When Marcus Watson, assistant professor of individualized studies and Africana studies, joined the Buffalo State College faculty in fall 2019 as part of the new Africana studies program, he wanted to connect the college with valuable community resources to make the discipline more relevant and meaningful to students.
“If we’re going to move forward toward inclusion and educating students about the African American experience, we don’t want to do so in a silo,” Watson said. “I’d much rather see us working across academic disciplines and with community partners.”
His vision will come to fruition throughout February during the campus’s celebration of Black History Month. Watson and his colleagues within Africana studies worked with several academic departments and student groups to offer a slate of thought-provoking workshops, discussions, and activities that are free and open to the public.
Under the umbrella “Black History Month: Africana Studies Matter,” the events will be held throughout campus, and students from all disciplines are encouraged to participate.
The week will culminate with Crystal M. Fleming’s keynote speech, “Race Stupidity,” on Tuesday, February 25, at 12:15 p.m. in the Burchfield Penney Art Center’s Tower Auditorium. Fleming is an associate professor of sociology and Africana studies at SUNY Stony Brook University and the author of two books about race and white supremacy.
“She is an extremely intelligent, Harvard-educated academic and author who uses a no-holds-barred approach to her discussion of racism,” Watson said. “She also infuses her talks with humor.”
The month’s events kick off with the lecture and performance "Jazz and the Civil Rights Movement," by renowned flutist and spoken-word artist Galen Abdur-Razzaq on Wednesday, February 5, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m., also in the Burchfield Penney Auditorium.
A panel discussion featuring five community leaders follows on Monday, February 10, at 6:00 p.m. in Bacon Hall 115. Eva Doyle, columnist for the Criterion newspaper; Shauntel Douglas, a holistic health and wellness coach and Pilates instructor; the Reverend Regina Gray of Delaine Waring African Methodist Episcopal Church; Michael Hill, arts and education consultant at the Langston Hughes Institute; and Shango Oya, an African American activist and educator, will share their views on Africana studies and possible partnerships with the college, including internships.
Next on the schedule is the Toni Morrison Read-In on Tuesday, February 11, from 4:30 to 7:00 p.m. in Classroom Building B118. Participants are invited to share a favorite book, quote, or idea from the Nobel laureate and legendary author.
Representatives from Black Active Minds (BAM), the African American Students Organization (AASO), the Buffalo State chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Caribbean Students Organization (CSO), and the Pan-African Students Organization (PASO) will discuss their vision for Africana studies on Wednesday, February 12, from 5:00 to 6:30 p.m. in Ketchum Hall 113.
Four students will present their research on different aspects of Africana studies, including Black Power in Trinidad and the treatment of children’s speech and hearing disorders in Ghana, on Thursday, February 13, from 12:15 to 1:30 p.m. in Bulger Communication Center 214.
Roughly 50 students from McKinley High School will join 20 Buffalo State students for a Youth Leadership workshop on Friday, February 14, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. in the Campbell Student Union Assembly Hall. Facilitated by Watson, Michael Hill of the Langston Hughes Institute, and Nate Key, founder of the Buffalo-based Idea Shack Inc., the workshop will cover ways to become engaged in the community and find ethical leadership.
Meanwhile, the Student Leadership and Engagement Office will host a series of free events throughout February to cultivate awareness, celebration, inclusion, and participation in the campus’s African Diaspora Project (ADP).
The African diaspora refers to the communities throughout the world that are descended from the historical displacement of peoples from Africa because of the transatlantic slave trade, predominantly to the Americas, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and the Caribbean. Spearheaded by Ashley C. Goodwin, ’09, ’11, assistant director of student leadership and engagement, the ADP is returning for its second year with the theme “The Royal Return.”
“We know at times, diversity and inclusion can be difficult to discuss, but these discussions are essential in fostering relationships, cultivating positive change, and creating an environment where students feel safe and brave during these challenging times,” Goodwin said. “This project provides a platform for our Buffalo State community and the community at large to engage in topics that influence diasporic communities and create global connections where we can learn from one another.”
Goodwin said more than 2,100 students participated in ADP last year, and she hopes to increase attendance and participation this year.
Partly funded by the Faculty-Student Association, the ADP events are free and open to the campus:
- Black history trivia, games, and giveaways: Every Tuesday throughout February, beginning February 4, from 12:15 to 1:30 p.m. in the Campbell Student Union
- Diaspora Dialogue in collaboration with the Equity and Campus Diversity Office: Thursday, February 6, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. in the Student Union Social Hall
- DIY Cultural Crafts and Body and Hair Care: Thursday, February 13, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. in the Student Union Assembly Hall
- Diaspora Dollars Financial Freedom Discussion: Thursday, February 20, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. in the Student Union Assembly Hall.
- Diaspora Dinner Theater featuring the ZUZU Acrobats: Wednesday, February 26, from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. in the Student Union Social Hall. Although admission is free, participants must obtain a ticket through the Student Leadership and Engagement website to attend. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.
- Cultural Bazaar and Talent Showcase: Thursday, February 27, at 8:00 p.m. in the Student Union Social Hall.