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Winter 2011

New Director, New Gallery Dozens of faculty, staff, students as well as university and Ann Arbor community members joined new Director Angela Dillard as she welcomed everyone back for the 2010-2011 school year. Professor Dillard joined CAAS in 2005. She specializes in American and African-American intellectual history, particularly around issues of race, religion and politics - on both the Left and the Right sides of the political spectrum. She was associate director of CAAS from 2006-07 to 2008-09. She received her Ph.D. in American Culture from U-M in 1995 and her B.A. from James Madison College at MSU in 1988. Before joining CAAS she taught at New York University from 1997 to 2006. After introducing those new to the Center to the capacity crowd, Professor Dillard lead everyone down to the ground floor of Haven Hall for the opening of GalleryCAAS, the Center’s new gallery, which featured an exhibit by artist and long-time CAAS faculty member Jon Onye Lockard. The gallery is one of the few university affiliated galleries that showcases contemporary art and artists of Africa and the African Diaspora. Professor Lockard’s exhibit, titled ‘Africentricity: Those Who Learn, Teach’, included a wide selection of his paintings and prints from the last 30 years.


Director’s Letter

T

he U-M Regents have voted, and its official: CAAS will become a department on September 1st. Last year, 2010, marked the Center’s 40th anniversary. 2011 begins our second forty years of academic excellence, inside and beyond the classroom. As we look forward to our new status as DAAS – the Department of Afroamerican & African Studies – we continue to reflect on our unique history, using and honoring the past as the best strategy for forging the future. As CAAS’s Director at this critical juncture it has been my pleasure to oversee this strategy. We opened our new gallery space, GalleryCAAS, in the fall of 2010 with an exhibition by the phenomenal artist and long-term member of the CAAS faculty Jon Onye Lockard. This winter we featured a show and residency by Ghanaian artist Atta Kwami. In the spring (late March through late April) GalleryCAAS will house a showing of the Jacob Lawrence prints from The Book of Genesis series (1989-90), donated by Dr. James Curtis. Similarly, we will be moving forward by looking back with a new special fundraising initiative to restore the Adinkra symbols, painted by Jon Lockard, that formerly adorned our walls in Haven Hall. We want to honor Jon’s vision while re-creating the symbols in a different medium: hard woods and brushed metals, mounted on the walls with explanatory and commemorative plaques. This is your opportunity to help us restore our beloved symbols and to support CAAS’s future by donating to the CAAS Strategic Fund. As a member of the CAAS community you will be able to “sponsor” the symbol of your choice by making a contribution of at least $500.

Angela Dillard, Director The Center for Afroamerican and African Studies 4700 Haven Hall 505 S. State Street Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1045 Tel. (734-764-5513 Fax (734) 763-0543

I have already made my donation and have selected the symbol that used to grace the wall outside my office at 4642 Haven. I am placing it in memory of my late brother, the Reverend Paul A. Dillard, Jr. and in honor of my parents, Paul, Sr. and Marilynn. Pictured at left, the symbol is Adinkrahene. It is often considered “the chief of the adinkra symbols” and is associated with leadership and charisma as well as with omnipotence and the supremacy of God. We will set aside a series of “community symbols” that can be collectively sponsored with donations starting at $25, and “student symbols” that can be sponsored with donations of $10 and above. See the last page of this newsletter for a list of some of the currently available symbols. Pick one that is meaningful to you – from “Aya,” the “fern,” (pictured below) associated with endurance and resourcefulness to “Ananse Ntontan,” the “spider-web,” (pictured at the top of this letter) associated with wisdom and creativity – and help us to further CAAS’s mission. Your donations will support study abroad in Africa and the Caribbean, a major lecture series, as well as curricular initiatives and future shows at GalleryCAAS. For more information on opportunities to support CAAS click “Support The Center” on our website. For Winter 2011 once again we have a full roster of events – another great semester for the Africa Workshop, the second of the Sawyer Seminars on African Ethnicities, a symposium on Afro-Latino Studies (just one of the exciting directions we hope to move in) and, the “crown jewel” of our yearly calendar, the CAAS Graduation ceremony during which we celebrate the accomplishments of our students, graduates and next new crop of CAAS alums! As always, please feel free to consult our website at http://www.lsa.umich.edu/caas for updates and new event postings.

As David Doris, one of my wonderful CAAS colleagues, likes to say at the end of his letters and emails: Wishing You All Good Things!

Angela D. Dillard, Director


The Tenth Anniversary of the Pedagogy of Action: Empowering Ordinary People to Take Control of their Health The University of Michigan celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Pedagogy of Action (POA) with a two-day conference on December 3 and 4, 2010. Designed and lead for the last ten years by CAAS faculty member Nesha Haniff, the program takes 10 to 12 undergrads to South Africa each summer to teach HIV prevention. For many of the students, the POA becomes a lifechanging experience. At the heart of the program is the idea of empowering ordinary people to become HIV activists in the communities where they live. This is done primarily through an HIV education module, a 15-minute presentation created by Professor Haniff which is designed to educate the low-literate, and to empower them to become second-generation teachers. The module is given completely orally, making it accessible to people who cannot read or write. Through this innovative program, dozens of U-M students have had the opportunity to teach HIV prevention to well over 10,000 South Africans who have then gone on to teach HIV prevention to their own communities. Says former student Renee Pitter, “I think the single most important thing that makes this program so unique is that it is not a study abroad. Students get an experience that is unlike anything that they are able to get in the classroom. We are forced to wrestle with ourselves in a very real way and take a stance on the ways in which we will choose to live our lives.” A number of former students and current affiliates of the program participated in the two-day conference which included talks, panel discussions and an art exhibit. The conference was funded through the generous support of CAAS as well as the African Studies Center, the Jean Fairfax Initiative, the Office for Academic and Multicultural Initiatives, the Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs/Trotter House, Arts at Michigan, Women’s Studies, the South Quad Ambatana and the North Quad Multicultural Council.

