May 25, 2017

Celebrate Kwanzaa on Your Campus

The purpose of this article is to encourage colleges to integrate this cultural holiday into their student activity calendars, thus allowing all students to experience this unique celebration. The celebration works well in residence halls and with student organizations taking the lead.

 What is Kwanzaa?

KinaraKwanzaa (KWAHN-zah) is a seven day African American cultural holiday, observed by peoples of Afrikan descent worldwide. It is a joyous celebration to reaffirm traditional Afrikan social values. It is therefore non-religious and non-heroic. The word “Kwanzaa” is derived from a Kiswahili phrase, “MATUNDA YA KWANZA” (mah-TOON-dah yah KWAHN-zah), meaning “first fruits.”

In Afrika, harvesting the first fruits or crops of the season was cause for celebration. The African American version of Kwanzaa was inspired by the traditional Afrikan ritual celebrating the harvest of the first fruits. An extra ‘a’ was added to the ending of the word Kwanzaa to distinguish the African American celebration.

Before proceeding with the principles of Kwanzaa, I should explain why Afrika is spelled with a K. Dr. Nantambu presents a concise analysis of the reasons for spelling Afrika with a K, based on the work of poet and writer Haki Madhubuti in Haki’s book From Plan to Planet (1973). Nantambu (2002) suggests four main reasons for the alternative spelling: [Read more...]

Novel helps campuses discuss racism and other issues faced by African American college students. Check out 3-Chapter Excerpts and decide for yourself

Educators know that one of the biggest challenges we face is getting our students to open up about uncomfortable issues like racism and discrimination on campus. I’m pleased to share information about my mystery-thriller novel- Lakeside University Cover Up that will make addressing that challenge a little less difficult.

The novel is being praised as a tool for discussing diversity and inclusion in a way that genuinely engages students. I invite you to include this book as part of your 2015 class readings or as a common read for your school. If there was ever a time that we needed a national dialogue on race, that time is now! It can start with your campus.

As Gloria, the main character shows, by finding the courage to be vulnerable and authentic, we can discover a common language to connect with each other on a deep emotional level as fellow human beings. I’ve included three chapters from the novel to allow you to decide for yourself. Thank you for your consideration and best wishes for 2015!

 

CHAPTER ONE

Enough was enough. Dean of Students, Todd Severson stormed into President David Horning’s office and slammed the door. “Sir, we need to do something!” Severson said,
lowering himself into the chair across from Horning’s antique desk. “Your divide and conquer strategy is backfiring—we have to do something and do it fast, or this university will explode!”
President Horning glanced up from his coffee. “That’s a bit dramatic, Todd, don’t you think?”
Severson leaned forward in his chair and pressed his palms against the desktop. “A black student has just been attacked!” he said. “Classes are being disrupted. The police are running themselves ragged, trying to keep everything under control. Now we have threats of a major civil rights demonstration being held on our campus!”
Horning looked at Severson and frowned. “Why don’t you just calm down,” he said. “We’ve weathered crises before. This isn’t any different.”
Severson stared back, his jaw askew. “Sir, I beg to disagree! We may have been able to smooth things over in the past, but this is very different. This could turn violent—even more violent than it already has become. And it’s just a matter of time before the media plasters this mess all over the front page.”
Before Horning could respond, his phone rang. As he reached to answer it, Severson stood up to leave. “Hold on Todd. Let me get this. This might be the call that will get us out of this damn mess,” Horning said, as Severson paced the floor.
*** [Read more...]

KEY DIVERSITY MODELS

Williams and Clowney (2007) have identified and labeled four primary diversity models currently operating in higher-education institutions. According to the authors, each model characterizes diversity uniquely and proposes a different set of policies, programs, initiatives, and structures to reach specific goals. The models may occur simultaneously, although it is rare for them to be intertwined and exist in the same organizational division or structure (Williams and Clowney, 2007).

The Affirmative Action and Equity model, according to the researchers, is defined as the model that aimed to change overt barriers to education and employment for minorities and women. This model generally holds that institutions have a moral obligation to affirmatively redistribute opportunity to protected groups and ameliorate the current effects of past discrimination.

This model was therefore supposed to rectify past wrongs by creating policies that would end overt discrimination, through spurring change in demographic representation. Although meant initially for racial minorities, this model has been of great benefit to women, war veterans and people with disabilities.  While this model does indeed help by increasing the number of minorities and underrepresented groups, it does not take the next step of changing the institutional culture to make it more inclusive. While it is a necessary first step, it’s still only part of the puzzle.

Indian graphic Picture1Diversity Tip: Just recruiting more people of color, but doing nothing to make the institution friendlier for them, is like electing the first black president and declaring that racism has now ended. [Read more...]

Advice for Parents to Give their Kids Entering into College about Diversity

By Dr. Charles Taylor, Dr. Denise Ajeto, Professor Emeritus Angela Provitera McGlynn, Derek Johnson, and Dr. Aldo Billingslea

It seems like every week we read about another racial incident on some college campus and the traditional college response to that incident. While colleges must continue to provide anti-racist and diversity training, perhaps it time for them to become more proactive and reach students before they arrive on campus.

One group that could play a critical role in challenging students’ attitudes about diversity and inclusion is parents. Students still listen to their parents at least up to their junior year in college. Parents can be a tremendous resource in helping to improve the campus climate by having the diversity conversation with their kids before sending them off to school.

The question then becomes-what advice should parents give to their kids. I asked colleagues from around the country to help me draft a letter about diversity that parents can give to their kids before sending them off to college. What do you think?

figure head with graduation cap and books

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Dear Son/Daughter,

Acquire Cultural Competency Skills

First and foremost we want you to know that diversity benefits everyone. It is something to be celebrated, embraced and not feared. We’re sending you off to college with the expectation that you will engage intellectually and socially with all types of people. We don’t want you to live your life in fear of others. We want you to become culturally competent and that’s different from just being tolerant of others. Cultural competency is the ability to engage people in ways that respect and honor their culture. In fact, it means learning to celebrate our differences as well as finding the common humanity we all share. A well educated person has an understanding and appreciation of people from different cultural/ethnic backgrounds and understands the normal variations in human sexuality.

Learning to become culturally competent is a process that requires a personal commitment to on-going learning and growth, a capacity for self-reflection, the ability to be open-minded and accountable for your actions. A very important step is to develop knowledge and awareness of your own cultural lens, and the assumptions, values and biases that shape this lens – including recognition of the limitations of your own knowledge and perspective. [Read more...]

Help build a Nat’l Network to share Diversity Resources

Welcome to my new blog. Although it’s been a while since I last communicated I’m fired up and ready to pick up where I left off–providing information and services that will assist you in creating an inclusive campus environment. I truly believe that diversity benefits everyone and I’m constantly inspired by the committed and dedicated people I meet who put those words into practice every day. [Read more...]

Recruiting and Graduating Students of Color

25 years ago I wrote a book, Effective Ways to Recruit and Retain Minority Students, to help colleges and universities meet their equal educational opportunity goals as expressed in their mission statements. Many of the colleges in the U.S. bought my book and many invited me to their campus to share my ideas.

I argued then and now that a holistic approach is required and created a model to help campuses improve their retention rates. I reminded each academic body that I spoke before, that the real focus must be to recruit with the goal of graduating students of color.

I recommended that the entire campus be involved in recruitment and retention efforts and emphasized the vital role that faculty must play if retention initiatives are to be successful. [Read more...]