My last year at Wesleyan, I was talking to Joel Pfister in the Center for Humanities, and he remarked that the biggest gift Wesleyan gives to its students is the ability to observe openly and think critically about the world around us. No department was more essential to developing that faculty for me and my peers than the African American Studies department. It is a department devoted towards challenging our assumptions about who we are, and how to be in the world. In one way it is about how the idea of race has formed and shaped us in the past, but it also works towards imagining new ways of defining ourselves and constructing community and society in the present and future. I see this in the work of all of my peers from AfAm, regardless of the path we have chosen: we are activists, theologians, artists, lawyers, doctors, scholars, teachers, and more. What we share within this diversity, what AfAm gave us, is a series of guiding questions whose answers we con tinue to redraft throughout our work and life: What is justice? What is freedom? What is race? What is human? What is equality? Why prisons? Why poverty? We look at the world around us and we ask what is it, why is it, and how could it be otherwise. And when we attempt to answer these questions through action and word, we are continually informed by the principles, histories, testimonies, essays, manifestos, poems, dances, plays, songs, novels, and critical theory we studied together in AfAm. Perhaps moreso, we are still inspired by the long, contentious and excited conversations that lasted til 3 in the morning, that unfolded and errupted even in CAAS, 200 Church, Malcom X house, BuHo, Usdan, Olin, Foss Hill, as our readings and assignments forced us to wrestle with ourselves and our world, and to propose how we could work and live in it together.
These sorts of questions can seem broad or trite, but I assure you they are not. They are essential to the critical and creative life of any society, any community, particularly for educational institutions. AfAm is a keystone of a deeply inquisitive and critically engaged university education, and to undermine and devastate its resources is to undermine and devastate the intellectual life of the entire campus. To re-prioritize AfAm is to re-prioritize learning, community, creativity, and social justice. Re-prioritize AfAm, re-prioritize Wesleyan.
Barclay is a member of the class of 2009.