Professors educate students about the importance of Pan-African education

Christina Stavale

Francis Dorsey and five other members of the Pan-African studies department discussed current issues in the black community last night. The panel was put on by Black United Students and was held in the Student Center. BRIAN MARKS | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: DKS Editors

Professors in the department of Pan-African studies want students to treat black history as more than just a month.

“Black history is not just for a month – it’s for a lifetime,” said Indris Syed, an instructor in the department.

Last night a panel of six professors including Syed spoke to students about the importance of remembering and appreciating their past and building a positive image to reflect to the world.

“Black History Month has to be more than just history,” said Mwatabu Okantah, assistant professor in Pan-African studies. “We have to instill in you the ability to make history.”

As an example, he talked about not taking things such as Oscar Ritchie Hall for granted. Years ago, students struggled to have a building like it where they could take classes, gather and put on programs.

And though the building is currently closed because it is undergoing renovations, he told students that next year when it re-opens, they will have opportunities that few college students have.

“It’s easily taken for granted because it’s here, and you do not have to struggle for it,” he said. “Your struggle is to make use of it.”

And one important way the professors want students to make use of it is by taking courses in the department.

Francis Dorsey, interim chair of the department of Pan-African studies, said these courses teach students what they don’t learn in their other courses about black contributions to history.

“Here we are in the new millennium, and still the lives of African-Americans are being ignored in the terms of American history,” he said.

It’s important to take these classes, he said, because if students do not take it upon themselves to learn their own history, no one will ever know.

One problem with the way history is taught, he said, is that the first image people see of blacks is slavery, putting people in the mindset of slavery.

By educating people about the 10,000 years of black history that came before slavery, the image of blacks will be improved for blacks and whites alike, he said.

“If you first teach a child what it means to be a free, you won’t want to be a slave,” Dorsey said.

Syed told students to ignore those who tell them that Pan-African studies courses will not help them in life – that every job he’s had, he’s gotten because of his degree in Pan-African studies.

“When I did counseling with inner-city youth,” he said, “I could speak to these young children in a way they could hear me.”

Contact minority affairs reporter Christina Stavale at [email protected].