“At the heart of the Pedagogy of Action is a fierce love for communities. One of Nesha’s central tenets is that her students engage in development, not charity work.” -Vera Sirota (2003/2005)


An Interview with Professor Magdalena Zaboroska (Magda was interviewed by CAAS Staff Member V. Robin Grice)

Robin: Your book, James Baldwin's Turkish Decade: Erotics of Exile, was awarded the Modern Language Association’s annual William Sanders Scarborough Prize. When and why did you first become interested in Baldwin? Magda: Let me begin by saying a few words about the William Sanders Scarborough Prize, which was established in 2001 and honors the first African American member of the MLA. (And I must say that it gave me pause to learn that such an award had been in place for only eight years.) I am especially proud that as its recipient I am in the company of scholars whom I admire and whose works I read with awe. I was also thrilled that my son, Cazmir, to whom the book is dedicated, accompanied me to the MLA Awards Ceremony in Philadelphia and accepted the award hand-in-hand with me from the incoming MLA President, our own U-M’s Professor Sidonie Smith. James Baldwin's Turkish Decade has also been reviewed in The New Yorker and, more thoroughly, in The National in Abu Dhabi, so it has had the good luck of appealing to both academic and non-academic audiences. As for my interest in Baldwin, it dates to my graduate school readings toward Doctoral Field Examinations in American literature – I attended the University of Oregon in Eugene– when I was a wide-eyed foreign (now we say “international” …) student “from communist Poland.” I began with Baldwin’s first novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953). This beautifully written novel bridges a family’s history between the South and North, and describes a young man’s coming of age between the polar opposites of spaces that are key to understanding Baldwin’s and other 20th-century black writers’ preoccupation with the charged spaces of the church and the street.

over the world. I could also appreciate more his insatiable intellectual curiosity and commitment to being a “poet and witness” as he liked to define himself.

I was both captivated and confused by this book; I was also totally seduced, in that passionate way that readers often are, by Baldwin’s beautiful writing, imagery, and radical ideas. So I then read more Baldwin, and began to teach his works while in my first academic job at Furman University in South Carolina. When I was working at Aarhus University in Denmark in the late 1990s, I developed a graduate seminar on Baldwin that was a great success, and gave me lots of ideas for a book that I realized then I had to write. I subsequently read everything by Baldwin I could lay my hands on and traveled to Harlem, Paris, and St. Paul-de-Vence in the south of France in Baldwin’s footsteps. In St. Paul, I visited and photographed the house in which he lived the last sixteen years of his life. The proximity to the places where this writer once walked and worked helped me to understand much about his writing, exilic impulses, as well as restless wanderings all

This is what I say about my fascination with Baldwin’s works and approach to identity in my book: As a student of American literature at Warsaw University, I learned that James Baldwin was an important writer, when we hosted the poet Nikki Giovanni, whose conversations with him had been transcribed as A Dialogue and published in 1973. But we did not read any of Baldwin’s works in my M.A. seminar in American literature, where New Criticism reigned, and where Ralph Ellison was revered as “innovative and modernist,” and the only important African American writer. I next encountered Baldwin, and finally read him, for my Ph.D. exam in twentiethcentury American literature, after I had managed, not exactly legally, to leave Poland in 1987, the year of his death. The setting was Eugene, Oregon, and the book, Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953), Baldwin’s stirring first novel that I read in between stints as a maid and Graduate Teaching Fellow in American Studies and Composition. As I was finishing my dissertation on East European immigrant women writers in 1992, with Eva Hoffman’s “It is in my misfittings that I fit” (164) taped to the screen of my Mac Plus computer, I read Baldwin’s second novel, Giovanni’s Room (1956), to “get away from my field.” When I found myself co-teaching that novel in my first academic job, at a private liberal arts college in the South, I realized that I had gotten far away from anything remotely familiar. I was as intrigued when some of my predominantly white, Baptist, and privileged undergraduate students complained to the Dean that we were “promoting homo-


sexuality” by having them read Giovanni’s Room, as by those who claimed that, “a black writer should not write white books” or that “Baldwin was making everybody fall in love with Giovanni, regardless of gender.” This experience of “getting away from my field,” and the attendant revelations, shocks, punishments, and lessons of my early career helped me to embrace more fully the interdisciplinary imperatives of American and African American Studies scholarship. A productive sense of dislocation—literary, geographic, political, and regional — became my modus operandi in the years that followed my immigration from Poland to the United States in 1996. As a newly minted “resident alien,” I soon realized that I could not continue teaching “my immigrant writers” until I knew enough about black writers, and especially Baldwin and his contexts. This did not simply mean learning more about African American literature, but rather coming to terms more fully with what my first book on Mary Antin and Anzia Yezierska had already taught me, or how incredibly “worldly” – in Edward Said’s elegant formulation – all literature is. In Intellectual Exile: Expatriates and Intellectuals (1993), Edward Said evocatively links immigration and intellectual dissent in ways that help to represent Baldwin’s predicament as a transnational black writer: “Exile is a model for the intellectual who is tempted, and even beset and overwhelmed, by the rewards of accommodation, yeasaying, settling in. Even if one is not an actual immigrant or expatriate, it is still possible to think as one, to imagine and investigate in spite of barriers, and always to move away from the centralizing authorities towards the margins, where you see things that are usually lost on minds that have never traveled beyond the conventional and comfortable.” As we know well from the examples of Henry James, Richard Wright, Nella Larsen, Gertrude Stein, George Lamming, and many others, writers abroad often tell us as much about where they are speaking from as their actual birthplaces. We need them and we need literature to make sense of who we are and where we stand. I hope that reading Baldwin now through his unexpected location in Turkey, and through the

lens of the migratory literary misfittings that I deploy in these pages, will make the tale of transnational American literature even richer. Baldwin’s intensely personal rhetoric, imagery, and concern with the American self echo a large body of works in American literary history, including those of Emerson, Whitman, Douglass, and Du Bois, and challenge the genre of what Sacvan Bercovitch has termed “Auto-American-Biography.” Writing about the uniquely Baldwinian, black queer variation on this genre compels a critic to be sensitive to – and often suspi-

