Discipline Born of Struggle: African American and African Studies at Ohio State University
Zulu, Itibari M., Journal of Pan African Studies
The following interview of H. Ike Okafor-Newsum (H.E. Newsum), chair of the Department of African American and African Studies at The Ohio State University (OSU) was conducted (August 16, 2012) and transcribed by JPAS senior editor Itibari M. Zulu.
Ikechukwu Okafor-Newsum (Horace Newsum) is a sculptor, painter, and installation artist, and a member of the Neo-Ancestralist Artists Collective based in Cincinnati, Ohio. He is the Chairperson and Associate Professor of Literature and Political Economy in the Department of African-American and African Studies at The Ohio State University (Columbus). From 1988 to 1991 he served as Director/Program Manager of the OSU Department of African-American and African Studies Community Extension Center. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee where he graduated from Hamilton High School. He received a Doctor of Arts Degree in 1977 from the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) in Rhetoric and Sociolinguistics, a Master of Arts (1974) from Governors State University (Illinois) in Cultural Studies, and a Bachelor of Arts (1973) from Chicago State University in English Language and Literature. He is also the principal editor of Working Papers: The Black Woman, Challenges and Prospects for the Future (with Carlene Herb Young et al, 1991). He is author of Class, Language and Education: Class Struggle and Sociolinguistics in an African Situation (1990), co-author of two books, The Use of English (with Adebisi Afolayan, 1983); and United States Foreign Policy Towards Southern Africa: Andrew Young and Beyond (with Olayiwola Abegunrin, 1987). His most recent work is SoulStirrers: Black Art and the Neo-Ancestral Impulse in Cincinnati (University Press of Mississippi, forthcoming in Fall 2013). His current research interests concern art and visual culture, literature, film and mass media. Okafor-Newsum is adjunct associate professor in Film Studies and the Department of English, and faculty associate in the Centers for African Studies and Folklore Studies, and in the Department of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at The Ohio State University.
IMZ: Thank you Dr. H. Ike Okafor-Newsum (H.E. Newsum) for this interview.
HION: You are welcome.
IMZ: From reading your department's website I see that some great things have happened at Ohio State University in regards to African American and African Studies (AAAS) or as it was originally established in October 1969, Black Studies. The program has grown from achieving formal department status in 1972 to becoming one of the strongest African American and African Studies programs in the nation with a comprehensive multidisciplinary BA and MA program; a PhD program in development; study abroad programs to South Africa, Tanzania and Ghana; a Community Extension Center that serves as an outreach arm into the Black community in the city of Columbus (which I had the opportunity to visit); and two academic journals, Research in African Literatures and Spectrum: a Journal About Black Men. Your department now has 21 full-time faculty members. How did all that happen?
HION: Yes, we have made great progress throughout the years. As you may know, we are launching a PhD program, and we are waiting for the final approval by the Ohio Board of Regents. There are fourteen Africana Studies units offering the PhD and of the fourteen only eight have been in existence long enough to have graduated a cohort.
Returning to your question, yes we started our BA program in 1969 and our MA program in 1972. Also in 1972, we opened our Community Extension Center. So you can almost say from the point we began, we have had a free standing facility in the community for outreach and engagement with African people in the state of Ohio.
The way all this came about is historical. Before 1969 there were of course African descended people at Ohio State, and this was not the most welcoming campus for Black students, which was also true at most of the predominately white institutions who may have admitted Black students, but they were not as comfortable on those campuses as they should have been. …