Activities will include an address by noted author Melba Joyce Boyd, Oct. 12
Cleveland State University is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Black Studies Program on campus. Originally founded following a campaign by students to provide more academic offerings in African American history and culture, the program now features a major and a minor in Black Studies and the Howard A. Mims African American Cultural Center, and is an affiliate of Cleveland’s Jazz Heritage Orchestra.
To highlight the importance of the Program to CSU’s academic and cultural mission, a series of exhibits and events will be held on campus throughout the fall semester. This will include an address by noted author and Distinguished Professor at Wayne State University Melba Joyce Boyd at 5:30 p.m., Saturday October 12 in CSU’s student Center Ballroom. The event is free and open to the public.
“We are extraordinarily pleased to be able to celebrate this important anniversary and highlight the tremendous work of so many students, faculty, staff and community members in making this a reality,” notes Dr. Thomas Bynum, the current director of the Black Studies Program.
The Black Studies Program was founded in 1969 under the leadership of Dr. Ralph Pruitt. Its creation followed significant activism by black and white students on campus to enhance representation for minorities in all aspects of University life, including in academics, research, scholarship, and extra-curricular activities The Afro-American Cultural Center (currently the Howard A. Mims African American Cultural Center) opened in 1970 to enhance opportunities for community and campus collaboration and student engagement, while also sponsoring exhibits and talks highlighting African American history, politics, art and writing.
“Given the climate of the times and the emergence of Black pride and self-hood, CSU’s Black Studies Program was an essential academic platform whose time had come,” notes Ron Kisner, a 1972 graduate of Cleveland State and founder of the Vindicator, a CSU student magazine. Today he serves as ombudsman for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and as a mentor for the Black Studies Program.
“Black Studies has long been a mecca for intellectual and social conversations between Black students, faculty and staff on campus,” adds Dr. Louis Brownlowe, former dean of university studies at CSU. “This includes serving as a gathering place and a home away from home for African American students, neither of which existed at CSU prior to the formation of the Program. It has also been a vehicle to better involve agencies and organizations from Cleveland’s African American community in campus life, for the benefit of the city and our students.”
Moving forward, Bynum hopes to expand opportunities for research and scholarship in Black Studies for both students and faculty, increase collaboration between Black Studies and other programs on and off campus and to enlarge cultural offerings and events presented by the Program. For example, the Black Studies Program is partnering with CSU’s Office of the Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer to present Project 400, a year-long commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the legacy and contributions of enslaved Africans brought to North America.