“It was a challenge and joy, occasionally exquisite torment, to be writing about someone whose style is inimitable, and whom one admires deeply.” cious of – the ways in which the complex interplays of experience, ideas, and interpretation inform writing and reading literature. I have been especially aware of this as a scholar positioned between the autobiographically inflected traditions of immigrant and African American writings, in which issues of identity politics, self-reflexivity, positioning, and –representations are centrally located and hotly debated. Robin: Your research included interviewing Baldwin’s friends in Istanbul. What was that like? Had you been to Turkey before? Did their memories of him reveal facts or stories that were missing from other well-known biographies? Magda: My project on Baldwin was the reason why I went to Turkey for the first time in 2001. At the time I was reading about his

visits there in David Leeming’s amazing biography (James Baldwin: A Biography, 1994). By lucky coincidence, I was also invited to go to Istanbul to participate in an international conference on cultural policy that was organized by the U-M’s International Institute and the Universities of Bosphorus and Sabanci in Turkey (Ford Foundation was one of the sponsors). So I ended up in Istanbul as a conference participant in my very first year as a U-M faculty, and also as a scholar who had an inkling that there was valuable material on Baldwin in that rather unexpected location on the fault lines of Europe and Asia. I had help from amazing people all throughout the process of researching and writing this book (please, see my book’s Acknowledgments chapter for a full list!) both the UM and at the Turkish universities I visited, who put me in touch with Baldwin’s friends and collaborators. And then, once I started talking to people in Istanbul, the grapevine literally spread all over Turkey. I had only three weeks for my research, interviews, and the conference on that first, pregnant trip to Turkey (and I fully mean the pun here – I was also pregnant with Cazmir at the time). It was a lot of work – incredibly rewarding and exciting work – as I discovered, or rather realized the existence of, a complex network of those who knew and remembered Baldwin. And all of them welcomed me and literally opened their homes and hearts to me only because they once knew and loved James Baldwin, and because I, this completely unknown Polish scholar from the United States, was working on a book on him. I went back to Turkey one more time for about two weeks in 2006, as I was finishing the book, and in between my terribly packed and intense trips there I kept in longdistance contact with all of my subjects. I also worked with Aslı Gür, a Ph.D. student at the U-M’s Sociology Department, who served as my Turkish translator and research assistant; my tireless doctoral advisee, Tayana Hardin (AC and BHC), valiantly helped me to pull together the index. Ever since the book has flown the nest, I have been telling my lecture audiences that reading Baldwin has taught me that it is not so much we as


scholars who choose our subjects, but rather our subjects who choose us. I felt especially chosen, as it were, when moments of rare human connection took place as I was doing my research in Turkey. For example, when one of Baldwin’s very close friends gave me a big hug at the end of our long interview and told me, with tears in his eyes, “Jimmy would have loved you and would have been happy to have you work on this project. Precisely because you are from that strange country of Poland!” I know this sounds rather soap-operatic, but I cherished moments like this one, the moments when people who once were close to the genius I studied, whom they loved, argued with, and called “Jimmy,” trusted me with their stories, photographs, and even occasional blunders that were brought about by the inevitable complexities of race, gender, and sexuality that Baldwin was negotiating between American and Turkish cultures. Of course, I was not at liberty to use all that I learned in my book. This means that, yes, I did hear a lot that was not printed in the biographies. I also heard a lot about what readers hardly ever learn about writers, and what I am at liberty to disclose, for example, about the vagaries of everyday life in Istanbul such as shopping, going out, cooking, looking for an apartment; about how difficult Baldwin sometimes could be as a guest, or how obsessed he would get about a project when he’d stay up all night ferociously typing a new piece while drinking and smoking; how hard it was for him to be criticized by other African Americans (and he was criticized a lot, as we know…). In short, my contacts with Baldwin’s Turkish friends helped me enormously in understanding the role of Turkey in his works, its overlooked importance as the liminal location and lens from which and through which he reassessed his ideas about race, sexuality, gender, national identity, and politics as the 1960’s wore on. Often prone to hyperbole, Baldwin said many times that Turkey “saved” his life; I really found this to be true, both about the person and about his works. Robin: Baldwin is considered one of America’s greatest essayists. Did you have goals for your own writing in writing about such a

and the whole nine yards of the struggle that writers – and I mean all writers, creative, academic, journalists, etc., – go through to get to the end of the book … that end of the (last) line. And I have to say, in all humility, that reading Baldwin’s letters, looking at some of his manuscripts at the Schomburg Center in Harlem, and talking to his friends who confirmed that he, too, thought writing to be excruciatingly hard, made me feel encouraged about my own modest efforts. Robin: Are you working on a new book?

