• Coordinated approximately 50 events that have drawn more than 1,700 attendees.This semester, we have prioritized two of our main goals of becoming: 1.) an important force for raising levels of black consciousness among our constituency; and 2.) one of the leading, most active entities at our university for producing high quality public humanities programs. In the past, many students – not to mention faculty, staff, and administrators – have received relatively little exposure to African American cultural and scholarly activities. Thus, our commitment to consistently organizing black studies projects has given us a deep sense of purpose.
• Established the Eugene B. Redmond Reading Room at SIUE’s Lovejoy Library and hosted approximately 20 humanities activities in this new African American cultural space.
• Facilitated two different common reading projects involving more than 100 undergraduates.
• Published approximately 100 posts focusing on African American ideas and culture on our blog: http://siueblkstudies.blogspot.com/
• Organized exhibits based on the EBR Collection at the East St. Louis Public Library on September 27 – October 29, at Woodland Elementary in Edwardsville, IL, on November 5, and at the SIUE/East St. Louis Charter School on November 15.
• Continued our Poetry Correspondence Program for approximately 200 middle and high school students.
As I have noted in previous memos, advancing black studies in this day and age is no easy matter, especially when we are confronted with the historical and often subtle legacies of anti-black racism and the effects of contemporary post-race ideology. Nonetheless, we have been resilient and creative. In addition, I have had the honor of drawing on a developing network of dedicated and talented collaborators and contributors. Most notably, our program’s artistic coordinator Adrienne Smith took the lead on the design and setup of our many exhibits. She has been the first to arrive and last to leave every event we organized this year. Of course, with Adrienne, we are reminded that topnotch students have a bittersweet downside: they graduate. Adrienne receives her graduate degree in Mass Communications in the coming days. Whatever the case, Adrienne and a group of more than twenty-five SIUE staff, faculty, and students have been instrumental in building our program.
The establishment of the Redmond Reading Room at Lovejoy Library this fall has been unquestionably one of our most notable achievements. This multi-purpose cultural and intellectual space for studying and appreciating African American ideas and artistic compositions has been beneficial on a number of levels. First and foremost, the room has provided us with a definite physical location on campus to produce the kinds of engaging artistic events that Eugene B. Redmond - poet, literary historian, and professor emeritus – has organized over the decades and continues to organize. The room has also made it possible for us to design and host fairly extensive mixed media exhibits in “a black space,” so to speak. Finally, the Redmond Reading Room has served as an important site for a diverse range of citizens at the university to come together and participate in knowledge-building activities related to African American history and culture. The Redmond Reading Room is small but has the potential of having broad impacts.
We are still processing all the lessons we have learned this semester producing various projects. Although organizing two and three weekly programs was a bit exhausting, the overall result has really been fulfilling for our contributors, my assistants, and me. More importantly, many of the attendees at our events have benefited in multiple ways from their experiences, participating in and thus building black studies. In the future, we plan to expand our efforts.