Black Studies organizations, in spite of their value to institutionalizing the field, appear to be highly neglected by scholars, students, institutions, and funding agencies. As a result of this neglect, the roles they are able to play are severely limited. Yet, they seem to manage to provide some important services to the field. Since memberships are small and the dues are not sufficient for supporting the services, volunteerism seems to be the glue holding Black Studies organizations together.
The presentation from the panelists indicated that a great deal of misunderstanding exists regarding the operation and function of Black Studies institutional organizations. Membership of the two organizations discussed (ASALH and NCBS) is formed by dissimilar associates with differing expectations and needs. The majority of the convening participants agreed that professional organizations are important to the well-being of all disciplines; however, there was little input as to how the organizations can build support from the people they were created to serve. Alkalimat suggested that the organizations consider business models as a means of survival. “We need to look at business, ways to share membership dues if we’re going to be efficient in the twenty-first century. A lot of us don’t want to talk about that because we’ve got vested interests in the organizations that we serve.”
The professional organizations appear to be caught in a Catch-22 situation where not enough funds are available to operate efficiently and the lack of efficiency impairs the organizations’ ability to build a larger membership. Similar to many of the other questions addressed in the convening, inadequate funding appears central from the perspective of the participants.