“WE ARE NOT THE MINORITY” were the words chanted by 90 Baltimore City ninth graders after experiencing a Cultural Listening Party at Towson University.
In October 2017, the College Readiness Outreach Program and the African American Student Development Program collaborated to create TU’s first Cultural Listening Party. The program was a One Maryland One Book grant-funded project that focused on broadening the narrative of blackness for students by asking them to examine their own stories. Attendees explored music and social justice issues of black people from not only North America but Africa and South America as well.
The inspiration of the program came from the 2017 One Maryland One Book choice, Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. In the book, Adichie writes about the dangers of a single story: how the African Diaspora is monolithic and complex and our stories should reflect this complexity.
The students arrived on campus and first learned about the Center for Student Diversity and the services offered through the College Readiness Outreach Program and the African American Student Development Program. Next, students experienced the history of black and Afro-Cuban culture through the dissection of musical lyrics. Paying particular attention to their relevance in the Harlem Renaissance movement to the present time’s Black Lives Matter movement.
Discussions examined social issues from around the world and how they manifest in music. Sessions included video, songs, discussions led by current TU students, dance, and a live performance by an Afro-Cuban rapper La Fina.
With this collaboration, we sought to debunk negative stories that create stereotypes while encouraging Baltimore City youth to examine their own stories. One story simply cannot be the only story for blacks around the diaspora. Student attendees of the program recorded responses to
- What they learned: “The African Diaspora means communities descending from Africa,” “We are all African’s because we come from African Descendants.”
- What they enjoyed: “I enjoyed that they were very friendly and happy to teach us about their culture.”
- Lastly, what they wanted to learn more about: “How to go to Cuba,” “I would like to know more about black people and Black Lives Matter.”
This collaboration between Towson University and other organizations will hopefully continue well into the future.
About the College Readiness Outreach Program
The College Readiness Outreach Program (CROP) is a collaborative effort including Baltimore City Public Schools, the Baltimore CollegeBound Foundation, Incorporated, and Towson University. CROP connects ninth graders in designated Baltimore City Public High Schools with Towson University students who serve as mentors and provide a series of college readiness workshops. Selected Baltimore City Public School students have an opportunity to develop a solid plan allowing them to successfully matriculate through high school as well as apply for and gain acceptance into college or an alternate career choice. Towson University students volunteer to facilitate individual mentoring experiences and workshops sharing their experiences, encouraging academic persistence, and helping students rethink or develop a personal definition of success. Contact India Leach (Coordinator, Outreach & Retention) at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone Student Success Programs at (410) 704-2051 if questions arise.
About the African American Student Development Program
The African American Student Development program (AASD), formerly the African American Cultural Center (AACC), is an integral part of the university’s commitment to serving underrepresented and marginalized populations. AASD’s mission is to support, promote, and enhance the academic, social, and personal development of students of African descent and heritage within a welcoming and nurturing environment. For more information please visit https://www.towson.edu/aasd/ .
About the Authors
Associate Director for Student Diversity and Development
Anee Korme currently serves as the Associate Director for Student Diversity and Development in the Center for Student Diversity at Towson University. In this role she works to create a strategic plan to guide the African American Student Development Program serving over 4000 undergraduate and graduate students. Additionally she develops and presents workshops to help build cultural competency across campus and works to develop strategic partnerships with campus and greater Baltimore community partners. She has also serves as an adjunct faculty member teaching courses focusing on diversity and inclusion and as a private consultant helping organizations reach their diversity goals. On Towson’s campus Anee currently serves on the BTU Council, College of Fine Arts and Communications-CoLAB Committee, and the Academic Intergroup Dialogue Committee.
Coordinator of Outreach and Retention
India Leach is the Coordinator of Outreach and Retention within Student Success Programs at Towson University where she works to drive results around college access and retention. As a Baltimore native, her role includes developing the College Readiness Access Program (C.R.O.P.) which takes students from Towson into Baltimore City Schools to work with ninth graders. On Towson’s campus, India serves as an officer for the Black Faculty & Staff Association as well as a member of the College and Career Access & Readiness (CCAR) task force. India also represents her department on the division’s Assessment Committee.