BSU demands Ethnic Studies faculty

November 1, 2007


Patience Adagba plays djembe as President L. Davis speaks at Black Studies rally Oct. 23.

Rally stresses need for full-time Black Studies professors at Laney

By Ayaan Gates-Williams

The Laney BSU held a noontime rally Oct. 23 on the quad to protest the fact that Laney no longer has any full-time African American studies teachers and to demand that the administration prioritize this department for upcoming faculty allocations.

Under the warm sun, impassioned Laney students took to the microphone to share personal stories of what African-American Studies classes at Laney have meant to them and to stress the benefits of African-American Studies, not only to African-American students, but also to our national culture as a whole.

Punctuated by live drumming, world music and progressive hip hop, the rally harkened back to the era, more than 40 years ago, when college students first began to demand "Black Studies" and "Ethnic Studies" classes.

'Students rose up and said, we want courses that reflect our interests, that reflect our culture. It's incumbent upon all of us to struggle to have these classes continue.'
Nidamu Khuthaza, All-African People's Revolutionary Party
In the 1960's and 1970's, Bay Area colleges and universities were pivotal in the national movement to bring Ethnic Studies to Higher Education. Before that time, classes like those currently offered by Laney's Ethnic Studies Department, such as African-American, Asian and Asian American and Mexican and Latin American Studies classes, were rare or non-existent.

"Students rose up and said, we want courses that reflect our interests, that reflect our culture," said Nidamu Khuthaza of the All-African People's Revolutionary Party. "It's incumbent upon all of us to struggle to have these classes continue."

Paula Parker, a post-baccalaureate music major at Laney, recalls participating in the student movement of the early 1970's in her native New York. The role of students in "supporting the Black studies classes, supporting African American faculty and making their opinions known to everybody on up to our Laney College president," is critical, she says.


Black studies is important and it needs to be taken as seriously as science, English, and everything else.
Lamar Caldwell, Laney BSU Historian

Laney BSU Historian Lamar CaldwellToo many of the current generation of young students take ethnic studies course offerings for granted and don't realize that they could lose them, she warns.

Of Laney's more than 12,000 students, 27% are African American, the second most represented ethnic group on campus. African-American Studies at Laney has gone from an all-time high of eight full-time instructors to none. This is not acceptable, insists the BSU.

BSU Historian Lamar Caldwell speaks during Black Studies rally.

Laney BSU Historian Lamar Caldwell and speaker at the rally, says the lack of a full-time professor reflects the devaluation of African American studies within the college curriculum.

"Black studies is important and it needs to be taken as seriously as science, English, and everything else," says Caldwell, "because you won't have an English department without a full-time English instructor."

"We're taught to think of Black studies as something to take for fun," said Caldwell, addressing the perception that Ethnic Studies classes are "fluff" or vanity" courses.

Khuthaza argued against the idea that students who major in ethnic studies might not be able to get a good job upon graduation.

"History is very important," says Khuthaza. "It lets us know what we've done and what we're capable of doing. It has a lot of the answers that we need to resolve a lot of the contradictions that we face today."


Rashaunah Bashir and Natalie listen to speakers raising awareness of faculty crisis of Black Studies at Laney.
He blasted the current political climate for financing a war while many citizens suffer from a lack of employment, inadequate health care and the impact of education cuts. The crisis in the Laney College's African American Studies department reflects these warped priorities, he said.




The Laney BSU meets every Thursday at 3 P.M. on the 4th Floor of the Laney Student Center in room 403. Visit Myspace.com/LaneyBSU for more info.

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