Pan-African professor a ‘breath of fresh air’

Alexia Harris

Amoaba Gooden teaches her students what they cannot learn inside the classroom.

Gooden was born in Jamaica but moved to Toronto when she was 7 years old. Since the late ’90s, she has lived in various parts of the United States.

She is familiar with the many classifications of being black. She has been called an African-Canadian, an African-Caribbean and now an African-American.

Life as a migrant

Gooden’s father migrated from Jamaica to Canada in search of a better life, and her mother followed a year later.

“While my parents were in Canada, my siblings and I stayed in Jamaica with my paternal and maternal grandparents under an extended family household that included aunts, uncles and cousins,” she said.

There was a difference between learning in Jamaica and learning in Canada, Gooden said.

“In Jamaica, I remember learning being very strict,” she said. “Before I left Jamaica, I knew that I was second in my class.”

Gooden also recalled the Canadian school system being almost three years behind the Jamaican school system.

“I remember my sister being in grade five and saying everything she learned, she had already done in the second grade while in Jamaica,” Gooden said.

Living in Kent

Gooden has been a Kent resident and Kent State professor since August 2006.

Prior to Kent State, Gooden taught at Temple University in Philadelphia, among other schools.

“In Philadelphia, things were rough,” she said. “I remember students getting held at gunpoint in the dorms’ laundry rooms.”

Gooden said the majority of people living in Philadelphia kept a Club on their vehicles to keep them from being stolen.

“It surprised me not to see any Clubs here,” she said. “I see Kent doesn’t have that high level of crime.”

She said the only difficulty living here is adjusting to the small town.

“Toronto is such a diverse place, and 50 percent of the population was born outside of Canada,” Gooden said.

The love of teaching

Gooden said the Pan-African studies department is what brought her to the university.

She always wanted to teach diaspora studies because she wanted to make linkages between African-Americans, Latin-Americans, those living on the African continent and those of the Caribbean, she said.

“I was born in Jamaica, raised in Canada, educated in America and traveled to Africa,” she said. “I wanted to share those experiences with others.”

Gooden says she loves teaching and being able to engage the students.

“One of the benefits of teaching is that you are able to be rejuvenated,” she said. “I like to be able to have a collaborative relationship with the students.”

Her students said they enjoy her as a professor because of her caring personality.

Damareo Cooper, senior Pan-African studies major, said Gooden is very committed and caring.

“We need more professors like her,” he said. “She cares about students advancing their lives.”

Lisa Stoddard, senior Pan-African studies major, said Gooden was a great addition to the Pan-African studies staff.

“She is definitely a Pan-Africanist because she brings experience from three different countries,” Stoddard said. “She is a breath of fresh air to the department.”

Cooper said it should come as no surprise that Gooden considers teaching her “heart and soul.”

“We need more professors who care about students, and the challenges they face in and outside the classroom,” he said. “Dr. Gooden is one of those professors.”

Contact ethnic affairs reporter Alexia Harris at [email protected].