The SF State Africana Studies Dept. celebrates community engagement

dr.-nathan-hare, The SF State Africana Studies Dept. celebrates community engagement, Culture Currents Local News & Views
Dr. Nathan Hare, known as the Father of Black Studies, joined the ancestors at age 91 on June 10, 2024.

by Dr. Tiffany Caesar

San Francisco State University is the home of the first Black Studies Department in the country – cemented into higher education in 1968 after the Black Student Union-Third World Liberation Front Student Strike. The first director of the Black Studies Department was Dr. Nathan Hare. He was personally recruited by the Black Student Union members for his intellectual aptitude, community engagement and advocacy. We have recently lost a giant in Hare’s passing; however, the Africana Studies Department is determined to preserve his legacy.

There is a continued effort in the department to display a commitment to community engagement, while continuing to provide critical and innovative research surrounding various topics on Africa and the African Diaspora. This article displays some of the wonderful activities that have occurred in the Africana Studies Department that also center collaborations with Bay Area organizations. It is also an encouragement to reach out to the department for future community collaborations. 

It should be noted that Dr. Dorothy Tsuruta, former and long-time chair of the SFSU Africana Studies Department, has significantly aided in creating a culture committed to local Bay Area initiatives. She is the current president of the Golden Gate Section of the National Council of Negro Women, Inc. Dr.Tsuruta is also a long-time board member and distinguished Lifetime Achievement awardee in the National Council of Black Studies to name a few of her community and academic endeavors.

In the same vein of community and academic enrichment, the current SFSU Africana Studies chair, Dr. Abul Pitre, created The Nathan Hare Speaker Series. Every semester we showcase guests who are contributing to the growth, preservation and celebration of Africana Studies. This year we featured two remarkable people – Dr. James Garrett and Marvin X. Dr. James Garrett contributed significantly to building the SFSU Black Studies Department through advocacy, curricular work and recruitment effort. He served as the second president of the Black Student Union at San Francisco State University, the first such organization in the nation. On Oct. 11, 2023, Dr. James Garrett led a public discussion centering the Black Student Union and celebrating the life of Dr. Nathan Hare. In addition, SFSU has featured other prominent members of the Black Student Union, including author Judy Juanita, Ray Tompkins, Clarence “Buzz” Thomas, Sharon Jones, Ramona Tascoe and Rev. Arnold Townsend, to name a few.

The Nathan Hare Speaker Series also featured Marvin X, who contributed significantly to the Black Arts Movement as a poet, playwright and essayist. Through his dedication to Black culture, he contributed to founding The Black House and The Black Arts/West Theatre. He is also an alumnus of San Francisco State University. On Feb. 26, 2024, Marvin X shared his contributions to the Black Arts Movement while also honoring Dr. Nathan Hare. Both events in the Nathan Hare Speaker Series display Africana Studies’ goal to preserve Black Studies while engaging the community.

spring-2024-black-history-event-with-dr.-dorothy-tsuruta-danny-glover-sharon-jones-1-rotated, The SF State Africana Studies Dept. celebrates community engagement, Culture Currents Local News & Views
Dr. Dorothy Tsuruta, former and long-time chair of the SFSU Africana Studies Department (left), stands with Danny Glover, who played a leading role in the student strike that won the nation’s first Black Studies department, and Sharon Jones, who was also a member of the Black Student Union and participated in the student strike. She now teaches in the Africana Studies department at SFSU.

This spring, the department introduced an additional speaker series titled Shared Experiences of Educators, Artists, and Activists in the Bay. These events were co-sponsored by the African American Center at the San Francisco Public Library downtown. The director of the African American Center, Shawna Sherman, has been a longtime supporter of the SFSU Africana Studies Department. Dr. Tiffany Caesar, Assistant Professor of Africana Studies, received a project grant from the Institute for Civic and Community Engagement that contributed to the department bringing Bay Area educators, artists and activists. The series included Poet Laureate Tongo-Eisen Martin featuring his critically acclaimed documentary “We Have Just Begun” on the Elaine Massacre of 1919, Dr. Ula Taylor’s preview of her awaited book, “Frances M. Beal: Building My Black Feminist House,” and Dr. James Lance Taylor’s political commentary on reparations and education. Dr. Taylor served on the San Francisco African American Reparations Advisory Committee.

In addition, for Juneteenth, Mark Allan Davis, Associate Professor of Africana Studies, organized “Monumental Reckoning Reprised,” a public art display originally created by artist Dana King that honored the first group of enslaved Africans that came to America. This year, Dana King and Mark Allan Davis gathered Black women cis and trans, as well as non-binary people in commemoration of the first installation of Monumental Reckoning and Juneteenth.

The Department of Africana Studies’ long history of advocacy, academic rigor and community engagement is present. The spirit of Dr. Nathan Hare continues to permeate the department as it continues to carve a space of community enrichment.

Dr. Tiffany Caesar is an Oakland-based writer, scholar and activist. Her work emphasizes cultural heritage and art institutions, Africana women, pan-African political movements, reparations and self-care. She is currently an assistant professor of Africana Studies at San Francisco State University, where she teaches African American History and Black Lives Matter: Race and Social Justice Movements. She calls herself a “Black Woman’s Archivist” due to her research and writing about the lives of Queen Mother Moore, Margaret Walker and Phyllis Ntantala. Dr. Caesar is also the current chair of the Black Student Union/Third World Liberation Front SFSU 1968 Student Strike commemoration efforts at San Francisco State University. She can be reached at