revered writer? Is writing something you enjoy? Magda: It was a challenge and joy, occasionally exquisite torment, to be writing about someone whose style is inimitable, and whom one admires deeply. Let me gush a bit: I could never dream to approximate a writing style as rich as Baldwin’s, and as I write I am always aware that I am writing in my second language. Still it was incredibly exciting that I could engage this amazing writer, that I had things to say about him, and that my book would be published and read, and that maybe some people would like it and learn something from it. I simply wanted to write an honest book, the book that would do justice to Baldwin’s contribution as a writer and activist, and as a black queer American who took his ideas far beyond the U.S. borders. (Our new colleague, Brandi Hughes has asked me recently whether I thought that we were into a “Baldwin Renaissance” these days, and I answered that it was about time. We need his ideas, passion, and integrity; students, scholars, and politicians should be reading and discussing him, and learning from him.) As for my approach to writing, like many, I have a bit of a love and hate relationship with it. As I tell my students, I believe that writing is one of the hardest things to do. But I also tell them that it’s one of the most rewarding when it happens, when you’ve finally arrived at that sense of clarity and purpose once you’ve done it for a long time, once you’ve clawed your way through endless bad drafts and sleepless nights of research,

Magda: Yes, I was very happy to have been chosen as the Hunting Family Fellow at the Institute for the Humanities last year. It is a great place to be as one is trying to gather badly needed momentum on new work, and it has regularly hosted CAAS faculty: I was in the company of diverse colleagues and graduate students that included Angela Dillard. As for what occupies me (when I am not traveling with lectures on Baldwin in Turkey, of which there have been quite a few ), I am working on two new books. The first one, tentatively titled James Baldwin in the Company of Women, focuses on rereading the black novel of the last half of the twentieth century as a conversation between Baldwin and Ann Petry, Gwendolyn Brooks, Paule Marshall, Toni Morrison, Lorraine Hansberry, Nikki Giovanni, and Gloria Naylor. The second, Racing Borderlands, examines the nature of borders, borderland cultures, hybrid identities, and the rich traffic in representations of gendered and racialized/ sexualized subjects between the United States and the former Soviet bloc, and specifically Poland. Both have been inspired by Baldwin’s invocation, “Know whence you came”: the first one by asking me to rethink and recast how I teach and read African American literature today, and the second by asking me to look back at my home in Eastern Europe as a somewhat unexpected postCold War site where we can study race, gender, and sexuality in a comparative ethnic studies framework. Robin: In addition to your work here in CAAS, you also teach in American Culture and in fact you’re the American Culture Graduate Chair. Talk about your work with graduate students; what kinds of research


and projects does one see in a program like American Culture? Magda: I have been in American Culture since 2000, first as a full-time visiting associate professor, and since 2001 in a joint (75%+25%) appointment with CAAS. I have served as AC’s Graduate Chair for three years now, (Prof. Sarita See was the Interim Graduate Chair while I was on leave). This academic year 2010-11 is the end of my term. My work with the Doctoral Program, the Graduate Committee, our amazing Graduate Assistant Marlene Moore, and with the many graduate students whom I have taught in courses and whom I advise as a member of various committees – from Second Year Advisory Meeting, through Doctoral Fields Examinations, to Dissertation – has been both rewarding and challenging. Our students come from all walks of life, are diverse and motivated, with wide-ranging interests and interdisciplinary projects. They are active scholars and community participants; many present their work at conferences and publish articles while still in the program; they also work as GSI’s and several of them have received Outstanding GSI Awards from Rackham (Lee Ann Wang, Justine Pas, Tyler Cornelius, Colin Johnson). We are considered among the top

Our students come from all walks of life, are diverse and motivated, with wide-ranging interests and interdisciplinary projects. programs in the country, and this is both a position to cherish and look at as a source of constant encouragement to do better. Now a bit of history: The doctoral program literally grew with AC in the last decade, and we first revised it in 2004 (under the

aegis of Prof. Jay Cook) and then again, following the efforts of Sandra Gunning and Carroll Smith-Rosenberg to expand our program and ensure funding packages for all incoming students, and following its recent review by Rackham. When they enter our program now, Ph.D., students receive a fully funded five-year package that includes health insurance, research support, and summer stipends. They take required and elective courses from a smorgasbord-board of offerings in general AMS and our topnotch Ethnic Studies units: Native American, Asian/Pacific Islander American, Latino/-na, and Arab American Studies, as well as the informally structured African American Cultures Caucus of which I am a part. We have a very solid—and yes, as demanding and comprehensive as it is competitive nationwide, given its stellar cast of faculty and funding incentives—framework to prepare our students to complete their doctoral projects and to be sought after on the job market. Now, briefly, to the challenges: being a Graduate Chair means a lot of work, given that one also advises and teaches regular courses, and serves on the Executive Committee. Like for the Director and the Directors of our Ethnic Studies units, who wear several hats at all times, there is little time for one’s own research and writing during the academic year, which can be frustrating. For example, the year before my leave I spent working on the doctoral program revisions suggested by Rackham and requested by our students, many of whom demanded more structure and rigor in the requirements. Immensely grateful for the help of Marlene Moore, our Program Director, Greg Dowd, the Graduate Committee and the students and faculty, without whose steadfast support we would not have gotten anywhere, I still had to be the one revising the small print of documents long into the night, and the one worrying about fielding questions in meetings and via e-mail. This is my job and I love it. Still, this year I’m trying to carve out more time for my research and writing to sustain the momentum that I was able to build up during my leave at the Institute for the Humanities.

