Black Studies: About the Workshop
The first national workshop to launch eBlack Studies was organized and chaired by Abdul Alkalimat and held at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on July 24-27, 2008. More than 20 scholars gathered and studied together for four days, focusing on the connections between the community, Black Studies, and community informatics. This is a new beginning.
A major meeting of Black Studies professional leadership was held at the Ford Foundation on April 21-22, 2006, coordinated by program officer Irma McClaurin and organized by Marilyn Thomas-Houston, documentary filmmaker and assistant professor of Anthropology at the University of Florida. Professor Thomas-Houston is assembling the meeting’s results in a website/online proceedings and a special issue of The International Journal of Africana Studies, the journal of the National Council of Black Studies (NCBS).
The Ford Foundation then asked Abdul Alkalimat to prepare a report on information technology and black studies, and later an implementation proposal. At Ford’s request, his proposal was made part of an NCBS proposal then being negotiated with Ford. As a result, the final grant awarded to NCBS included funds for two technology workshops.
Local campus support
NCBS provided support for a workshop of 11 participants. To accommodate several more strong applicants, additional funds were obtained from the University of Illinois Department of African American Studies (DAAS), the Chancellor’s Office, the Center for Advanced Studies, and the Community Informatics Initiative based in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science.
The project could not have been held without the support of DAAS staff – specifically Jennifer Hamer, Lou Turner, Shirley Olson, and Barbara Osiek.
Fifteen scholars participated in the workshop: 6 from the eastern US, 5 from the South, 4 from western states, and 5 from the Midwest. Students and staff from several units on campus visited various sessions, including the opening reception. So the 15 participants plus the 5 staff made a total of 20:
There were 10 sessions held as part of the workshop, in addition to an opening reception and meals and snack breaks. The program was organized into three parts:
Day one: Learning from
each other. Session one was general theory (Alkalimat), session two focused on
three best practices (Bailey, Banks, and Allen), and sessions three and four
featured short presentations by all participants.
Day three: Defining consensus and setting the agenda. On the last morning the workshop was now transformed into a movement for academic excellence and social responsibility, something that made us revisit our memory of the origin of Black Studies. Adam Banks emerged as a leader of this process. Participants left with the agreement that we would collectively organize report-back panels for our institutions in the fall based on regional cooperation.
Evaluations took place online at the end of each session. The online form for each session included 5 questions. Aggregating the numerical answers, each session scored a 90% or better approval rating, and the entire workshop got 94.5%.
Perhaps the most revealing comment was made by a participant comparing this workshop to others – “when people spend all day together in a workshop, they normally can't wait to get away, but at this workshop people were anxious to hang out together, eat together, and rap late into the night. This was fun!”
This website has been built to document the workshop, and to use its transparency to recruit others to the eBlack Studies movement. The photo documentation has been gathered from the work of Jill Humphries, Ron Bailey, and Kate Williams. The video was done by the audiovisual unit of the College of Arts and Sciences. The background readings are generally identified by who sent them in; some of them were authored by members of the workshop.
The workshop realized that this meeting was just a beginning. More is being planned and will be reported on this website. Nothing this good should stop. We decided it won’t. We are planning to meet at the fall meeting of ASALH (October 2008, Birmingham, Ala.) and the spring meeting of NCBS (March 2009, Atlanta). Stay tuned.
Department of African-American Studies, University of Illinois Urbana
e-mail: mcworter @ illinois dot edu