Demands for Curricula Development

“Nothing less will be enough.”

Inclusion or representation were never just the sole issues struggled for by the initiative which emerged from and was espoused by the King Coalition, with the BSU (Black Student Union) at the forefront. Black Studies, in both its original formulation and its ongoing mission into the future, was always a two-pronged reaction against institutional and academic racial prejudice. It was a material intervention to better the lives of the communities of the African diaspora, but it was always, insistently, also an epistemological correction. In other words, African and African American Studies was devoted to a philosophical consideration of the theories and the methods employed in the scholarship of Black people and collectives around the globe. 

The foundational intellectual justification for our department, Wither Black Studies?, was quite blunt about how historical and contemporary imaginations of race have structured bias in the university setting. The authors bookend their “Academic Imperatives for Black Studies” with two critical mission statements:

1. We believe black people as a race have contributed and will continue to contribute to humanity. [...]

8. We believe that with the development of ‘collective awareness,’ Black Studies participants will go beyond group potential towards group realization within a world to be qualitatively modified so that the best and highest aims of mankind can be realized.

 

For these pioneers in African and African American Studies, the potential of Black thought to offer a philosophical, empirical, and incisive contribution to the collective intellectual work of the academy had been willfully ignored. In addition, the fact that any truly rational consideration of contemporaneous societies without scholarship of the African diaspora is incomplete, was also overlooked.

Just as vitally, the curriculum of Black Studies at UCD has, from its inception been responsive to students, who felt this lack both academically and personally. The BSU, in their March 1969 “Proposal for Development of Black Studies Program” which undergirded the construction of the field to follow, insisted that in Black Studies, “The instructions should be pursued from the perspective of Black people, and embrace the concepts and definitions utilized by Black people for survival.” The BSU foregrounded what was at stake in African and African American Studies, namely: community survival. The distinctive insights of Black Studies emerge from a unique standpoint, and they allow for novel and necessary avenues of imagination in an ever-more-complex world.