Brock to launch Minor in Africana Studies this fall

Brock University students will have the opportunity to pursue a Minor in Africana Studies in addition to their degrees starting this September.

The new program, housed in the Faculty of Social Science’s Department of Sociology, is spearheaded by Associate Professor of Sociology Tamari Kitossa, Associate Professor of Modern Languages, Literature and Culture (MLLC) Jean Ntakirutimana and MMLC Lecturer Richard Ndayizigamiye.

Kitossa says the term ‘Africana’ is a representation of Africans from the continent of Africa as well as the African diaspora in Canada, the U.S., the Caribbean, Latin America, and elsewhere in the world.

“The program will bring a new and broad perspective in understanding the challenges faced by People of African descent in the diaspora and on the continent, in the aftermath of the transatlantic slavery of Africans in the Americas, as well as the ruthless colonialism and neo-colonial exploitation of Africa by European powers,” says Kitossa.

The program encompasses three mandatory courses in Sociology in addition to two credits from a broad array of courses offered in various departments and programs.

Ntakirutimana says the program is being launched at a moment of ongoing historic and global movement for Black lives and transformative social justice.

“We hope that current broad-spectrum sociopolitical discussions about anti-Blackness will inspire many students — from Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) and from mainstream ethnic groups — to enroll in the program to better understand the issues at stake,” he says.

The team notes that through the new Canada Caribbean Institute (CCI), Brock has strengthened its international ties with academic institutions from the Caribbean, starting with the University of the West Indies (UWI). It is anticipated that the Minor in Africana Studies and related programs in the Caribbean will enable collaborative projects and learning, such as student exchanges and faculty mobility for teaching and research connected with the CCI.

Kate Bezanson, Associate Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences and Professor of Sociology, says she’s thrilled the Faculty is “able to provide the home for this overdue specialization.”

“When the proposal for this new minor came together, I was enthusiastic and delighted to play a small role in facilitating the formal academic planning to put in place the hard work and vision of Drs. Kitossa, Ntakirutimana and Ndyazigamiye,” she says.

Bezanson adds that the course of study “will equip students with the tools to richly understand the broad and dynamic field of Africana Studies from cultural, historical, theoretical, linguistic, social and policy perspectives, among others.”

The idea for the minor first ignited nearly a decade ago by a group of faculty and staff, including Kitossa, Ntakirutimana, Ndayizigamiye, retired Director of International Services and Programs Abroad John Kaethler and retired Education Professor Sybil Wilson.

The program was developed in consultation with other members of the Black community at Brock and in the Niagara region, as well as the Council of Black Organizations in Niagara.

“Brock University, given its central location in a region that played an extremely important role in the Underground Railroad – also recognized as a World UNESCO site – is well-positioned to play a significant role in reflecting on, teaching and studying the rich contributions of People of African descent,” said Ndayizigamiye.

The team hopes to add a certificate to the program tailored to activists, advocates and community members, as well as a range of professionals serving BIPOC communities. This would open non-traditional and inclusive opportunities for the community at large to critically analyze and theorize the breadth and depth of the Africana experience in the Niagara region and beyond.

A long-term goal to help meet the needs of students and the community, says  Ndayizigamiye, is to eventually establish a full Africana Studies program and the endowment of a permanent Chair in Africana Studies.

“We sincerely hope the new program will thrive and showcase the inter and multidisciplinary nature of our courses and programs, attract more Black students to Brock, enhance opportunities for educational enrichment for current students and the broader community, and, finally, to contribute to a vibrant culture of racial diversity,” says Kitossa.

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