I am a proud alum of the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn). As I mentioned in an interview, I double majored in African Studies and Sociology of Health and Medicine. Now imagine my shock to learn that my university abruptly decided to shut down its Africa Center. Yes, an elite university such as UPenn, shutting down the only space at the university fully dedicated to the study of historical and contemporary Africa. I am quite frankly appalled.
As an African Studies major during undergrad, being able to take classes that focused solely on the continent, it’s history and its current affairs was important to me. I LOVED the education I received, the space to engage with my faculty, and the resources dedicated to my discipline. Associate Dean Jeffery Kallberg’s decision to collapse the Africa center into Africana just shows the blatant disrespect and disregard for this discipline. African studies should be given the respect it deserves. It stands distinct from Africana studies, which studies the diaspora as a whole.
Penn students organized a protest in response to this alarming news. This was held on Monday, April 13, 2015 and included a large coalition of African students, African Studies Majors and Minors, and members of a variety of student groups, including the Penn African Students Association, the Undergraduate Assembly and Students Organizing for Unity and Liberation (SOUL). Source.
Please watch the video above created by Levi Gikandi, a senior at UPenn. I am proud and inspired that my classmates, many of whom I call friends organized this demonstration and are standing up against the university’s lack of transparency in this decision. To learn more, please check out this photo album by Levi and this official press release: Penn Press_Release_Closure_of_Africa_Center. In the words of my dear friend, Charity Migwi, who helped organize the protest:
“When I look at how Penn engages with the continent I call home, I am appalled. When you decide to shut down the one and only place that truly advances the studies of Africa, the interests of African students and those interested in Africa, you are sending a message to me that my home is not important. That the African continent of 1.1 billion people does not deserve a place of its own.”
This is important.