Image courtesy of @catholicsga on Instagram
By Noelia Veras
Catholic University’s Student Government Association sent an open letter to the Office of the Provost on October 19 asking for the implementation of an Africana Studies program at the university.
The resolution to implement an Africana Studies program was unanimously passed in the last Senate session. The resolution is currently being advocated for by the Executive and is under review by the administration.
The idea to implement an Africana Studies program was brought to the attention of SGA’s Diversity and Inclusion Executive Initiative by the president of the Black Student Alliance, Myciah Brown. After Director of the initiative Enola Hernandez spoke with Brown, Hernandez officially brought it to the Senate and the resolution was passed. Chief of Staff Chris Carey then came up with the idea to create an open letter and petition this program to the Office of the Provost. The letter was a way of calling attention to the resolution and emphasizing the importance of its implementation at Catholic U.
The open letter brings forward the idea that an Africana Studies program would overall improve Catholic U and be in accordance with Catholic Social Teaching. Additionally, it focuses on Catholic U’s dedication to learning and academia, which requires talking about topics that may be uncomfortable so as to better the community and help students grow and learn.
“As an academic institution, The Catholic University of America ought to engage in the uncomfortable topics regarding race, race relations, and the history of the oppressed in our nation and beyond the scope of the United States with compassion, understanding, and hope for a brighter future with equity for all beings,” the letter said.
According to Hernandez, this program goes beyond academia; it is a force that could help Black students on campus feel more comfortable and give them the opportunity to learn what it means to be Black. Additionally, Hernandez emphasizes the impact an Africana studies could have on non-Black students.
“For white students, it will, hopefully, fuel a desire to explore topics that will make them uncomfortable,” Hernandez said. “While the goal is primarily to help Black students explore themselves, I hope that white students, and even IPOC students, take this opportunity to expand their worlds. It is important to realize that the things you know may not be how the world actually is.”
According to SGA, its goal is to represent what the student body wants. For SGA’s Diversity and Inclusion Executive Initiative, the aim is to make this goal inclusive of all students, and to make sure that disadvantaged students feel equally acknowledged. Hernandez emphasizes that students should feel comfortable and free to contact her in order to make their voices heard.
“No matter how irrelevant or small you may think it is, do not be afraid to reach out to me,” Hernandez said. “You never know what can happen and you might start something that will change CUA.“
Over 50 students signed the open letter. Among those who signed the letter is Kelly Woodson, vice president of the Black Student Alliance. Woodson believes that this is a paramount step for Catholic U to take in order to make the campus more inclusive and that it will be beneficial for Black students at Catholic U, prospective Black students, and even non people of color as these courses can help educate everyone on the history and impact of Black people all over the world.
“I was very surprised when I was looking at the majors and minors that Catholic offered and that there wasn’t a class that really focused around African American history and culture, as well as Black culture and history in general,” Woodson said. “I think that we have to understand that this is such a benefit for the university.”
The open letter also emphasizes the need for Black professors themselves to teach these Africana Studies courses so that they have the necessary insight to do justice to the curriculum.
“It’s so imperative that we have Black professors on campus teaching this because we know that they are going to come from the hearts” Woodson said. “It’s extremely imperative that we have people that look like us teaching this subject matter and we are tired of people of color being the ones that work in the pryz and not in the classrooms.”
The open letter to the Office of the Provost is a way to advocate for the bill to implement Africana studies, and thanks to the hard work of student leaders in Student Government and the Black Student Alliance, real change is being made on Catholic U’s campus.
“Everyone is doing a great job, but we can do better,” Woodson said. “We can do a lot better.”