Petition for a Department of African American Studies at UAB
SUPPORT AFRICAN AMERICAN STUDIES
Our campaign represents a diverse coalition of University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) students extremely concerned with the state of African American Studies at the university, and chose the southern African concept of ubuntu to promote a change within the program. At its root, Ubuntu signals unity with the understanding that "I am because we are." Famously utilized by Nelson Mandela and archbishop Desmond Tutu as a concept of unity in post-apartheid South Africa. If one part of our community does not truly exist in the academic community, then UAB as a whole is deficient in kind. Let us not prolong the attention African American Studies deserves, but rather live by the words Dr. King wrote in that Birmingham jail, "Justice delayed is too often justice denied."
Students interested in academic pursuits in African American Studies at UAB experience an extreme disadvantage in contrast to students at comparable universities. Our program is no longer privileged to have the support and scholarly challenge of a scholar with a Ph.D. within any discipline related to Africa or the African diaspora or diasporic experience. The program suffers from feeble financial investment and students are subject to the tentative and precarious instruction of well-intended adjunct professors or affiliate faculty in other departments. This instability discourages current students and deflects prospective ones.
2013 marks the 50th commemoration of Birmingham's sacrifices for human and civil rights. As a university community, we need to truly honor that pivotal moment in the black freedom struggle by revitalizing UAB's commitment to critical diversity in scholarship and curriculum. We cannot be complacent with where we are and celebrate our place, because we have not moved forward far enough.So how is the university going to renew the 50th anniversary of Birmingham's sacrifices? Years of failed commitments, cultural insensitivity, institutional discrimination, and a complacency with decaying programs cannot be ignored any longer. Is UAB going to commemorate those sacrifices by actually moving 50 years forward instead of 50 years later?
● Remodel current practices based on an external audit by Nation Council of Black Studies (NCBS) and /or The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) which are two leading professional organizations in Africana Studies to competently reveal what needs work and what steps are best taken to improve the program.
● That the curriculum reflects contemporary trends in scholarship and classes so that students are prepared to use up to date information and pedagogies beyond the classroom.
● The immediate creation of a committee to develop a Department of African American studies as soon as possible.
● A marketing campaign to improve the visibility and brand of the program
● Revitalization of the program through expansion of the budget to a functional amount
● Revitalization of the program through the setting of better hiring standards
● Redefinition of the boundaries of African American studies and the standards of the program based on the initial proposal for the program and student perspective.
● More physical space so we can grow and accommodate new professors.
● That appropriate student representation be present at all meetings where decisions regarding the AAS program will be made.
● Renewal of UAB commitment to diversity by working with us.