Detailing college's history, future
October 8, 2009 11:10 AM
SF State is home to an academic conference Oct. 7 - 10 commemorating the 40th anniversary of the first established College of Ethnic Studies in the nation.
The conference, "Ethnic Studies 40 Years Later: Race, Resistance and Relevance," focuses on the founding of the College of Ethnic Studies at SF State and its evolution over the past 40 years. It includes three days of presentations and performances by over 130 participants from seven countries and 35 universities.
"Right now, the black studies program is not doing enough work in the community," said Terry Collins, a former Black Panther Party member who began attending SF State in the fall of 1967 and had a hand in organizing the strike that eventually led to the college's creation. "All students won't be students eventually," he said.
"They have to be committed to the people. If a person doesn't know their history, then you'll never be able to do anything," Collins said.
American Indian studies Prof. Robert Keith Collins, no relation to Terry Collins, helped coordinate the conference and will be discussing his paper addressing people of both African and Native American descent. He said he wishes to see an interdisciplinary dialogue and a large student turnout.
"It's really important for people to see what it means to be a member of this educational community," Collins said. "Students don't understand what it means to be the only campus with a College of Ethnic Studies."
"The conference isn't limiting itself to the traditional format of conference panels," said Katynka Z. Martínez, assistant professor in the raza studies department. "Instead, it is offering round-table discussions, workshops, performances and film screenings with Q&A sessions."
The College of Ethnic Studies was formed as a result of a nearly five-month-long strike led by SF State's Black Student Union and the Third World Liberation Front.
Jason Ferreira, professor in race and resistance studies, said the creation of the College of Ethnic Studies changed SF State's campus, along with other campuses across the nation, and revolutionized higher education.
"People of color on this campus and most places were invisible and not part of the collegiate experience," Ferreira said. "We are the only College of Ethnic Studies in the nation and the world. That speaks to the power the students in 1968 and 1969 had."
While other universities have since implemented ethnic studies programs and departments, such as the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Institute of Ethnic Studies, SF State's college was the first in the nation.
According to Ferreira, years of organizing at SF State went into raising consciousness for this movement, and in the spring of 1968 the University hired a sociologist, Nathan Hare, to develop the first black studies program in the country.
The University did not follow through with plans for the program and the BSU, realizing their issues were not being dealt with, called for a strike that November.
According to Ferreira, the BSU put forth 10 demands that proposed changes in the University curriculum and admissions to better empower people of color. Days after the strike began, another ethnic activist group, the Third World Liberation Front, added five more demands to that list. As a result, other strikes rippled across the nation, some campuses protesting in solidarity with the students of SF State.
The students won after a struggle that included police brutality and mass student arrests. The strikers' demands were met and the strike ended in March of 1969. The College of Ethnic Studies opened the following semester.
The departments created within this College were: raza studies, black studies (now Africana studies), Asian American studies and American Indian studies.
Over time, Arab and Muslim ethnicities and diasporas have been included in the department of ethnic studies, which is also proposing a critical race and resistance studies program.
Conference organizer Raphael Allen said panels will include oral histories, discussions on topics ranging from the history that pushed the college into existence, the future of the field of ethnic studies and the application of ethnic studies to the non-academic world.
Allen was very impressed by the effort faculty from the College of Ethnic Studies devoted to the conference.
"I noticed how energetically faculty got involved, considering how rigorously they work," Allen said. "They did more work than I've ever seen a conference committee do in the 12 years I've been doing this."
POST A COMMENT
|BACK TO TOP|| |
Copyright © 2008 [X]press | Journalism Department - San Francisco State University