BUS Speaker Series attempts to increase enrollment in Pan African Studies


Traci Easley Williams speaks to students in Oscar Ritchie Hall on Thursday, November 2 as part of the BUS Speaker Series. Photo by Jenna Watson.

Madeleine Winer

Black United Students hosted a speaker series in Oscar Ritchie Hall this week to raise awareness of Pan-African Studies course offerings and to up enrollment in its courses.

“People aren’t always exposed to the afrocentric perspective as far as what they learn,” said Ephraim Butler, BUS political director and member of Epic 7, a cultural group on campus that co-sponsored the event.

The speaker series began Monday with Amoaba Gooden, interim chair for the department, who shared departmental information with students. Professor George Garrison told students about his courses Wednesday and Associate Professor Francis Dorsey and Pan-African Studies and Journalism professor Traci Easley Williams talked to students Thursday.

Butler said 15-20 people came to the series each night. He said he expected a better turnout.

“I know some of the fault was on our part, as far as getting information out,” Butler said. “It’s something we will work on. I feel like I’m glad for the people who did come, and I think they will tell others; so I think we can expect different outcomes in the future.”

Many of those in attendance had already taken Pan-African studies courses and wanted to learn about other courses or about the professors teaching them.

“I just wanted to get to know them on a personal level,” said Hailey Carter, freshman public health major. Carter had already taken a course on black experience and wanted to meet Williams, who is teaching a class she hopes to take next semester.

Williams told students about her Pan-African Studies classes, including Black Hollywood, Black Images I and a practicum, which teaches students about the process of filmmaking.

About half the students present took the course, which Williams characterized as “not just a class, [but] an experience.”

“The whole reason that I got into the Pan-African classes is because I took black images last semester,” said Damien McClendon, sophomore public health major. “I think everyone should take that class … no matter what [their] culture is.”

Dorsey told students about the history of Pan-African Studies and the African Community Theatre, which he has been director of since 1979. He teaches a practicum in African theatre, which “gets the productions running” in the African Community Theatre.

He also told students about his other classes including Afrocentric perspective, African American community development and a study abroad session in Ghana. He said his Black Images II course, whose name will be changed to Black Images: Positive Images, has also been popular with students.

Chris Hicks, junior general studies major, said he enjoyed hearing the professors’ passion for their classes because it helped students understand the “severity of taking [the] classes and understanding the history.”

“Everyone should take the classes,” said Hicks. “Our histories are intertwined. To acknowledge one history is to deny your own. I definitely feel it’s for everyone. You have people of all races going into black images — and when they come out, they feel closer, because it’s our history that ties us together.”

Contact Madeleine Winer at [email protected].