Crossing a Cultural Divide
Davis, James J., Black Issues in Higher Education
Crossing a Cultural Divide
Engaging university students in discussions of cross-cultural connection in foreign second language classes has always been intriguing to me. In my more than-20-year experience as a classroom instructor and administrator of second language programs, I have learned much about teaching and Hispanic culture, especially as it relates to African Americans in Spanish language and literature classes.
What students -- and Americans in general -- know and do not know about the wholeness and interconnectedness of the African American experience is quite revealing in its display of some of the inadequacies of the American educational system with regards to teaching for cross-cultural proficiency. The failure of the curriculum developers in Spanish to incorporate topics on Afro-Hispanic literature, history, and culture has been largely due to the lack of published curriculum materials and to teacher training.
In the past 25 years or so, however, a good number of outstanding articles, books, and curriculum materials have been published about the cultural similarities, influences, and "amazing connections of Afro-Latin Americans and U.S. Black Americans. One notable example of a scholarly text is Martha Cobb's Harlem, Haiti and Havana: A Comparative Critical Survey of Langston Hughes, Jacques Roumain and Nicolas Guillen (Three Continents Press, 1979).
In the area of published curriculum materials is La Presencia Africana en Hispanoamerica [The African Presence in Hispanic America] (International Film Bureau, 1984). Cobb's seminal comparative study -- which treats three writers of the African Diaspora from the United States, Haiti, and Cuba. It provides a framework for Richard Jackson's Black Writers and Latin America: Cross Cultural Affinities.
Jackson, who has been referred to as the "Dean of Afro-Hispanic Literature," brings the cultural connections of English-writing African Americans and Spanish-writing African Latin Americans to full circle in the area of literary and cultural studies in this comprehensive comparative study. This timely volume is divided into five clearly crafted chapters: "U.S. Black Writers in Spain"; "U.S. Black Writers in Latin America"; "The Influence of U.S. Black Writers"; "Hispanic Black Writers and the United States"; and "Black Writers in Latin America Today." In these chapters, Jackson shows his brilliance in concretizing the abstract and his ability to economize on each word, phrase, sentence, and paragraph. The work covers an enormous amount of literary and cultural territory under one cover! …