Engaging with Africana and Black Studies

January 31, 2020

Black musiciansThe new Africana and Black Studies minor offers Whittier College students an engaging opportunity to explore the diversity, creativity, and complexity of people of African descent.

The minor, now in its second semester, spans a wide array of disciplines to focus on the experiences, cultures, arts, and histories of the people of Africa and the African diaspora across the globe.

At the core of the minor are courses highlighting African American literature, education, and history. When it comes to electives, students choose from a wide range of subjects, from the history of jazz to Africana philosophy.

The minor also organizes extracurricular learning opportunities for students, on and off campus. This February, the program partners with Hartley House for an excursion to see Until the Flood, a play about the social uprising in Ferguson, Missouri, following the shooting of teenager Michael Brown.

Earlier this year, the program also hosted its first lecture. Garrett House was packed with students, faculty, and staff to hear Dan Castilow, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, discuss black racial identities in Trinidad.

“Race and understandings of race are not concepts fixed in time,” Castilow said. “Older generations had very different understandings of race than the younger generations.”

After the talk, a first-year student shared with Professor Kay Sanders, who leads the program, how they learned that blackness is truly a social category, and how this concept is so different in Trinidad compared to their upbringing in California.

Sanders has plans for more lectures from Africana and Black Studies faculty that highlight the richness of content and academic offerings from the many disciplines that are part of the minor.