Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

NOTEWORTHY NEWS: Knocking Down Barriers

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

NOTEWORTHY NEWS: Knocking Down Barriers

Article excerpt

Dr. Na'im Akbar, professor of psychology at Florida State University, called the gathering of young African American male scholars at Auburn University in early March a "miracle of modern times." Reminding the present audience, as well as those tuned in via live satellite, that it was not that long ago that African Americans were denied literacy and access to many institutions, Akbar declared, "the fact that we can in 2002 bring together some of the brightest minds in a full range of academic areas means that a very important miracle has occurred--one that has happened in spite of the institutional barriers which were put in place to prevent it."

Even though their mere presence defies the odds of success for young Black men in particular, the young scholars who participated in the national videoconference "The Changing Face of the Professoriate" sponsored by the Brothers of the Academy (BOTA) were not content to bask in their exclusivity. Instead, they preached the importance of sustaining those who are already among their academic ranks and encouraging others to join them.

Nurturing and fostering professional relationships among its members as well as providing a path for others to follow are key components of the mission of BOTA, an institute and organization formed in 2000 after the publication of a book with the same name. In Brothers of the Academy, 27 African American males with doctorates or in the process of completing the terminal degree, gave first-hand accounts of their academic experiences. The institute began with those 27 contributors and now has more than 100 members. In addition to the first book and the recent teleconference, the organization has collectively authored other books, produced a documentary film, and is in the process of planning a think tank scheduled for next year.

For those viewing the recent teleconference, an audience that included students at Morehouse Medical College and Florida State, Kent State and Cleveland State universities, it was made apparent that even though the face of the professoriate is changing, sustaining African American males in the academy is not an easy task.

African American male professors, particularly those at predominantly White campuses, have the burden of countering dual myths--all professors are White men, and all Black men are inferior. …

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