This One’s About Us: The Push for African and Ethnic Studies at Soka


By Christelle Inema, Victoria Huynh, and Jordyn Saito
On behalf of the student group leading the push for African and Ethnic Studies

Within the last year, SUA’s Black Student Union has spearheaded a strong and visible push for African Studies.  For many students, this demand may appear to be a recent one, however after archival research, the BSU has found that the demand for African Studies dates back to 2002.

In a parallel conversation, students of color have drawn on past concerns about a lack of ethnic studies and emphasis on local, lived experiences to look for ethnic studies integration into our curriculum. Ethnic studies is traditionally a U.S.-centered course and was conceived in part from the 1968 Third World Liberation Front. While this conversation has been led and driven by students, many of us have found our community and voices within the temporary offering of Asian American Activism taught by our PBRC Post-Doc Fellow Dr. Laureen Hom, who will be leaving us this fall.

Those of us interested in ethnic studies want to make it clear—we stand firmly with the BSU in their demands for African studies.  Our solidarity with the BSU stems from our mutual understanding in what it feels like to not see people who look like us or who have similar experiences as us telling our stories. We are the objects of study, yet are seldom at the center of the narrative.  

We want to note the differences (conventionally) between area studies, as something born out of World War II, and ethnic studies, born out of marginalized voices’ self-determination. Ultimately, we want to redefine both and hold Soka to its claim of being a “global” institution at our conference on May 10th, 5-7 PM, Pauling 216. The event will bring faculty and staff to listen and students to lead with their voices, to share and hold space—this one’s about us.

Details are in the flier, but we will have Dr. Laureen Hom, our PBRC fellow speak about what ethnic studies is. We will have panels from the class of 2019 speak; Kristen Storms will present on behalf of BSU. And we ask that we all show up.

Thus—this conversation isn’t just about the students who want this addition but why students want this addition to the curriculum, and how students look to reclaim their self-determination in doing so.

All of our identities are testaments to the realities of the world, not defined by nation-state borders that are formally institutionalized in a largely global capitalist world, but to our ancestral ties and respect for our cultural narratives as a site for resilience against colonialism and imperialism. The Student of Color Coalition, along with our allies, are shocked that we have no full-time black professors along with the repercussions of what that means for us as an institution. In that, among many other facts, we stand with BSU in their push for African studies.

We genuinely want to see all of us there. You don’t have to know what “ethnic studies” or “African Studies” is—we want to define that together, and we need as many student voices there as possible to do so.


One thought on “This One’s About Us: The Push for African and Ethnic Studies at Soka

  1. It is amazing to see all the action BSU is taking, and the students pushing for African studies, and the work you are doing at the Pearl to organize and publish archival articles regarding the push for African studies ever since the school opened. All of your courageous work is so important. I graduated in 08, and I distinctly remember the reaction I got at a Pacific Basin forum when I asked about African studies. So it may feel like you’re isolated, but you’re not alone. Alumni around the world are watching and want to support. #blacklivesmatter


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