Artist Atta Kwami at GalleryCAAS Roberta Smith of the New York Times writes, “Cultures gently collide in the small, colorful abstract paintings of the Ghanaian painter Atta Kwami.” Kwami exhibited his work in GalleryCAAS, the Center’s new gallery, earlier this semester. Continues Smith, Kwami’s “compositions of intersecting freehand lines or abutting squares and blocks echo the textiles of the Ashanti and Ewe peoples, many of whom live in Ghana and Togo. But Mr. Kwami is also fluent in the tendency of relaxed, post-Process Art abstraction as pursued by American and European painters like Raoul De Keyser, Mary Heilmann, Stanley Whitney and Juan Usle.” Atta Kwami was born in Accra, Ghana in 1956. Until recently he was Senior Lecturer in the College of Art at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi. His paintings are held in major public collections including the National Museums of Ghana and Kenya, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C., The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and The British Museum. His exhibition, Susuka, which denotes brevity and clarity in Akan, was open from January 21st until February 25th, 2011. GalleryCAAS is located in room G648, on the ground floor of Haven Hall.


Detroit Police Chief Visits CAAS 248 Crime, Race and the Law by Erika Mayer ’12 Junior Erika Mayer is an Honors Student studying Political Science and International Studies. Erika writes for the Michigan Daily and is also the Director of the U-M Model UN Crisis Committee (a Model United Nation conference that U-M students put on for high school students over MLK weekend), Co-Captain of the U-M Waterski Club and is a member of the Club Sports Council. She hopes to work for the State Department after graduation. On Thursday, November 4, 2010, students in CAAS 248, “Crime, Race, and the Law,” were paid a ninety-minute visit by Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee, Jr. The chief executive of one of the nation’s largest law enforcement agencies--one that employs more than three-thousand officers--Chief Godbee gave CAAS students an unscripted, inside view of what has been described as “one of the toughest jobs in the country.” A native of Detroit, his father was a brick mason who died when Godbee was in elementary school. Despite growing up in an impoverished household, he excelled as both a student and athlete at Cass Technical High School and enrolled at Indiana Univeristy briefly as a walk-on quarterback before returning to Detroit and joining the police force. But after losing his job to budget cuts, Godbee realized that the officers who had kept their jobs were those that had college degrees. Resolving never to be laid off again, he enrolled first at Wayne County Community College, and later at Wayne State, earning his Associate’s, Bachelor’s, and Master’s degrees. Returning to full-time work in the Detroit police force, Godbee requested an assignment in the 9th Precinct, long regarded as the “roughest, toughest, and most crime-ridden” neighborhood in all of Detroit. Working his way up the system, Godbee was appointed Chief earlier this year by Mayor Dave Bing. Godbee is very proud of how Detroit has changed over the past few years. Once known as the murder capital of America, the city has shaken that statistical role if not the label. During the past year, homicides and crime in general in Michigan’s largest city has decreased, and Godbee hopes that this trend will continue despite the limited budget he has to work with. Over 90% of his budget goes towards the salaries of his officers, making it difficult to cut expenditures. He told the class he was especially frustrated by the decrease in the tax base, as his officers still have to patrol the same amount of land--more than 140 square miles--yet with less funding. The Chief stressed to the class the importance of mentoring. He believes it is incredibly important to give support to young children in troubled neighborhoods, and to show them that there is a path that does not involve crime and drugs. He says that encouragement to pursue the “hard road” and get an education is what keeps kids from gang membership and drug dealing. Many youngsters do not have the sort of support network at home that they need, and University of Michigan students can help make a difference through mentoring programs. Godbee also engaged in a lively and wide ranging Q&A session with the forty-five students in Dr. Scott Ellsworth’s class. The Chief’s visit was arranged by CAAS major Brittanie Lofton-Carter, who is the daughter of Detroit police officers.


The Right Time for a Book Like This A Review of John A. Rich’s Wrong Place, Wrong Time: Trauma and Violence in the Lives of Young Black Men by Alford Young, Ph.D. Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, CAAS and Sociology /Chair of the Department of Sociology Earlier this year I sat down at a conference table directly across from Dr. John A. Rich, a physician who has dedicated his career to treating trauma in urban hospitals. We were in the conference room of a well-known and highly regarded research and advocacy organization that was assembling a major initiative on marginalized males of color in the United States. I serve on the advisory board for this organization’s initiative, and Dr. Rich was introduced to the board as a concerned professional who was interested in large-scale initiatives designed to address the needs of this population. Dr. Rich spoke very briefly, but quite passionately, about his work in Boston and Philadelphia hospitals with African American males who had been victims of violence, and how that circumstance was one of many that allowed this population to maintain its status as an at-risk group. In the more than 15 years in which I had been doing research on African American males, I had encountered a handful of physicians who were addressing the physical health aspects of this so-called crisis. Yet what was novel about the presentation given by Dr. Rich was the way in which he implicated the community, and American society more generally, in the manifestation of violence enacted both by and upon African American males. He said that the problem was not simply about violent men, but about communities that were structured such that violence was one of the only forms of agency available for men to navigate public space and react to intense pressures and issues in their lives. He explained that violence is not simply a consequence of embracing bad values, but continues to result from its status as a normative element of everyday life. I left my meeting that day hoping to encounter Dr. Rich again because his vision of the place of violence in the lives of African American males seemed so thoroughly informed by a social scientific lens, and I had not before heard a physician speak about the matter in that way. Nearly two months after this encounter, having been asked to review Wrong Place Wrong Time: Trauma and Violence in the Lives of Young Black Men, I found myself with Dr. Rich’s book in my hands. After reading it, I am even more fully informed about how and why he has grounded his assessment of violence and African American men in a social science perspective and I am further convinced of the value of his orientation. Despite my remarks about the vision of Dr. Rich, Wrong Place Wrong Time is not an academic analysis of the phenomenon of violence. Instead, it is a highly personal account of how a physician encountered men who had been subjected to violence, and how they explained their own involvement in its proliferation. Dr. Rich tells his story in an emotionally charged way such that readers grasp his frustrations, disappointments, curiosities, and anxieties as he discusses the men that have come into the emergency room of the hospital where he is employed and his interactions with them some time much later in their healing process. In presenting the material in this way, readers see a more complex and complete portrait of men who may otherwise appear to be mindlessly committed to harming others and, in doing so, risking harm to themselves on the streets of a municipality. Rich begins his account with the story of Kari, a young man who appears in the emergency room of his hospital because he was shot as a result of resisting someone’s attempt to steal his gold chain. He was bleeding profusely upon arrival, and the team of doctors and nurses in the emergency room responded to him as if they had en-

