Pan-African Studies cookout connects students, faculty

Nathan Havenner

The Pan-African Studies Department welcomed students and faculty to its 42nd annual cookout Friday on the green in front of Oscar Ritchie Hall.

Amoaba Gooden, associate professor and chair of the department, said the event was open to everyone and was intended to help students of African American, Latino American and Native American descent connect with each other and establish contacts within Kent State University AALANA community.

“I think the data shows that when institutions actually have social support, social networking that is geared towards a specific population — particularly those whose numbers may not be great — helps sustain them throughout the year,” Gooden said.

Freshman pre-nursing major Tori Blackwell said she decided to attend the cookout this year because she participated in Kupita/Transiciones, a three-day program designed for AALANA students transitioning into college.

“We were in this building a lot,” Blackwell said of Oscar Ritchie Hall. “And I thought people I met through Kupita would be here.”

Sophomore anthropology major Drake Bailey said he’s attended picnics for the past three years and feels it is important for the African American community on campus to be unified.

“I think events like these and other events put on by the Student Multicultural Center really help that,” he said. “This is a great opportunity to meet a lot of people before classes start on campus, and this is an overall good opportunity to meet people and get a feel for campus life.”

During the cookout, student organizations like Black United Students and Kent State’s African American sorority, Zeta Phi Beta, took the opportunity to network with students. Matthew Thompson, senior sports administration major and president of BUS, said members attended the event to meet new students and encourage attendees to register to vote.

“This is a big annual cookout that we have, so it is an opportunity for the incoming freshmen to become more familiar with some of the black and other AALANA organizations and just have a good time and enjoy each other’s company,” Thompson said.

Gooden said the Pan African Studies major grew out of the American Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and first came to Kent State in the 1970s. It became an official department in 1980.

“We are a discipline very much like sociology or psychology with its own theological and mythological underpinnings,” Gooden said. “We offer courses on the Pan African experience. Pan means all, so the all African experience. We look at people of African descent on the African continent, the Americas — globally actually.”

Gooden said the Division of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs, the Division of Human Resources and the College of Arts and Sciences collaborated to make the event a success.

“Really it is meant for everyone to come and enjoy, have a good meal, have a good time,” Gooden said.

Nathan Havenner is the student finance reporter for the Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]