LaGuardia Community College has a club for just about every interest and skill. Photography, chess, creative writing, women in stem, tabletop board games, psychology, cooking, anime, economics, are all clubs organized by students for students. Despite the presence of these clubs at LaGuardia, each offering leadership and community-building opportunities, a growing number of LaGuardia students […]
On April 7, The Color Collective held a virtual panel titled Africana Studies: Past Present and Future. Faculty members from various departments participated and interacted with students.
“This panel grew out of conversations about the struggle to maintain and offer Africana Studies at the college,” says Misun Dokko, who along with Jason Hendrickson, co-organized and moderated the panel. Dokko and Hendrickson are faculty members of the English department.
The panelists included Ana María Hernandez, a professor of Latin American studies in the Education and Language acquisition; Tonya Hendricks who is an associate professor in the department of Natural Sciences and Jacqueline Jones, a co-founder and leader of LAGCC’s Women gender and sexuality option in liberal arts.
The event focused on the multidisciplinary nature of Africana Studies, which is often called as Black studies too and career opportunities for students. Social and political science, humanities, arts, culture, and politics are all integral parts of Africana Studies. Panelists also pointed out that Africana Studies can bolster the self-esteem of students and shared personal stories.
Tonya Hendricks talked about how Africana Studies shaped her college experience, “I was more aware of my culture and seeing real role models that looked like me.”
Even though LAGCC’s demographic for student population is 47 percent Hispanic and 18 percent Black, there are few programs that reflects the cultural diversity.
“I don’t think there are enough classes focused on the subject as it is,” Bridgette Solorzano, 24, said. She is a Writing and Literature major and said she “would love” to see courses dedicated to Africana Studies.
She said that the campus is “overdue” for highlighting Black and Brown history.
“It’s like we have to dig to find the classes that teach more narratives from people of color and even then, we don’t get offered many,” she added. Solorzano said the college should be more offering courses and major options that reflect the diversity of the campus.
The potential and challenges for Africana Studies at LaGuardia were debated and discussed in this virtual panel.
“One of the challenges of a two-year college is that traditionally, two-year colleges are less likely to offer something in cultural studies”, Jason Hendrickson from the English department says. It can be a challenge due to the transferability of credits to four-year programs.
But there is hope as steps are being made in the development of Africana Studies by the CUNY Chancellor. There is a PhD program being developed and a dual master’s program. With disciplines in humanities, social science, physical sciences, mathematics, among others, students will have the possibility of transferring to four-year programs.
“By studying all kinds of ethnic studies including Latin American, Asian American opens a world to a variety of possibilities,” Jacqueline Jones said. This also means that having faculty who are more vocal about what the field entails, really brings in a community-oriented perspective.
But how can this be achieved?
Ana María Hernandez, a professor of Latin American studies, says that advisement has to be a key feature in student enrollment in ethnic and culturally focused courses.
Students may want to take a course out of genuine interest, but advisement tells them that the course won’t help them as much as another. “It shouldn’t just be about finding a job,” Hernandez says. It’s a benefit of your self-esteem and evoking a sense of pride in oneself and heritage.
An Ethnic Studies Option was launched in Fall 2022.