countered this situation a million times or more in the past. Dr. Rich tells how the medical staff addressed Kari’s injuries and how he followed Kari’s progress through the weeks that followed. In getting to know Kari and a series of other patients whose stories are told in this book, readers learn how some of the men came into this book as victims of violence, but may also be perpetrators of it as well (and thus the causal factor for other such men coming into the same Boston hospital emergency room). Yet, Rich argues against any readers’ (and, as he writes, some of his colleagues’ and fellow emergency room staff’s) sense that one should blame the men for this condition. In summarizing the words of a sympathetic colleague of his named Dr. Sandra Bloom, he writes: Our tendency to demonize these young men requires that we classify them into one of two categories: sick or bad. Seeing them as sick implies that they bear no responsibility for their actions, that they are inherently defective, and that experts are needed to provide them with treatment. Seeing them as bad, on the other hand, implies that they bear all of the responsibility for the problem, that they are even more defective, and that what they need most is punishment (p. 66). Rich then said that Dr. Bloom made clear that these men are best seen as injured (emotionally as well as physically), and thus in need of healing on both dimensions. The theme of reinforcing a healing approach is the strong thesis of this book. Throughout the book, Dr. Rich demonstrates that the men who have come into the emergency room, and into his life as he decided to follow up with them to get their stories and ultimately become their friends, are more like him than would appear to be the case when they are looked at as victims or promoters of violence. Rich does not claim to have lived as these men have, and as a physician he is clearly much better off than any of them may ever become. Yet he manages to tell a story of how men experience threat, anxiety, insecurity in their lives, and how they respond not only with violence, but also with love, sensitivity, patience, and rationality (traits that distant outsiders deny are possessed by African American men and reflective of African American masculinity). Rich uses his own reactions to these men to make clear how even compassionate and generally understanding people can misjudge or misread some of them. In doing so, he provides a safe avenue for readers to follow in order to re-think their viewpoints as they learn and think about the experiences and opinions of these men. Dr. Rich does not conclude this work with a formal set of policy recommendations nor a utopian vision of how the problem of violence for African American men can be solved. Instead, he discusses the intervention programs and mechanisms that he has committed to in order to try to diminish African American male violence in Philadelphia, where he now resides. In presenting a portrait of his efforts, he reminds us all that we can sometimes only solve big problems by taking small steps. His model provides a valuable template for what others can do to contribute to a healthy and safer African American male population, African American community, and American society more generally.


CAAS Student News Mary Lilliana O'Brien-Kovari Mary Lilliana O'Brien-Kovari ("Lilly"), a CAAS minor and Political Science major, has been awarded a 2011 MLK Spirit Award. She was nominated for her work with the Pedagogy of Action (POA) Ambassadors (the student-run organization in support of Nesha Haniff’s POA Study Abroad in South Africa) and for her efforts, working with high schools students, to foster legislation mandating a diversity curriculum in every Michigan high school. She received a plaque and a copy of A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at a ceremony in January.

Jamiela A. Sekou CAAS minor and Political Science major , Jamiela A. Sekou (Class of 2011), has been invited to join Teach for America. She will be teaching secondary social studies in Jacksonville, Florida.

Ilana Diamond CAAS minor and Residential College student, Ilana Diamond, has received an internship with the US Marshals in Detroit for this coming summer 2011.

Open House and Pizza Party More than 30 students attended the CAAS Open House and Pizza Party in November where they met with CAAS faculty and staff, heard about upcoming Winter 2011 CAAS courses, learned about the CAAS Honors Program, signed up to become a CAAS Major or Minor and learned about the CAAS Graduate Certificate Program. During the Open House four lucky students won the $25 American Express Gift Card raffle. Organized by Student Services Coordinator Katherine Weathers, the program is part of a continuing series of initiatives to create an awareness of CAAS among both undergraduates and graduate students

South African Artist Mphapho Rangoato Hlasane Mphapho Rangoato Hlasane, better known as ‘Ra’ to his friends here at CAAS, is shown below in front of two works of art that he generously donated to the Center. Ra was visiting CAAS in connection to his work with the Pedagogy of Action Anniversary Conference.


