

Q: The place do you hope to see this discipline of examine, and the division, within the subsequent 50 years?

HAS: The sector of Africana research is continually rising. It began with the fundamentals of African and African American historical past and tradition, then shortly branched into subfields, like literature, psychology, sociology, political science, and so forth. Presently, the self-discipline has advanced and embraced different fields, akin to Afrofuturism, Black male research, Afro-Latinidad, and different diasporan communities. That is an thrilling time for the self-discipline, normally, and Africana research at SDSU, particularly.

Q: What’s the greatest recommendation you’ve got ever obtained?

HAS: The very best recommendation I’ve obtained was from considered one of my mentors in grad college, Dr. Molefi Asante. He suggested us to by no means defend the indefensible. There generally is a tendency to defend each side of our experiences, actions, behaviors and beliefs due to the exterior forces on this society that search to pathologize and destroy us. I get that, however typically it may put us ready that may in the end undermine your complete venture if we don’t have interaction in self-reflection, self-correction, and be sincere and moral within the work that we do.

Q: What’s one factor folks can be stunned to seek out out about you?

HAS: A few issues that folks can be stunned to listen to about me is that I’m an artist at my core. I used to be a recording artist in highschool throughout my rap days, and all through highschool and school, I used to be an actor. Once I was graduating from school, I needed to make a fast however tough choice about going to graduate college for a grasp’s diploma in performing, or a doctorate in Africana research. I selected the latter, however not a day goes by that I don’t miss the theater or ask myself, “What if?”

Q: Please describe your excellent San Diego weekend.

HAS: Going to the seaside with my son. I used to be by no means a seaside particular person till, in some way, I sired a seaside fanatic. I haven’t got the vitality that he does, however after he wears me out, I take pleasure in enjoyable and watching him have the time of his life as if he is by no means been to the seaside earlier than.

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