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AAAS Faculty Statement 2020-2021

Statement from the Department of African and African American Studies

August 31, 2020

We, the faculty of the Department of African and African American Studies at Fordham University, write this statement during an extraordinary time when the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and racism have transformed our lives, livelihoods, and institutions. Our condolences go out to members of our community who have lost loved ones during this difficult time. We find hope and strength in our commitment to justice, equality, and freedom which are the core values of African and African American Studies.

We stood in full solidarity with the millions of people who marched across the country and the world in past months following the brutal killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and so many other people of color in spite of a global pandemic. Jointly with other departments and programs at Catholic Universities and Colleges around the country, we issued a statement expressing our full solidarity with Black Lives Matter movement and the protests in defense of justice and equality.

We believe that the protests in the streets will not be enough to transform our society, nor will statements alone. The world is changing around us but it is not changing soon enough to address the evils of our society that have terrorized black people and people of color for too long. COVID-19 has exposed the profound impacts of the existing structural injustices in the U.S. Blacks and people of color are disproportionately affected by the dual pandemics.

During this difficult time, faculty members and students in the department have increased their level of activism, joining Black Lives Matter protests and vigils both in person and remotely, supporting our students in demands for change at the University, launching a Bronx COVID-19 Oral History Project and working with Mutual Aid groups throughout the city to bring resources to underserved communities.

We welcome Fordham Action Plan to combat racism and injustices, but we urge its leadership to take meaningful actions to move forward. We call upon the University to increase funding for African and African American Studies and take steps to expand its faculty and the number of black students on campus, develop partnership with neighboring communities, empower the perspectives of the most marginalized, and address the vulnerabilities that black students face with police and policing culture that affect them on campus.

We are committed to a new academic orientation that paves the way for a new America free from racism, hate, and injustices – a new America that renews its commitment to the highest ideals of humanity: that every human being is sacred. As a department, we pledge to offer a safe space to faculty, students, and members of the public to debate difficult and challenging questions about who we are and how we get here in order to imagine our collective future. We will grapple with the histories of slavery, segregation, lynching, and mass incarceration that shaped our collective memories about the current state of affairs. We will strive to equip our students with the tools that they need to cultivate a new way of knowing, of imagining America in the midst of pandemic, isolation, despair and fear.

This reality has underscored in many ways the fact that we are all historical actors in an unparalleled historic moment.  We must use our collective powers to create every opportunity to enact substantive and transformative change—whether that is in our classes, at home, or in our local communities. Whatever our discipline or department, now is the time for Fordham members to shine their light in the world and to use our thirst for knowledge to advance what is good and just. 

As we begin our classes on-line and in-person this fall, we have been very proud of the efforts of faculty, students, and staff to come together in the spirit of solidarity and compassion. Despite the challenges, we continue to produce brilliant scholarship and our students continue to challenge us to think critically about our collective future. We hope you are having a healthy and safe semester!

Signed,

Members of the Faculty of the Department of African & African American Studies

Fordham University