The Center for African Studies: A Look Back During the 50th Anniversary

By: Tesay Yusuf

Home: Solace, Strength, Community from Stanford African Studies on Vimeo.

The Center for African Studies is the home of the African Studies program at Stanford. CAS serves not only as an intellectual space, but also a community space. The 50th anniversary of CAS meant many things to so many people. In order to reflect that, we created an exhibit of photographs taken by a CAS alum of members of the community. People wrote on their hands what CAS meant to them and so it was a chance for students, faculty, alumni, and our whole community to reflect on what it means to us.

 

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What does having a center and a community mean?

To me, CAS means comfort, and that’s what I wrote on my hand for my portrait. CAS is a place where I can feel comfortable in who I am. I have multiple spaces like that on campus, and each provides comfort in a different way. CAS is somewhere I can walk in, request a song, and get into the mood I need for that day. It’s a place I can vent, order ice cream for the whole office when we’re stressed, and plan a party in a matter of hours to get everyone’s spirits up. It’s way more than just a job. It’s a welcoming place, a place where people try to feel for one another. It’s a dynamic space, and I think everyone makes it into what they want for themselves. If you’ve never been, I would definitely encourage everyone in the Black community(ies) to come see it for yourself. Check out the exhibit, request a song that will get played just for you, and feel what’s going on at CAS.

Below are previously unreleased photos from the CAS 50th Anniversary Celebration this past Spring.

Blasian Narratives: Director’s Note

Director: OmnessenmO

DIRECTOR’S NOTE

For what it’s worth, race continues to be a sensitive and volatile topic, and in many cases, results in fatal consequences. Yet, very few make the connection that racial literacy is linked to self-awareness and emotional intelligence. In addition, as much as race is a social construct, it is also a code. This code consciously and subliminally constructs a major part of our identity, and begs the questions: How do we see ourselves? And how do others perceive us? Therefore, how does this affects how we live, in relations to how they treat us? Ironically, racial awareness is often ridiculed and villainized as people attribute racial (identity) awakening to exacerbating social problems.

I see it differently.

In the age of the Internet, scrolling through careless comments easily posted on social media, it becomes clear that emotional and racial literacy is rarely upheld in school. As a result, artists and activists carry the burden of teaching values that should have been instilled from a young age, resisting a culture and society that does not value self-awareness. As I recognize that racial literacy is linked to emotional growth, therefore, I am passionate about creating works that help hone emotional maturity and accountability. I see racial works of art when done affirmatively, as invitations for personal self-reflections and opportunities for a collective healing. Thus, this project was created with this aspiration in mind.

I studied film and theatre because I understood the power of expressions and representations through performances, images, and symbols. As someone of an Asian American heritage (Cambodian American), I grew up seeing few representations of people who looked like me, and if there was one, it was usually negative. Yet, I’ve found that those who are well versed in racial literacy tend to be more grounded individuals. I see the correlations of healthy self-esteem in the Asian American students who studied their culture; this also holds true for Black students who understood their history. I have also seen how wiser my Native, Latinos, White, “mixed” and “Others” brothers and sisters become once they learn the truth about themselves. As such, this project became a creative outlet for individuals who are interested in exploring the racial and cultural aspect of who they are.

The visual medium of theatre, film/videos, and online media are some of the most powerful storytelling tools of our time. Therefore, combining all three was not an easy task considering the limited time and lack of budget available; I also had to wear many hats as a first-time director. Furthermore, as an outsider to the narratives of Blasian individuals, I wanted to be mindful in how I help others tell their stories without imposing too much of my influence. After all, I am not “Blasian.” However, I was able to use my outsider curiosity to my advantage by asking the right questions. To the best of my ability, I made sure to consult and receive feedback throughout the whole process from Blasians and non-Blasians alike. If someone were to make a narrative piece about people like me, I would only hope that they approach it with care, respect, thoughtfulness, and integrity. I hope that this project upheld these values.

This project has truly been an intensive labor of love. As this is my debut project, I feel blessed to work with many of my new and closest friends who are all spread out in the world–many who are sharing their gifts freely from their personal resources. I have learned a lot from the cast, crew, and audiences through this transformative experience that brought us all together, coast-to-coast. I am also fortunate to have met the individuals who offered a helping hand along the way, whether it was the kind encouragements from acquaintances or our friends of friends, who came in to help cook meals for us when we needed them. This project is also dedicated to them because we could not have arrived here without them.

If I’ve only learned one thing from the cast and crew, it is that we don’t have to live in a colorblind society when we can live in a colorful world.

I hope that the messages of unity in diversity come through. Through exploring our differences, I hope we can see and feel how similar we really are.

Yours truly,

OmnessenmO