An Africana Studies and Research Program has been established at Rutgers University-Camden. Directed by Dr. Katrina Hazzard-Donald, the new program expands the previous African American Studies Program to focus on the African presence in the world. The program is one of 11 academic programs at Rutgers-Camden.
Rutgers’ move to an Africana program follows the trend in higher education over the last two decades. “The program was officially renamed in 2012 and follows the national trend,” explained Director Hazzard-Donald, professor of sociology, anthropology and criminal justice, who is nationally-renowned for her research on the African influence on dance. “The African American Studies Program was upgraded and the curriculum was revamped to include studies and research on the African Diaspora and how it influences the world. We will focus on the entire African world, not just African culture in America. Our research component has been strengthened with this evolution.”
One of the new courses added to the curriculum is, “Pan African Theory & Thought.” Other courses included are, “The Red & the Black” which looks at the relationship between African Americans and Native Americans in North America. This course provides insight into history and culture that is often overlooked by mainstream scholars and includes several field trips.
“Our goal for the next few years is to increase the number of students in the program, both majors and minors,” said Hazzard-Donald. “I would like to eventually expand to departmental status with a full budget to access needed resources. We are also working towards focusing Africana studies in three primary areas: art & society, politics, and enslavement & colonialism.”
Part of Hazzard-Donald’s vision for the program includes greater community involvement by forming partnerships with cultural resources surrounding Camden. “I am looking to include organizations like Camden’s own Universal African Dance & Drum Ensemble, an outstanding group which has been successful in developing the city’s youth by teaching them African musical culture. We are also inviting the community to join us in celebrating Black History Month by attending our first annual Black History Series.”
The Africana Program’s First Annual Black History Series includes a film, a dance workshop, lectures and an art exhibit. All events will be held on campus and are free. At 4:00PM, Tuesday, February 12, Dancer/Choreographer Renee “Oyin” Hardy, founder of Troupe Dada African Dance & Drum Ensemble, will teach the dances of the Yoruba Orisha Yemaya, Oshun and Oya, in a Goddess Dance Workshop at the Campus Center Raptor Roost, 326 Penn Street. Learn the basis of many American dance traditions, including those expressed in Mardi Gras, in this exciting workshop. No dance experience necessary. On Wednesday, February 27, come hear Dr. James Turner, founder of the Black Studies Movement and Chairman Emeritus/founding director of Cornell University’s Africana Studies and Research Center discuss this year’s theme, “Africa and The World.” Turner’s program at Cornell, founded in 1969, became the model for Black Studies programs throughout the nation. Throughout February an exhibit of African artifacts and textiles, in addition to a collection of African American stamps and coins will be on display in the Paul Robeson Library, 300 4th Street.
Rutgers-Camden is fortunate to have Hazzard-Donald to direct this new endeavor. She is known in the academic and cultural communities for her research on dance and culture. Her first book, Jookin': The Rise of Social Dance Formations in African American Culture, won the 1991 De La Torre Bueno Special Citation for Dance Research. She was a guest curator/historian for and provided leadership in conceptualizing the historical text of the National Afro-American Museum's 1999 exhibit “When the Spirit Moves: African American Dance in the United States.” She was a featured dance scholar in the PBS-TV Great Performances -- Dance in America Series 2001 “Free to Dance: The African American Presence in Modern Dance.” Among other honors she is the recipient of the 1999 Oni Award from the International Black Women’s Congress, an American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship, a Henry Rutgers Research Fellowship and a Rockefeller Post-Doctoral Fellowship at Brown University.
Hazzard-Donald’s new book, Mojo Workin’: The Old African American Hoodoo System, is an exploration of the African American experience and practice of the herbal, healing folk tradition known as Hoodoo. “Literature and research about African religion in the New World doesn’t include African American traditions,” explained Hazzard-Donald who is initiated into the Yoruba spiritual tradition of West Africa as a Priest of Ogun and Ifa. “So, I began to write down and research African American healing traditions that have been passed down through the generations orally. The result is this new book.”
In addition, she has published in the Journal of Pan-African Studies; C.O.R.D. Dance Research Journal; Journal of Black Studies; Journal of Physical Education, Recreation and Dance; Western Journal of Black Studies; International Journal of African Dance, and Minority Voices. Hazzard-Donald currently chairs the African American Culture section of the National Popular Culture Association, is a member of the American Sociological Association, the Association of Black Sociologists and the National African Religion Congress.