Africana Studies celebrates 10th anniversary

BOWLING GREEN, O.—It will be a homecoming and reunion when the Africana Studies Program at Bowling Green State University celebrates its 10th anniversary at a research colloquium and luncheon Friday ( March 14) in the Bowen-Thompson Student Union.

The annual event is designed to inspire student interest in archival and field research on Africana topics.

On hand to hear keynote speaker China Galland will be alumni of the program as well as faculty, staff and administrators who were among its co-founders in 1998. Dr. Lillian Ashcraft-Eason, a professor of history who with her late husband, Dr. Djisovi Eason, first envisioned an Africana studies program at BGSU, is back as its director for this anniversary year.

Drs. Zachary Williams of the University of Akron; Robert Smith of the University of North Carolina; Babacar M'Baye of Kent State, and Seneca Vaught of Niagara University, former graduate students in the program, will be guests on a panel from 10:30-11:45 a.m. in 207 Bowen-Thompson Student Union.

"BGSU's Africana Studies Program is a gem that contributes enormously to global understanding through classes, thought-provoking symposia, outstanding community engagement, and an undergraduate research conference that nurtures and showcases the work of our students,” said Dr. Donald Nieman, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “I am deeply indebted to Lillian Ashcraft-Eason for her vision and her dedication to making Africana Studies a reality at BGSU."

The development of the program has been a collaborative effort, Ashcraft-Eason emphasized, with strong participation from ethnic studies, history and other departments.

“We could not have had a beginning without everyone's support,” she said. The program had one student when it became a minor in 1998, then grew to become a major (in 2001) that now counts 15 students. It has also seen the campus add African specialists in various areas, from music to art and ethnic studies.

Eason's untimely death in 2005 was a blow to all who had benefited from his contribution to the study of African cultural arts. A master drummer, he founded the Olatunji Drum Circle for World Peace, and established the Odun Omo Eniyan Children's Festival that brought schoolchildren to BGSU to learn and perform African cultural arts, in addition to teaching in the program.

Nieman was a key figure in founding the program. “He's been so supportive, joining me in co-chairing the first Africana Studies Committee to arrange a slate of courses. His backing for the establishment of the major was crucial,” Ashcraft-Eason said of the dean, whose own research has centered on African-American history and civil rights.

Mary Wrighten, multicultural services director in the University Libraries, has been “pivotal” in organizing the annual colloquium, Ashcraft-Eason said. And Dr. Rebecca Green, an associate professor of art history, “has been a mainstay in Africana Studies since its inception,” she said. “She has added so much to this program.”

The Africana Studies Program takes an international and interdisciplinary approach to the study of the Africana peoples of the world, said Ashcraft-Eason, and the colloquium keynote speakers over the years have come from a range of disciplines. They have included Molefi Kete Asante, African-American studies faculty member from Temple University and founder of the first Ph.D. program in African-American studies; Distinguished Research Professor Paul Lovejoy of York University in Canada; African-American lawyer, activist and scholar Randall Robinson; Dr. Toyin Falola, a Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of Texas at Austin and a Fellow of the Historical Society of Nigeria and the Nigerian Academy of Letters, and astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman to enter space.

Religion is 2008 focus

Religion and culture among African people will be the topic of this year's colloquium.

Presenting research papers will be students from as far away as Southwestern University in Texas, along with others from the University of Detroit Mercy, Ohio State University and Bowling Green. Their presentations will be held from 9:30-11:45 a.m. and 1:30-2:30 p.m. in 207 Union.

China Galland, acclaimed author and professor-in-residence at the Center for the Arts, Religion and Education at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif., will give the keynote address at the colloquium luncheon. Her work has been praised by the likes of Bill Moyers and author Sue Monk Kidd.

Her free, 12:15 p.m. talk, “The Black Madonna in Europe,” will be held in 228 Union. Author of Love Cemetery and other books, the East Texas native teaches, lectures and leads retreats nationally and internationally on religion, race and reconciliation.

The cost of the 11:45 a.m. Greek-cuisine luncheon is $8.75, or $7.65 for the vegetarian option. R.S.V.P. by Monday (March 10) to Wrighten at 419-372-7897 or mwright@bgsu.edu.

For more information on Galland, visit www.chinagalland.com.

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Media Contact: Bonnie Blankinship, BGSU Marketing & Communications, at 419-372-2618.

(Posted March 10, 2008 )