When the Process Leads to Progress

As I reflect upon my time building the tour, I am awed by the lengthy strides we’ve made as a group, from the nascent stages until its unveiling. Just as recently as my last blog post, I was lamenting the collective complications we faced in researching, due to what we felt was the somewhat obstructive disposition of some members of faculty and administration. Fast forward a month or so, and I’m praising our impressive discoveries and terrific presentations. But it’s the growth that occurred in that “flash” that truly brings me joy.

It was the impassioned in-class exchanges that resulted in shared approaches, and the in-depth conversations during Thursday group meetings that gave our mission purpose. Frustrations from lack of transparency and evidence of residual discrimination, nor fears of a still incomplete narrative could undo us.We kept digging until we saw some beams of luminescence that would help us put the past in perspective, reveal the realities of the present, and highlight the bright prospects of the future. We were bringing forth The BlacKeaning – the perpetual act of bringing Black to the forefront of the institutional map.

The construction of this tour was very much an exercise in seeing projects through and building upon the ideas which one feels are most intriguing. It turned out to be more than just a class, but rather a course in the truest sense – a path to a meaningful and substantive end.  That end is enlightenment, and that substance is solidarity. The relation I have to my professor and classmates is real. The respect I have for this tour is real. Most of all the reverence I have for those who came before me in this struggle is real. We are connected by The BlacKeaning experience and we represent it well. Let it begin!

History at Our Fingertips, Still Difficult to Grasp

As a society, we live in an age where access to an unbelievably instant and seemingly infinite amount of information rests at the press of a button. This requires little more than a cellphone and a wi-fi signal. Throw in the ability to use a laptop or tablet, and you have joined the digital age – supplanting the standard of being people savvy with that of being tech savvy. Thus, when it comes to research, such privileges can enable one to circumvent the “middleman” – be they curator, librarian, historian, or any of the like. The problem is, the need for these professionals’ involvement persists, and this presents a number of both challenges and advantages.

While I do not wish to belabor the point that we, as a group and as a class, have met with obstacles, I would like to highlight the fact that these impediments are concentrated in a single area. That area is the administrative faculty, and their reluctance, if not refusal, to part with information detailing race relations at Kean University. This is particularly detrimental to the progress of my group, which is charged with chronicling the progress of black alumni, faculty, staff, and community within the Kean sphere of influence, and evaluating how the institution has encouraged it. In class we’ve addressed their perceived skepticism about our project goals, and we’ve responded in kind by explaining that the project aims to tell the complete story of Black life at Kean – the good, the bad, and the largely unknown. Ultimately, we are countered by an opinion that there is no racial injustice at Kean and if there is, they are none-the-wiser. Far be it for me to accuse the university of racism, or even ‘placism’ — I mean, the president is a former orphan from Afghanistan —  but this feigned unawareness is the kind of passive denial that allows discrimination to thrive in even the most diverse settings.

Ultimately, my team of researchers remains undaunted, because there is an academic responsibility to tell the truth. Similar to journalism, the only way to tell the whole story is to squeeze the available sources. Therefore, I am looking forward to my upcoming interviews with Professor Boateng and PASU for a wealth of perspectives, as I have barely scrounged up enough valuable information from the archives to amass a respectable annotated bibliography. For that reason, the individuals that assist us in our research and project as a whole, will become a part of the narrative, unlike those who did not, because I do not wish them to be a plot point in our story, only the challenge they presented.