Over the course of the past few months taking this course on Black History at Kean University, I have to say that my experience was enlightening to say the least, that being said I wish I had done much better in the actual speaking part of the tour. I don’t know what happened, I had rehearsed what I was planning to say in my head many times and practiced in person, but when it came down to the nitty gritty, everything just alluded me. I don’t why that happened, but it did, so I’m hoping that down the line I can make up for it.
However this blog post isn’t about me, but rather my experience in being in this course and tour. I personally feel that even though I had many shortcomings in this class, the experience was interesting, and a much-welcomed change of pace from the usual history class of large textbooks and 20 page papers. I had originally planned to post a collection of interviews that I had obtained on campus of several black students describing their experience at Kean University, but the videos just ended being too poor in quality, so I opted against it. But this has been a learning experience for me, and my mistakes in this course I feel will help better prepare me for future courses.
Over the past month the research I’ve done solely on my own has unfortunately been quite inconclusive or otherwise leading me to dead ends. It would seem that, at least to that although there are accurate records of students who have attended Kean University, I simply can’t just click their name and get information about their nationality and ethnicity, I can at least take a guess at what it might be, but that method is largely inaccurate on many levels particularly when it comes to native African surnames.
With that being said, the broader aspect of my research (which would be finding notable black alumni who have attended Kean University (or it’s previous incarnation of Newark State College) has been slightly more fruitful. Although not an Alumni of the college, Vera King Farris was indeed a notable African – American at Kean University who had a the distinction of being the first African American Female president of a New Jersey University, her term of service being held at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.
I have not given up however. I had the great privilege of hearing a guest lecture from Dr. James Conyers, a professor of Africana Studies at Kean University at the special meeting of the Beta Kappa Psi Black and Latino Fraternity and the Omega Phi Chi Black and Latina Sorority here at Kean and I plan on doing an extensive interview with him and try to acquire as much knowledge as I can concerning his observations and thoughts on the relationship between African American Students at Kean and 1st generation African Students. I also managed to get a few short but detailed interviews with several members of the Fraternity and I plan on conducting more in the coming weeks. I have a strong feeling that this endeavor will prove to be very beneficial for the tour when it is completed.
Regarding my experiences in my research to delve into the history of African-American life and experiences at Kean University and the lands which it occupies, it would be dishonest of me to say that it was particularly exhilarating, as much of this research was conducted electronically. Everything I have come across has undoubtedly been also researched my classmates, as well as hundreds of Kean Alumni before me.
That being said, I stumbled across an interesting, yet extremely provocative video recording of a speech given by the late Khalid Abdul Muhammad in 1993 at the University, when it was known as Kean College. For those who are unacquainted with him and his work; Muhammad was a Black Nationalist associated with the Nation of Islam who was well-known for his fiery speeches and diatribes against various social groups, most notably Whites and Jews. Needless to say I was quite shocked when I discovered that he had actually given a speech at Kean University, and I immediately began to wonder how many more in attendance at Kean were influenced by his teachings. Inevitably, I began to wonder if such an event would, could, or should fit into a potential tour on the history of Black Life or African-Americans at Kean.
Of course, such an inclusion would be a controversial proposition that could generate quite a lot of buzz around the school campus. This is not unexpected. But I believe that as historians objectivity and impartiality are two of those most important factors into every bit of research and the resulting presentations of the findings that are the result thereof. Of course, there will be detractors who will accuse those in favor of the documentation of Muhammad’s speech in the tour of trying to cast a negative light on Black Life at Kean University. In response to these critics, it would be most pertinent to present the fact that Muhammad’s parent organization the NOI and its leader at the time (and present) Louis Farrakhan sharply denounced his speech and later ejected him from membership within the organization.
Essentially, what I am proposing is a chance to present facts, regardless of their unpleasantness to the participants of the tour. Nothing more, nothing less. I realize that my position might stir up controversy , but I will stand by it regardless of any criticism I might receive.