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Morgan Introduces New African American and African Diaspora Studies Minor

College of Liberal Arts Interdisciplinary Program to Examine Full Embodiment of Africana and Black Diaspora, Launches ‘Africana Film Festival @Morgan’

Amid a growing interest in ethnic studies, particularly those rooted in the diasporic peoples of African descent, there is a strong desire among students for more academic programs focused on examining the rich complexities of the Black experience from a myriad of perspectives. And colleges and universities nationwide are answering the call—Morgan included. The University’s James H. Gilliam, Jr. College of Liberal Arts (CLA) recently launched a new degree minor in African American and African Diaspora Studies (AAAD). The AAAD minor is a rigorous interdisciplinary program open to all Morgan State undergraduate students regardless of their majors or classification. The minor strengthens the global focus of Morgan’s curriculum and will complement majors across all disciplines in the university.

In addition to providing opportunities for students to engage in research, networking and intercultural activities and exchanges, the AAAD minor will prepare students to acquire the marketable skills critical for today’s competitive workforce pipeline, as well as foster opportunities for community and engagement. Coursework for the program is rooted in the unique and valuable perspective of African descended peoples from around the world. The AAAD minor is designed to meet the needs of MSU students pursuing graduate study while providing the analytical and critical thinking tools needed to meet the multifaceted challenges of a 21st century global interdependent society.

students listening to lecture“Today’s learners must embrace and exhibit global competence and see the world through multiple perspectives,” said M’bare N’gom, Ph.D., dean of the College of Liberal Arts. “The addition of the new interdisciplinary program in African American and African Diaspora Studies will afford Morgan students a holistic  and intensive study of the far-reaching impact the diasporic populations of the African continent have contributed and continue to contribute to societies around the world. Through this interdisciplinary program, MSU students will acquire cross-functional and transferable skills applicable in an array of professional fields and area studies,  from the humanities and social sciences, public health to public policy— within the U.S. and globally.”

Funded in part by a grant from the Andrew Mellon Foundation, the AAAD program and the AAAD minor were in development for more than two years prior to its approval in the Spring of 2020. Establishing an African American and African Diaspora program has been a long-sought goal of the University, and it builds upon Morgan’s long standing tradition as a center of research excellence and a leader in the fields of African American and Africana Studies.

The AAAD minor requires 18 credit hours, in addition to fulfilling the prerequisite “Introduction to African American and African Diaspora Studies” AAAD 100, a new course which is being offered for the first time in Spring 2021 and instructed by Jared A. Ball, Ph.D., a professor of African American and African Diaspora Studies in the Gilliam College of Liberal Arts.

“Over the next two years, we look forward to expanding Morgan’s African American and African Diaspora program and introducing a fully sanctioned AAAD major with the prospects of granting our first bachelor’s degree in the near future,” said Herbert Brewer, Ph.D., assistant professor of History, Geography and Museum Studies and coordinator of the AAAD Program. “We are fully committed to the AAAD program’s aptitude for scholarship, while also recognizing its responsibility beyond curriculum development as a catalyst for cultural and community engagement here in Baltimore.”

The minor’s 18 credit hours include 6 credits requiring the AAAD designation, with the remaining 12 credits to be taken from among approved elective courses offered by any department in the College of Liberal Arts. All undergraduate students can declare the African American and African Diaspora Studies minor in any year, first year through senior. Dr. Brewer is available to provide additional details about the program or answer student-related questions and can be reached at aaad@morgan.edu.

A Community Partner in Cultural Exchange and Engagement

Prior to officially being offered as a minor this Spring, the African American and African Diaspora program was integral to the first annual Africana Film Festival @Morgan, which was held this past fall in December. The inaugural film festival organized under the theme “From Emmett Till to George Floyd: Rights and Citizenship,” streamed the first episode of the landmark Eyes on the Prize documentary series, drawing more than 150 students and viewers from the extended community. Co-hosted by MSU’s Quarles Institute, the widely attended viewing was followed by a robust discussion led by Morgan professors Jared Ball, Jewell Debnam, Felicia Thomas and Dexter Blackman, and graduate students Camille Cipollone, Isaac Howard, and Abolade Adeyemi. The Africana Film Festival will continue through Spring 2021.

“We see this as an initiative building momentum and the AAAD program provides an ideal platform for us to connect the important work of the humanities to, not only our campus community, but to the broader community of Baltimore,” said Ricardo Howell, Ph.D., director of the Quarles Institute. “Original programming, like the Film Festival, are tools for us to educate and actively promote dialogue among our students, scholars and the entire Morgan Community.”

The organizers plan to showcase the work of Black filmmakers from around the world and bring their work—classic and contemporary— to the attention of a new generation of students, and to young and emerging scholars, while making an important contribution to the cultural and cinematic arts scene in Baltimore. The Africana Film Festival @Morgan is sponsored by the Benjamin Quarles Humanities and Social Science Institute and the African American and African Diaspora Studies Program in the College of Liberal Arts.

Expounding on the relationship shared between the Festival and the AAAD program, Dr. Brewer added, “The festival organizers see the exposure of Morgan students to the great cinematic traditions of the African American and African Diaspora worlds as an excellent way to help prepare them for global citizenship in the twenty-first century. We believe together, Morgan’s AAAD program and the annual Film Festival offers a full complement of academic instruction and experiential learning that will provide a truly immersive experience for our students.”

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