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The UTC Africana Studies Program

Statement of Solidarity and Agenda for Action

 

Enraged and saddened by the recent murders of unarmed citizens George Floyd in Minnesota, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, and Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, the Africana Studies program condemns the anti-Black racism that permits such acts. We mourn these recent victims and those who came before them. And we applaud the work of activists and co-conspirators who have forced a national reckoning with anti-Black racism. But expressions of condemnation and solidarity are not enough. As a program, we want to take this moment to share our reflections on what role we can play in confronting racism locally and globally and take responsibility for our shortcomings up to this point.

The protests across the country and around the globe in the past several weeks have directed national attention to issues that many members of our community have been grappling with for a very long time. The enduring battle to remove Confederate symbols illustrates only one of Chattanooga’s many challenges in dealing with its own racial past and present. We affirm that racism is a present threat to students on campus and people in our community and we strive to confront it in our teaching, research, and program development. The UTC Africana Studies program embraces anti-racist pedagogy and educates students and members of the community about the oppression, violence, and trauma Black and Brown people around the globe have confronted historically and continue to experience. For instance, this past academic year, the program invested in regional trips to advance critical dialogue among students, faculty, and staff about racialized suffering and injustices past and present, while highlighting the vital ways that black-led civil rights movements held national leadership accountable and secured rights that benefit all Americans. We pledge to expand this work in the coming months and years.

The Africana Studies program is committed to listening to and amplifying the voices of students and faculty of color, while also taking responsibility for educating our colleagues and students and advocating for the values we champion. We commit to the work of educating the UTC community about the links between acts of police violence and other acts of racial aggressions and the larger systems of political disenfranchisement, economic inequality, and the criminalization of Black and Brown people. We call attention to the ways that COVID-19 has exacerbated the disproportionate physical and economic suffering of Americans of color across the country.

As a program, we pledge to work in partnership with students who demand greater representation of people of color in the faculty and administration, safe spaces to share their encounters with racism on campus and in the community, and more opportunities to advocate and participate in university governance. Specifically:

  • We will prioritize efforts to recruit and retain faculty of color
  • We will increase our efforts to deliver course content that centers on diverse authors and voices and experiences
  • We will advocate for university funding for programs addressing the needs of students, faculty, and staff from under-represented minorities, even as the university grapples with new budget cuts
  • We will apply our expertise to partner with community leaders who work toward justice and equality in Chattanooga

We also acknowledge that this work has been too limited and too slow, and we are determined to do better. We are honored to have the opportunity to work with students at UTC, and we welcome your feedback on how we, as a program, can live up to our responsibilities and goals.   

Susan Eckelmann Berghel

Director of Africana Studies

 

 

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