Dr. Denis Mukwege, Recipient of the 2010 Wallenberg Medal

“You know, they're in deep pain. But it's not just physical pain. It's psychological pain that you can see.� On November 17, CAAS sponsored a panel discussion with Dr. Denis Mukwege, an Ob/Gyn who has dedicated his career to help female victims of sexual violence in war-torn Congo. At U-M to accept the U-M Wallenberg Award for his humanitarian efforts and to present the 2010 Wallenberg lecture, he was joined for the discussion by Professor of French, Comparative Literature and African Studies Frieda Ekotto and Associate Professor of Theatre Mbala Nkanga. With the help of his interpreter, the French-speaking Dr. Mukwege spoke of the continued problem of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He is the director of Panzi Hospital, in Bukavu in the eastern Congo, where he specializes in the treatment of women who are victims of the sexual violence that since the 1990s has been part of the catastrophic civil wars in the Congo and Rwanda. He is one of the world's leading experts on how to repair the internal physical damage caused by rape. Hundreds of thousands of Congolese women have been raped in the last twelve years, and Dr. Mukwege has treated 21,000 of them, many more than once. He performs up to ten surgeries a day during his eighteen-hour work days. He says that his patients often arrive at the hospital naked, bleeding, and with severely damaged reproductive organs. Says Dr. Mukwege, "You know, they're in deep pain. But it's not just physical pain. It's psychological pain that you can see. Here at the hospital, we've seen women who've stopped living." Many of the women he treats are blamed for what happened to them and then shunned because of fears they've contracted HIV and because their rapes were so violent they can no longer control their bodily functions. Panzi Hospital today is providing rape victims with psychosocial support, vocational training, medical and other support for those with HIV, and care for children who were conceived through rape. The hospital has developed strong connections with other medical institutions worldwide.


CAAS 495 Travels to Historic Freedom Center

Two Senior Seminars, one taught by Associate Professor Meg Sweeney, the other by Associate Professor Martha Jones, along with other members of the CAAS community took a day trip to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. The group included undergraduates, graduate students, five local high school students, CAAS faculty and staff as well as several visiting scholars from U-M’s African Presidential Scholars Program (UMAPS). The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center has five permanent exhibits and a special exhibit titled “Slavery Today”. In Sweeney’s class, students focused on the intertwined themes of justice, culture, and identity and several of the class’s readings addressed contemporary efforts to reckon with historical injustices, including South African Apartheid and American slavery. Students in Jones’s class used what they learned from the trip to create entries for an online encyclopedia that will accompany a new exhibit about the underground railroad at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. All the students were encouraged to learn more about the history of slavery and resistance in the U.S., and to explore how one museum attempts to preserve forms of history that are crucial for understanding the present. The trip also served as an opportunity for CAAS’s diverse community to connect outside the University.

Larry Rowley Assistant Professor in CAAS and Education Larry Rowley recently gave a talk titled, Toward an Apogee of African Americans in the American University: W.E.B Du Bois and the Politics of Autobiographical Publishing, 1959-1960. Rowley argues that at the dawn of the 1960s, even as William Edward Burghardt Du Bois was moving further and further to the political left and involved in a range of complex social, political and economic movements for justice nationally and internationally, he maintained (or revived depending on one’s viewpoint) his commitment to the full inclusion of African American students and scholars in academic and intellectual life in American universities generally, but particularly at those institutions previously closed to African Americans. Indeed, Du Bois maintained a strong belief in the social and political utility of the “college-bred community” of students, teachers and scholars until the end of his life.


You’re majoring in what?! Conference Highlights Career Options for CAAS Majors and Minors by CAAS Staff Member and U-M Alum Elizabeth James

You’re majoring in what?! Alumni Perspectives on Earning a CAAS Degree was held early Friday afternoon on October 22, 2010 in the Michigan Union’s Pond Room. The event began with a panel discussion of CAAS alumni and focused on career options for CAAS majors and minors..

Alexandra Moffett-Bateau (2007, BA with high honors in CAAS and Political Science). She is currently working on her dissertation at the University of Chicago, which examines how state violence in the American context affects black women's conceptions of their democratic citizenship.

Four alumni from this past decade were featured:

The panelists shared their experiences and described how a CAAS degree prepared them for a variety of careers and for further study at the graduate or professional level. Je’Nai Talley stated, “Academically, CAAS courses and professors helped hone my writing, critical thinking and analytical skills, all of which are essential in my current career. Personally, the faculty and staff of CAAS became family as they nurtured my development as a global citizen and helped strengthen my character. It has proven extremely rewarding.

Je'Nai A. Talley (2005, BA in CAAS and Criminal Justice, and 2009, Master of Social Work) is an Assistant Director in the Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives at UM. As a CAAS major, Je'Nai has too many positive memories to recall, but she was most impacted by the tutelage of Professor James Chaffers. Gabriel Peoples (2006, BA with honors in CAAS and English) desires to inspire people to use their imaginations creatively and with purpose and to think seriously about how their words and bodies wield the power to change minds and create worlds. He studies Black performance in the American Studies Ph.D. program at the University of Maryland, College Park and is the convention director of the American Studies Association in Washington, D.C. Chastity Rolling (2007, BA in English and CAAS). Her master’s degree in Social Service Administration is from the University of Chicago. She is currently a school social worker/life coach at Perspectives Charter School in Chicago.

CAAS faculty and staff members also participated as part of the Q&A and broader discussion about the field. Megan Sweeney, associate professor in CAAS and English, and Director of CAAS Undergraduate Studies, spearheaded the event. Lunch was provided, so the audience was nourished in a variety of ways. Andre L. Brown, (2005, BA in CAAS), currently a Ph.D. student at the University of North Carolina in Public Health, spoke highly of having a CAAS major. “Being a student in the CAAS department provides the ability to see yourself and your community through the world's eyes. It gives you a greater sense of purpose in life by enriching your knowledge and understanding of the world you live in and connecting your own personal struggles and triumphs to those of people throughout the African diaspora.”


News & Announcements

New Books by CAAS Faculty Pages from a Black Radical’s Notebook: A James Boggs Reader edited by Stephen Ward, assistant professor in CAAS and the Residential College. Born in the rural American south, James Boggs lived nearly his entire adult life in Detroit and worked as a factory worker for twenty-eight years while immersing himself in the political struggles of the industrial urban north. During and after the years he spent in the auto industry, Boggs wrote two books, co-authored two others, and penned dozens of essays, pamphlets, reviews, manifestos, and newspaper columns to become known as a pioneering revolutionary theorist and community organizer. In Pages from a Black Radical’s Notebook, Ward collects a diverse sampling of pieces by Boggs, spanning the entire length of his career from the 1950s to the early 1990s. By Love Possessed by Lorna Goodison, professor in CAAS and English Language and Literature. Compiled at the encouragement of her McClelland & Stewart publisher Ellen Seligman, Goodison’s new book includes 20 stories culled from two previous collections published in the U.K. and Jamaica as well as two entirely new works. Thematically, the stories focus on relationships between men and women and issues of class. Often the preoccupations merge. Goodison and the book were recently featured in the Toronto Star.

