Building renovations limit program space

Christina Stavale

Freshman Brittany Mayti, Freshman ReShawna Gregory, sophomore Cara White, and freshman Quiera Lige act out a scene. ELIZABETH MYERS | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: DKS Editors

The Department of Pan-African Studies is not just about the curriculum – the Center of Pan-African Culture works alongside the department to provide supplemental programs.

Monthly speakers and theatrical productions are just some of the center’s common events, but this year, because of a lack of space, the department will take a different approach.

With Oscar Ritchie Hall undergoing renovations during this academic year, the space the center once had for such events is unavailable, and therefore, it is likely fewer events and programs will take place, said Mwatabu Okantah, director of the Center of Pan-African Culture.

“We’re not quite sure how we’re going to approach programming this year,” Okantah said.

He said although the department is taking things as they come, it will focus on maintaining a connection with students and the community, and work more closely with student organizations such as Black United Students, the Kent African Student Association and Harambe.

Francis Dorsey, interim chair of the Department of Pan-African Studies and director of the African Community Theater, said the theater will suspend its productions for this year because of lack of space. Instead, they will focus on programming for the next year.

Although the theater is not undergoing any direct renovations, Dorsey said some of the building’s construction will affect the theater. For example, the theater will have two new entrances and a new ticket booth and lobby. The stage floor will also be redone.

The Ebony Speaker Series, which normally brings in speakers each month, will also experience changes this year. The center will not be able to host speakers on a monthly basis. Okantah, however, said he hopes they will still be able to bring in one or two speakers this semester.

The art gallery once located in Oscar Ritchie Hall won’t be accessible this year, but Dorsey said 70 percent of the artwork has been directly preserved. The remaining artwork was painted on solid concrete and digitally preserved instead.

Okantah said additional programming and cultural events are essential to the Department of Pan-African Studies, as they expose students to what they learn in class.

“For some of the class material, students have no other frame of reference,” he said.

But programming for this year will not be completely lost.

Okantah said the Center of Pan-African Culture is in the works of planning a Martin Luther King Jr. festival for the month of January. Also, the center is planning a number of special events for Oscar Ritchie Hall reopening in 2008.

This transitional year won’t hurt the department, Okantah said. In fact, he said this time of renovations is one of the most exciting times.

“It’s gratifying to be able to literally see the fulfillment of your dreams,” he said.

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