By Deja Wright
As of fall 2017, only 2.9 percent of the population on campus identified as African-American, according to the Office of Institutional Effectiveness at Fresno State. Among the small population, there are students who say African-American studies are critical for their education.
Reyna Berger, an Africana studies and social work major, said the courses in the Africana Studies department have been eye-opening for her.
“I feel like more black people need to actually take the classes because it’s really enlightening,” Berger said.
Students are offered the chance to learn about the roles black people played in American history as well as gain knowledge about themselves.
Dr. Deanna Reese, professor and program coordinator of the Africana Studies program, said Africana Studies began at Fresno State in the 1970s and was combined with ethnic studies.
“I think the challenge for Africana Studies is trying to help students No. 1, understand what it is, and then how it can be applicable,” Reese said.
She also said although the numbers are still small, in recent years there has been an increase in Africana Studies double-majors, majors and minors.
Reese teaches a number of the different courses offered for the major and minor. Reese said Africana Studies addresses society, culture, history and the politics related to African-Americans. The course subjects that range from slavery in America, African-American women and a class on immigration.
Reese and other Africana Studies professors try to encourage not only African-American students to enroll in Africana classes, but other majors and ethnicities, as well. Reese said that Africana Studies courses can spark critical thinking on some pressing issues.
“Classes address structural inequalities with regards to institutional racism and how that developed over time,” Reese said. “So, I would say that’s pretty key.”
She also said that Fresno State is in the process of revisiting the idea of meeting the Multicultural International requirement, which includes several African Studies courses.
From education, politics, healthcare, journalism and social work, Africana Studies often pairs well. Reese said one of the strengths of the department is that it covers so many topics from one idea.
“Africana Studies is awesome because it is multidimensional and interdisciplinary,” Reese said. “So, it brings in many different areas of study, and so no matter what it is you’re interested in Africana Studies can be blended with that.”
In addition, she added that these courses will allow people who intend to work with an underserved population to have a better understanding of the types of situations and circumstances they face.
Both Berger and Reese hope the Africana Studies department will grow at Fresno State and would like to see students and faculty be a part of the change.
Berger suggested that there should be more face-to-face interactions with black professors outside of the classroom to make those connections and learn more about what the major offers.