Dear colleagues and comrades,
The Black Studies Minor at the University of Oregon has arrived. I am incredibly grateful for those who fought to establish a Black Studies Program here at the UO, those whose dreams and scholarship laid the foundation for this work, those who worked diligently towards making those dreams and history the bedrock of BLST, and especially those that continue to challenge us to do this work with care, honor, and a deep respect for Black thought and lives here at the UO.
My heart is also heavy knowing a number of our friends and colleagues have suffered through this process, some who have come here and left, and those that are here and still committed to the Struggle. This institution of higher education, from our leaders down to those of us doing the everyday work of supporting our students, cannot wait to do things differently.
We must be committed to honoring Black thought in our classrooms and research labs, for both faculty and students. BLST will serve as the academic home for the Umoja Residential Community in 2020 and will relaunch the Umoja Academic Residential Community in 2021 with a cohort-model in order to build mentorship opportunities for Black student-scholars during their entire time at the UO. Furthermore, we are developing community partnerships to extend these mentorship opportunities to local high school students interested in either or both the Umoja ARC and the BLST Minor. Our affiliated faculty are creating and revamping courses for BLST to offer students even more opportunities to grow their knowledge and understanding, their capacity for critical thought especially important in this moment, and the tools necessary to remake the world in ways that honor life and the living.
We are also grateful for the opportunities to collaborate with partners from the Lyllye Reynolds-Parker Black Cultural Center and the Division of Equity and Inclusion in order to support students holistically, especially given the ongoing and heightened concerns over mental health, food and home security, and the simple safety of being able to exist and breathe freely.
If we are to grow this Program, then we also have work to do to support one another, from our leaders in Johnson Hall to the rank-and-file faculty and staff, we all need to step up and take our share of the burden in doing this work, and no longer leave the heavy burden on the same shoulders time and again. Many of us know all too well the toll this work takes on the same handful of folks constantly called upon and many of us have felt and witnessed the consequences of shouldering such responsibilities. I am grateful for leadership in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Office of the Provost who have committed to working with BLST on these larger issues, all of which must be addressed with great care, patience, and long-term commitments.
I am also personally grateful to too many people here to list, and I do hope you know how much your support has meant to me because it means moving this work forward. Thank you.
As a community of students, faculty, and staff committed to Black life and joy, to seeing Black thought and scholars thrive at the UO and committed to a vibrant Black Studies Program, one that grows with the greater Struggle at hand and one that grows with the critically-beautiful scholarship the Academy simply cannot contain or sublimate, our work continues.
Avinnash P. Tiwari
Instructor, English & Composition
Acting Director, BLST
Politics Chair, UAUO & VP Politics AAUP-OR