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September 08, 1988 - Image 32

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The Michigan Daily, 1988-09-08

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Page 6 - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, September 8, 1988





What is Africa to me:
Copper sun or scarlet sea,
Jungle star or jungle track,
Strong bronzed men, or regal black
Women from whose loins I sprang
When the birds of Eden sang?
- Countee Cullen
In the Summer of '87,
not to be mistaken for the
summer of '65, this student
Academics went to Europe, this student
stayed home. That student
enrolled in summer classes,
that student enrolled in
none. Twelve students went to West Africa
and studied societies in transition. This know-
ledge was empirically grown.
201 AfroAmerican 458 Black World Stud-
ies/Summer 1987
PARTICIPANTS were "well integrated,
both culturally and socially," said Professor
Jemadari Kamara, the course instructor. They
studied and cultivated knowledge through ex-
perience and were from a variety of University
units, ranging from undergraduates to Ph.D.
candidates. The students' academic affiliation
varied within the humanities and throughout

the sciences.
Under the authorization of the Center for
AfroAmperican and African Studies, students
convened in Michigan from all parts of the
continental United States - from the Uni-
versity of California at Berkeley to Michigan
State University. The study tour course in-
cluded stops in Senegal, Gambia, the Ivory
Coast, Ghana, and Benin. In plane, by auto,
and on foot, students looked, listened and
"The rich cultural heritage of West
African societies provided the background for
this exploration of the contemporary social,
political, and economic conditions which
confront developing societies in West Africa,"
read the course description. "It blended aca-
demic lectures, readings, and research with ac-
tive experiences and travel which provided a
unique educational exposure to the diversity of
West African societies."
AMONG THEIR many activities, stu-
dents witnessed traditional dances and theater.
Students also attended lectures on African lit-
erature, traditional crafts and arts, traditional
spiritual healers, and economics and politics.
The foreign minister of Benin hosted a special

reception for the group. The group also vis-
ited the home of Alex Haley's ancestral roots.
Studying West African society through
"field experiences" was the core of the explo-
ration process, Kamara said. These experiences
ranged from traditional to contemporary. An
experience students are not soon to forget is
the trip to the memorial research center for
W.E.B. DuBois - the home in Ghana where
the famous historian spent the last years of
his life. The home has become a library re-
search center.
The African people made the students feel
very welcome. While visiting various vil-
lages, Kamara said, the group learned that
communal relationships are built up on an
interpersonal basis.
"The Africans invited us into their homes,
sharing meals and contact. For the students,
the people they met really made the most
valuable experience," Kamara said.
AFTERWARD, students shared- insights
about what they had learned through oral and
written presentations on their chosen research
topics. When students shared their experi-
ences, Professor Kamara noticed various stu-

dents were affected in different ways. Each set
of expectations according to background and
exposure influenced their different responses,
Kamara said.
"It was a sensory experience for most stu-
dents because West Africa was different cul-
turally than anywhere else they had been
before," Kamara said. "Many students realized
that the prior perceptions that they had grown
up with were quite different than reality."
Students were also affected by the stark
contrast of societal extremes of wealth and
poverty, Kamara said. Students generally
commented on the sophistication of universi-
ties and the quality of presentations made by
the faculty.
THE TOUR was open to all students
throughout the United States. Background in-
terests of each individual student were consid-
ered. There was no language requirement, but
familiarity with French was strongly encour-
The summer term was funded by the presi-
dent's office. Kamara said he does not know if
it will be repeated.

-Woolridge is an LSA junior.

Group promotes
Black theater

The Black Theater Workshop be-
gan in the early '70s as an effort by
the University to include Black the-
ater in its Theater and Arts Depart-
ment. Offered as a class in 1972, the
Black Theater Workshop was created
to bring in more Black faculty and
students as well as an inclusionary
Charles Jackson, the new director
of the workshop, remembers the at-
mosphere when he was enrolled in
the program in 1981.
"THERE WERE many prod-
uctions and quite a few Black stud-
ents working for their masters and
Ph.D.s as well as those majoring in
theater at the undergraduate level."
Things unfortunately started to
change. Lundeana Thomas, a theater
doctoral candidate who has been at
the University since 1981, noticed a
dramatic change in the department's
attitude toward Black theater.
"By 1985, the Theater Depart-
ment had decided they were not go-
ing to have Black theater anymore,"
she said.
this time had moved from being un-
der the control of LSA to under the
College of Music, and they also
were undergoing changes in the staff,
gaining a new department head. The
"new" Theater Department slashed
the funding for Black theater, but
they continued to offer the workshop
as a class taught by Lundeana
Thomas. Thomas decided to find
other avenues to show the work that
she and her students were doing, so
together they formed the Black The-
ater Workshop. They put on fund-
raising performances to enable them
to produce the types of shows they
wanted. Their first fundraising event,
-"Black Theater on Parade," was in
December 1985. The following fall,
they did a "Salute to Black Musi-
"Then came the publicity and me-

dia attention to the University's
racial situation in the beginning of
1987. This attention applied pressure
to the entire University to start
making some changes and the The-
ater Department was no exception.
They hired Charles Jackson - a
theater doctoral candidate at Wayne
State who received his masters at the
University - As full-time director
and instructor of the Black Theater
Workshop for fall term, 1987.
Charles Jackson was astonished at
the decline of Black theater since his
earlier years here.
"THERE WAS a dramatic de-
crease in Black students majoring in
theater... those who had parts in
productions were playing subservient
roles... The curriculum was not in-
clusive; the Black Theater Workshop
had been ghettoized from the rest of
the department," Jackson said.
He said he believes Black theater
should not be only a workshop, but
a program within the department it-
self. His first performance, Home,
written by Samm-Art Williams, was
shown in February, and next year he
plans to produce Mighty Gents, a
play about gang violence and its ef-
fect on the psyche. He has also
changed the title and format of the
Black Theater Workshop class into
two courses: Acting and the Black
Experience and Introduction to Black
The Black Theater Workshop or-
ganization also produced the Black
Nativity last December. Thomas was
very proud of its mixture of talents,
saying, "This was a performance
which utilized the talents of many
students in AfroAmerican dance,
music, and theater... The Black Na-
tivity was the first Black musical
performed in six years at the
University." Both Thomas and Jack-
son emphasize that the University
must strive to include a strong Black
theater and arts curriculum.
-Baecher is an LSA senior.


Counter-clockwise from top: LSA senior Renuka Uthappa
(left) and LSA sophomore Daxa Patel dance to Peter Gabriel's
"Biko" following last year's third annual Unity Day Freedom
March. The dance and song commemorate Stephen Biko, a
South African political prisoner murdered by police. (Photo:
David Lubliner) Frank Shipman and Jose Marcus, members of
South Dakota's Yellow Thunder Drum Group, give a demon-
stration before last year's Ann Arbor Pow Wow. (Photo: Karen
Handelman) Sophomores (from left) Yasmine Moideen, Nathie
Malayang, LaDonna Joseph, and Denise White perform "Lift
Every Voice and Sing" at East Quad's 14th annual Multicul-
tural Arts Festival. (Photo: Karen Handelman) LSA first-year stu-
dent Crystal Gardner shouts "Haranbee!" ("Let us pull toge-
ther") at a Kwanza celebration. (Photo: Karen Handelman)

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