Awards and Other Honors Robin Means-Coleman, associate professor in CAAS and Communications, has won the LSA Michigan Humanities Award. The award is given to LSA tenured, full-time faculty and is based on the merit of their proposed project and their record of scholarly and pedagogical achievement. Professor Coleman's project is titled The NAACP, Advocacy, and the Struggle Over Blacks’ Participation in Media. The project will become a book.

The House on Diamond Hill: A Cherokee Plantation Story by Tiya Miles, associate professor in CAAS and American Culture. At the turn of the nineteenth century, James Vann, a Cherokee chief and entrepreneur, established Diamond Hill in Georgia, the most famous plantation in the southeastern Cherokee Nation. In this first full-length study to reconstruct the history of the plantation, Miles tells the story of Diamond Hill's founding, its flourishing, its takeover by white land-lottery winners on the eve of the Cherokee Removal, its decay, and ultimately its renovation in the 1950s. The Politics of Polio in Northern Nigeria by Elisha P. Renne, professor in CAAS and Anthropology. In 2008, Northern Nigeria had the greatest number of confirmed cases of polio in the world and was the source of outbreaks in several West African countries. Renne explores the politics and social dynamics of the Northern Nigerian response to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which has been met with extreme skepticism, subversion, and the refusal of some parents to immunize their children. Renne explains this resistance by situating the eradication effort within the social, political, cultural, and historical context of the experience of polio in Northern Nigeria.

se on Diamond Hill: A Cherokee Plantation Story by Tiya Miles, associate professor in CAAS and American Culture. At the turn of the nineteenth century, James Vann, a Cherokee chief and entre-

CAAS Administration Angela Dillard, Director Elisha Renne, Associate Director Anne Pitcher, Associate Director for African Studies Megan Sweeney, Director of Undergraduate Studies Executive Committee: Paul Anderson, Amal Fadlalla and Xiomara Santamarina Regents of the University Julia Donovan Darlow, Ann Arbor; Laurence B. Deitch, Bingham Farms; Denise Ilitch,;Bingham Farms; Olivia P. Maynard, Goodrich ; Andrea Fischer Newman, Ann Arbor; Andrew C. Richner, Grosse Pointe Park; S. Martin Taylor, Grosse Pointe Farms; Katherine E. White, Ann Arbor; Mary Sue Coleman, ex officio Newsletter V. Robin Grice, Editor Elizabeth James, Faye Portis and Katherine Weathers, Editorial Support Unless otherwise indicated, photos taken by CAAS student Assistants Ashley Bryant, Auriel Bell and Nath’niel Malcolm Bass


CAAS Pre-Kwanzaa Celebration

CAAS celebrated Kwanzaa this year with dinner for the entire CAAS community of students, faculty and staff as well as a film about the history of the holiday. The film was introduced by CAAS Minor Taqee Vernon .

CAAS Part of U-M Educational Outreach

On February 1, 2011, University of Michigan faculty, staff and students including CAAS Staff Member Beth James (shown above), visited Jackson High School as a part of Wolverine Express, a program organized by the U-M Center for Educational Outreach. The visit to Jackson High School was the second of several stops on the Wolverine Express tour in the 2010-11 academic year.

Faye Portis Organizes CAAS Holiday Giving Program Every year CAAS Staff Member Faye Portis organizes the Center’s efforts to sponsor a family in need during Christmas through the Washtenaw County Community Support and Treatment Services. This year her efforts resulted in CAAS providing its sponsored family with four boxes of non perishable food and a wide assortment of gifts for the entire family of four. Thanks to everyone who supported Faye and CAAS in this effort.


Support CAAS’s Future by Donating to the CAAS Strategic Fund As a member of the CAAS community you can “sponsor” one of the adinkra symbols below or an adinkra symbol of your choice by making a contribution of at least $500. Go to: http://www.lsa.umich.edu/caas and click ‘Support the Center’ for details.

Community & Student Symbols

Symbols for Individual Sponsorship

These first four symbols are for collective sponsorship from students ($10 or more) and members of the CAAS community ($25 or more).

These symbols are currently available for individuals to sponsor with donations starting at $500. There are many possibilities not included below. Please feel free to suggest other options.

SANKOFA: “Return and get it;” associated with the importance of learning from the past

GYE NYAME: “Except for God;” the symbol of the supremacy of God

MATE MASIE: “What I hear, I keep;” associated with wisdom, knowledge and prudence NEA ONNIM NO SUA A, OHU: “He who does not know can know from learning;” a symbol of knowledge, life-long education and continued quest for knowledge DENKYEM: “Crocodile;” the symbol of adaptability

DWENNIMMEN: “Ram’s horn;” the symbol of humility together with strength AYA: “Fern;” the symbol of endurance and resourcefulness ANANSE NTONTAN: “Spider’s web;” the symbol of wisdom, creativity and the complexities of life NKYINKIM: “Twisting;” the symbol of initiative, dynamism and versatility See the CAAS website, under "Support rhe Center" for more symbols.

DAAS Newsletter Winter 2011  

University of Michigan Department of Afroamerican and African Studies Newsletter

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