Q: Tell me about yourself and your place here at BU
Q: What is the African and African American diaspora studies? Is it a minor?
JM: It’s a minor. The program looks at Black history and culture across the globe. We focus on the history of the discipline. The course I am teaching now is Cultures of Africa, and we are looking at the cultures of Africa and the diversity in the
continent. Then we have other courses that go under the minor: Black Theology, Race and Ethnicity, History of Jazz and there is African American Literature. Those are just a few courses taught across the university that fit under the minor as electives.
Q: What has your experience been teaching these courses to students?
JM: It’s been fun. I’ve been encouraged by the Bellarmine student population and their overall desire and interest to engage and really interrogate the topics we discuss. In my Cultures of Africa class, we’ve been reading a lot and doing
a lot, but yesterday we had food. We had Ethiopian food in our attempt to just get a piece of Ethiopian culture.
Our minors for the AAADS program have increased since last semester, so that has been good. It’s showing that people
are just interested in the topic. This how it's been across all the classes.
Q: It seems like you really love teaching these subjects. Do you have a particular class you teach or subject that is your favorite?
JM: Well, since it’s only my second semester, it’s hard for me to pick. I will say the Cultures of Africa class is one of my favorites. It’s only been a few weeks, but my PhD is in Pan-African Studies. That is part of what I have been
doing for the past few years. But also, our Introduction to Cultural Anthropology is so much fun. We have so many amazing conversations, I just love it.
Q: You mentioned that the minor has increased since last year. What do you think has contributed to that?
JM: Well, it’s only doubled. It just started in 2019 so I think people are just learning more about the fact that the minor is here. I think people are realizing that it can be utilized in so many different career paths. They see how beneficial
it is for them and that we also have more classes to offer. They are seeing the value of it and how it can be utilized in everyday life and personal or work relations and a work environment. It's about society as a whole and understanding how interconnected
we all are.
Q: What has the students' response been to these classes?
JM: We have gotten a positive response. Again, I think that, as far as the AAADS minor is concerned, it is not knowing how closely related these topics were to other things that they had been learning. I realize that it's like “Oh, ok yes like I
can see how I can use this theory or this book or this lens to understand XYZ situation or to try to make something better in the future.”
Q: How do you think 2020 has changed the way Black History Month will be going forward?
JM: I think, if anything else, 2020 helps show the significance of Black History Month. The history month was inspired by Carter G. Woodson. It was just a week and then turned into a month. By realizing the significance of the experiences of Black Americans
particularly, we also cannot deny the impact Africa and the diaspora has also had in the United States. I think a lot of things that happened in 2020 made people begin to change. I saw a lot of people engage more, want to read more and learn more.
It was like they recognized “I did not learn this in school.” It is like “Yep, we know,” which is exactly what we have been trying to do in the United States, by showing how it [Black history] has been to be systematically
erased. I need 2020 to help people see “Oh, wow this actually has raised vital information that we all should know.”
Q: Can you tell me more about the origin of Black History Month?
JM: Sure, as I said, Carter G. Woodson started it as a history week and then it became Black History Month in 1976. Woodson was a historian. He went to school in Berea, so he has even had some local ties. He was interested in preserving African American
life and by preserving, I mean being a shield for Black folks for being erased.
Q: How has Black History Month evolved over the course its creation?
JM: First it has become too commercialized. You have places that have a history of marginalizing Black folks and then once every year, they want to make a profit off of Black folks. I do think that is changing. So many people now have become tired of,
“We only talk about Black people in February.” And even then we only talk about Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks and maybe Sojourner Truth. That's it. Now, we are incorporating a more holistic American history into curriculum. It is because
people only want to talk about Black folks in February and everyone is saying “Hold on this should be talked about the whole year.” Now people are highlighting Black History Month all year, but we have also pushed it forward to where stories
that we tell are holistic, so there is an expansion. I think people are not only looking at histories, but also looking at futures -- Afrofuturism and contemporary folks. Carter G. Wilson was a historian, so it makes sense then he focused so much
on history. We also need to be looking at the future and looking at tomorrow.
Q: How do you feel like Bellarmine is doing in branching out into the tomorrow aspect?
JM: There are a few initiatives and programs at Bellarmine I have collaborated with. One I am a part of is The Butterfly Project
. We are working
with community organizations here in Louisville, and there are all these organizations operated and run by Black folks. That's one way of not just looking at history, but seeing how what we do today impacts what we can make for tomorrow. There is
are obviously more room to grow. In every aspect there is always room to grow for anybody. I think Bellarmine is doing a good job at changing that direction.
Q: Going forward what are your hopes for the AAADS Program?
JM: My hopes for the AAADS program going forward is it will grow. Then we can really get funding to help the mission. I hope that even if we do not even have many minors, we still have many students who take our classes. The reason is because
those topics are not often offered as classes, and I am not talking about Bellarmine specifically. I am talking about how many offered classes are missing key components of history and culture and of reality. The lens is often Eurocentric and centers
around Europe and European descendants and their narratives. Our courses do not, because at the end of the day, none of us would have the privileges we do, the luxuries we have if it were not for Black bodies and exploitation of Black bodies. How do you
remove that from your storytelling? How do you remove that from being taught or the messages you are relaying? It is my hope we bring in more students and they continue to take our classes. They will become exposed to a more well-rounded understanding
of human interaction, human events and global events. Then US cultures, US histories and the impact of the US has made on the world.