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Question Five: Do National Black Studies Organizations Have a Role to Play in the Institutionalization of the Field?

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.


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iBlack Studies Copyright © 2018 by marilyn m. thomas-houston is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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