Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Afrocentric Weapons in the Recruitment and Retention Wars

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Afrocentric Weapons in the Recruitment and Retention Wars

Article excerpt

"Afrocentric." The mere word has evoked fear in the hearts of many in the academy.

African-centered theories and initiatives are often associated with individuals whose perspectives have not been embraced by traditionally White institutions (TWIs) -- like Dr. Molefe K. Asante, who speaks of "placing African ideals at the center of any analysis that involves African culture and behavior;" and Dr. Leonard Jefferies, who divides humanity into the warlike "Ice People" and the generous, communal "Sun People." As a result, many ascribers have been relegated to centers for Black culture, offices of African American affairs, and departments of African American studies.

However, Dr. Wilson Moses, in The Deep Roots of Afrocentrism, notes that the Afrocentric movement is no longer reserved for the social scientist: "Afrocentrism today is a charismatic, not an intellectual movement.... Afrocentrism is among the masses of Black people and it's very deeply rooted in their consciousness."

And, in fact, people of African descent have incorporated Afrocentric trappings into their daily lives. Black expos, the rebirth of braids, wearing Kente cloth and other African attire, vacations to the Motherland, rites of passage ceremonies, and celebrating Kwanzaa have become accepted parts of the Black experience. So it should be no surprise that parents and students, as consumers, expect to see their culture recognized and to hear their concerns addressed by college campuses.

To address those expectations, some institutions have responded by openly acknowledging past injustices and marketing special programs and events -- like Black Parents' Associations, special engineering or math programs, and Black recruitment weekends, among other things -- as part of the college search process. And several institutions that have had success enrolling Black students have learned that attracting a multiracial population with a monocultural approach is incongruent.

These TWIs have benefitted from coupling the traditional strategies that focus on White students with practices that are specific to Black students. They have come to realize that not only are African American parents interested in the institution's academic reputation, but they are also concerned with its reputation specific to African Americans. So although the word does not roll from the lips of admission officers and administrators at TWIs, some are effectively engaging in recruitment and retention practices that are indeed Afrocentric.

In a recent study, I found that there are similarities in the methods used by a number of these institutions. …

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