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Florida Tech to Offer African American Studies Programming

Initiative Part of Multi-Faceted Effort That Includes Training, Forums, First Year Student Info

MELBOURNE, FLA. — Florida Tech has announced a new course starting this fall, Modern African American Studies, which will serve as a core component of the university’s inaugural minor in African American studies.

The course, offered by Florida Tech’s School of Arts and Communication in the College of Psychology and Liberal Arts, will be taught by Don Harrell, an African Studies scholar, ethnomusicologist, folklorist and musician.

An adjunct in the Africana Studies Department at the University of Central Florida, Harrell earned his master’s degree in African Studies from University of California, Los Angeles. He has developed and taught university-level courses including Black Intellectual Thought, African American Humanities, and The Evolution of Hip Hop. Harrell is co-founder of the internationally acclaimed African performing arts company Orisirisi African Folklore, and serves as consultant to the Bronze Kingdom African Art Gallery in Orlando, home to one of the largest collections of African bronze sculpture and artwork in the world.

The course Harrell will lead is a cornerstone of a new minor program Florida Tech is developing that will strengthen and enhance the university’s humanities curriculum. The minor will have interdisciplinary courses aimed at studying and fostering further understanding of the social, political, economic and cultural forces that impact the lives of Black people in the U.S. and those in the Caribbean, Africa and around the world.

Courses under consideration for the new minor are focused on such topics as Black astronauts and their contributions to space science, issues at the forefront of the modern civil rights and social justice movements, Caribbean history and culture, explorations of race, gender and class, and studies of African-American literature and film.

“Florida Tech has long been dedicated to interdisciplinary studies covering the human experience,” said Robert Taylor, a professor and head of the School of Arts and Communication. “This program will be a natural and welcome expansion of this focus and an example of our core belief in the power of education to foster understanding.”

Furaha Merritt, a senior majoring in information systems and president of the Florida Tech Black Student Union, said the new African American Studies course is important because it will bring the full and true story of the Black American experience to Florida Tech students.

“Implementing this course shows that Florida Tech is invested in dismantling the barriers present in institutions of higher learning and creating opportunities for black voices to be heard,” she said. “I hope students who take this minor learn that real change can’t begin until we face the ugly truth of history in America by learning what took place and its long-lasting effects on all citizens.

“I also hope,” Merritt continued, “that students will be inspired by the beauty, courage, determination and tenacity of African Americans to join in the fight for human rights until all barriers and obstacles are relics of the past and true equality shines bright in our future.”

The new program is one of several initiatives Florida Tech has announced in recent weeks.

On Thursday, the university will offer “Let’s Talk: A Discussion of Race on Campus,” led by President Dwayne McCay and moderated by attorney and community leader Kendall Moore. Other plans include the preparation of new diversity training for university employees and new educational opportunities within Florida Tech’s First Year Experience Program.

“These steps are only a beginning,” McCay told the campus community in an earlier note. “Let’s all do our part to combat systemic racism by speaking up, learning from one another and becoming involved.”

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