This panel on best practices is a kind of exercise in epistemological reflexivity. According to Alkalimat, “What we’re doing is putting our best foot forward; concrete, with emphasis on what have we done that everybody needs to know about?” The James and Norment position papers and the discussion that followed reflect the exceptional diversity that exists in structure of Black Studies units, student demography, institutional support, and pedagogical approaches. Each of the panelists offer concrete examples of the processes and models that have served their academic units best.
Alternatives for sustaining Black Studies in institutions where a critical mass of students interested in terminal degrees in the field does not exist, but a strong interest in obtaining a solid knowledge base in the subject does exist were provided through the University of Wisconsin models presented by Stanlie M. James. The “Bridge Programs” and consortium relationships constructed at her university represent “best practices” in the field for the survival of small programs as well as for programs/departments that attract a different demographic than that of such institutions as Temple, UMass, or Michigan. Bridge building, as James defined its ultimate purpose, integrates Black Studies into the curriculum and operates as a means of staving off dismantlement. James made a salient point that Black Studies programs must be able to make strategic interventions that make sense for where those programs are located.
Norment underscored the point that practitioners in African American Studies are simultaneously theorists, reformers, and agents of/for change. He outlined the necessity for an African-centered pedagogical approach that transmits principal ideals and culturally relevant knowledge and the importance of Applied Black Studies, which is an excellent follow-up to the previous question on participatory action-research and social activism.
Varied suggestions arose from the participants and a number of provocative questions were generated from the panel’s presentations that required further discussion—more than time would allow. Hopefully, these issues will find their way into panel discussions at various Black Studies-oriented conferences and meetings.