Friends of the Black Studies Department at Portland State University hosts students, faculty and community historians at a celebration of the institution's future Friday, Feb. 26 at 5:45 at the Billy Webb Elks Lodge, 6 N. Tillamook St.
A freewheeling panel discussion kicks off the evening featuring department founders Dennis Payne, Cottrell White and O.B. Hill. Also participating are the Association of African Students, the NAACP student chapter and the PSU Black Cultural Affairs Board.
"We are just so delighted that we have three former students and founders of the Black Studies program, students who were on campus in the late '60s and early '70s," said former Sen. Avel Gordly, who serves on the department's faculty.
Portland State is the only college in the Northwest and one of the few in the nation that offers a degree in Black Studies.
Its 11-member faculty ranges from the distinguished current department chair Dr. E. Kofi Agorsah, a cultural anthropologist originally from Ghana, to public policy expert Gordly and arts/culture/politics experts Turiya Autry and Walidah Imarisha.
Former department chair Dr. Darrell Millner will be honored Friday, as he is celebrating his 35th year of teaching, scholarship and mentoring at the PSU Black Studies Department.
Gordly said he'll talk about the future of the program, and the controversial proposal to move the department out of the College of Liberal Arts and into a newly created department of gender and ethnic studies.
Professor Ethan Johnson says the panel discussion is centered on two things – how far the department has come and what its future holds.
"Right now we're in negotiation with the College of Letters Arts at Sciences and we're trying to figure out how Black Studies fits into that," Johnson said. "Without losing our identity, how can we have a school that includes all those different groups?
"Do we need to make some changes? A lot of people don't think about themselves like they did 40 years ago," Johnson said. "Black Studies needs to reflect that."
Gordly says the department remains a vital institution to the entire city, especially in its expertise on civil rights and public policy – which most recently made headlines in reports included in the State of Black Oregon about disparities and discrimination in law enforcement and justice throughout the state.
The department plans a series of events to commemorate its 40th anniversary, culminating in special celebrations in September, the anniversary month, Gordly said.
"We want the community to know that this is a wonderful opportunity to come out and find out more about the PSU Black Studies Program and find out more about the Friends of Black Studies and how people can get connected and get involved," Gordly said.
Dinner and music are included. General admission is $10, student admission is free. To reserve a space mailto:[email protected]