Last Thursday, countless bunches of purple and yellow balloons heralded the arrival of Colgate’s second annual Africana and Latina American Studies (ALST) Day. The celebration, open to all in the Colgate community, consisted of a daylong series of panels, discussions and lectures focusing on ALST regions and issues.
“ALST Day is a day to celebrate and communicate the history of the regions that ALST studies,” ALST program director and John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Professor of History and Africana & Latin American Studies Brian Moore said.
This year’s program began even before ALST Day arrived. A student talent show at the Palace Theater on Wednesday, February 7 highlighted the performances of several Colgate students connected to the ALST program.
Thursday morning began with a breakfast session sponsored by the Women’s Studies Center.
At 11:30 a.m., a student panel convened in the African, Latin, Asian and Native American (ALANA) Cultural Center to discuss bilingual education in the United States. Seniors Nzinga Job and Kia King and first-year Jacqueline Serrato shared their experiences with the audience during the lunchtime discussion.
King opened the session with a discussion of Ebonics, the subset of American English sometimes referred to as “Black English.” She explored the definitions of language and dialect and charted some of the legal history of Ebonics.
“When we talk about Ebonics we assume it is uneducated, yet we are constantly exposed to it,” King said.
Jackie Serrato led a discussion on the more commonly thought-of aspects of bilingual education. Serrato, who was in a bilingual classroom from kindergarten through third grade, sees advantages to the bilingual arrangement. She said that the ability to switch languages can further intellectual development, even if language skills may lag a bit behind.
Nzinga Job closed the panel presentations with a discussion of the links between culture and spoken language. Job told the audience of her experience in primary school in her native Trinidad and Tobago. She commented that the problems students there had making cultural connections to colonial-era reading primers led to the introduction of dialect-based instruction.
The highlight of ALST Day came at 4:30 p.m. in Love Auditorium, when Dr. Kwame Appiah of Princeton University’s Center for Human Values presented the tenth annual Shirley Chisholm and W.E.B. DuBois Lecture. Appiah analyzed the academic climate that surrounded DuBois when he studied in Germany in the early part of the 20th Century.
“What made DuBois famous was not the words that he spoke, but the life he lived,” Appiah said.
Born to British and Ghanaian parents, Appiah grew up in Ghana and studied at Cambridge University in England. Among various other such honors, he holds an honorary degree from Colgate. He has taught at several prestigious universities on both sides of the Atlantic.
Appiah used the term “cosmopolitanism” to describe the respect for difference and multiple communities which DuBois advocated.
“The 20th century was a century that could have used a little more of the cosmopolitan spirit – that is, a little more respect for others,” Appiah said, providing historical context for the man he studies and a true keynote message for the day.