Block I Illinois Library Illinois Open Publishing Network

17 Internal Building Blocks

Key Elements Used by the National Council for Black Studies that Institutionalize the Field of Africana Studies

Summer L. (Henry) Melay, National Council for Black Studies

Black Studies organizations play a key role in institutionalizing the field of Africana Studies. The National Council for Black Stud­ies (NCBS) has been a major contributor to the field. NCBS uses key elements such as its annual conferences, the publication of the In­ter­national Journal of Africana Studies, and membership de­vel­op­ment in order to aid in the stabilization of the field.

In order to visualize a clear picture of how NCBS has played and continues to play a key role in institutionalizing the field, re­flec­tion on the 1960s is necessary. Throughout the sixties, there were nu­mer­ous accounts of campus unrest, anti-war de­mon­stra­tions, court­room battles, marches, and sit-ins performed across the coun­try. As cam­puses across the country began to establish Black Stud­ies pro­grams, a small group of academic leaders realized that with­out in­sti­tutionalizing a nationwide organization, the mis­sion to­ward ed­u­cat­ing masses of students across the nation may not have been taken seriously. Seven years after the es­tab­lish­ment of the first Black Studies department, NCBS was formed. The role of the Coun­cil was unmistakable. The Council sought to strength­en and val­i­date Black Studies courses through a com­mit­ment to pro­mot­ing aca­demic excellence and social responsibility in the field.

Throughout the thirty-plus years of its establishment, NCBS has strug­gled to maintain its integrity and moral compass. On occa­sion, the Council has been criticized as supporting largely an Af­ro­cen­tric perspective. Contrary to this belief, NCBS reflects and en­courages various perspectives from those in diverse fields. These var­ied points of view are often conveyed during roundtable dis­cus­sions and are noted in research papers and grant proposals, etc. Our efforts to be inclusive involve publishing articles in the In­ter­na­tion­al Journal of Africana Studies that reflect a variety of the­o­ret­i­cal and ideological on issues of race, social class, gender, cross-cul­tu­ral and multicultural curricula, and postcolonial and post­mod­ern­ist eras. This bi-annual journal is distributed to insti­tu­tions of high­er learn­ing and libraries across the nation. It aids in the field of Af­ri­ca­na Studies and typifies points of view and ideas that are likely to be introduced in classroom settings.

Each year, NCBS holds a conference, hosted by different in­sti­tu­tions of higher learning, that provides an outlet for professionals in the field to present their research. Its major role is to recruit key­note speakers and coordinate breakout sessions that cover a wide ar­ray of topics that appeal to the general interest of con­fer­ence at­tend­ees. The open-door policy of NCBS contributes to the con­tin­u­ous growth of NCBS membership and strengthens the network of pro­fes­sion­als from universities and community schools.

Because the future of the field of Africana Studies lies in the hands of its students, NCBS’s conferences provide an opportunity for students who are interested in teaching in the field to net­work with veterans in the field. Students also have an opportunity to present their work in an environment that fosters constructive crit­icism from mentors and senior scholars in the field. Moreover, the NCBS conference is the ideal setting to manifest academic ex­cel­lence. The Council acknowledges student accomplishments as a means to stimulate the growth of Africana Studies. The in­duc­tion of students into the Ankh Maat Wedjau honor society, which rec­og­niz­es winners of a student essay competition, is one way NCBS en­courages students to continue the path of excellence and de­vel­op interest in the field.

Each year the membership of NCBS continues to grow. Its in­sti­tutional membership has grown over 50 percent in the past five years and student membership has tripled in growth. This growth is part­ly attributable to recruitment efforts by board members and the benefit package that accompanies membership. Benefits in­clude a periodic review of academic programs for institutional mem­bers, a subscription to NCBS’s professional journal, the In­ter­na­tional Journal of Africana Studies, online position an­nounce­ments and book pro­mo­tions, and an opportunity for eligible in­sti­tu­tional mem­bers to ap­ply for NCBS’s community outreach grant funding. This benefit package constitutes a key building block in the efforts of NCBS to con­tribute to the success of various com­mu­ni­ty projects and ex­pand the parameters of the field of Af­ri­cana Studies.

Recognition of the role professional organizations play in the lifeblood of any discipline or field was an important first step in the institutionalization of Africana Studies. Continued success in the field of Africana Studies is dependent upon an understanding of the need for collaborative and cooperative relations between the de­partments and programs in the field and its professional or­ga­ni­za­tions.


Internal Building Blocks Copyright © 2018 by marilyn m. thomas-houston. All Rights Reserved.

Share This Book