The Africana studies department held its first Africana Studies Day in Williams Hall on March 1 to promote and praise the students and faculty leading the success of the department.
Several individuals were honored at the event.
Kevelis Matthews-Alvarado, ’20, and Miles Davis, ’16, ’18G, said the event was the beginning of an effort to spread their message across Lehigh’s campus.
Davis said the goal of the event was to encourage more people to complete the Africana studies major or minor. He said many students on campus take these classes to fulfill requirements for their degree, but never take enough to complete the actual major or minor.
Kwame Essien, the interim director of Africana studies, has been a part of the Lehigh community for the last six years. He said he feels Lehigh as a whole is more accepting and open to change than other institutions.
“We are trying to reform this institution,” Essien said. “We are going in the early stages of our transformation and we are confident that nothing will distract us from our ultimate goal as a department.”
Although the department has been a part of the campus for 27 years, Essien thinks it is not well known to students on campus and said such events provide great exposure to students and the Lehigh community.
Matthews-Alvarado said it is important for others to see the significance of the department and what it can do for students and for the community.
“We are trying to get the ball rolling and make our department more visible across campus,” Matthews-Alvarado said. “Today, we are celebrating ourselves, the program and honoring those that came before us.”
Davis said members of the Africana studies community often step up on campus to speak out for what they believe in. They lead protests and campus movements about justice, and their messages often pertain to Lehigh specifically.
“We are disrupting the narrative of dominance and white supremacy,” Matthews-Alvarado said.
Davis and Ashley Omoma, ’18, won an award for their “timeless service, dedication and extraordinary enthusiasm for Africana Studies Program’s study abroad in Ghana.” Ghana is one of the countries where students study abroad through the Africana studies department.
The event also celebrated the successes of students who graduated with an Africana studies degree.
Davis opened his own business, Superior Shea, while obtaining his graduate degree. Superior Shea sells organic, raw and unrefined handmade shea butter created by the women at Bobotiaroh Farms in Tumu, Ghana. Fifty percent of the profits are reinvested and given back to the Bobotiaroh Farms in Ghana.
He said his goal is to reconnect and create a link between Tumu and the rest of the world. Davis, who studied environmental policy design alongside Africana studies, knew the combination of his studies would help him create a viable business while also helping those in need.