New Executive Director Joins Institute for the Study of Sport, Society and Social Change

Akilah Carter-Francique, the new executive director of the Institute for the Study of Sport Society and Social Change, poses for a photo during SJSU's Words to Action Town Hall at Levi Stadium. (Photo by David Schmitz)

Akilah Carter-Francique, the new executive director of the Institute for the Study of Sport Society and Social Change, poses for a photo during SJSU’s Words to Action Town Hall at Levi Stadium. (Photo by David Schmitz)

Akilah Carter-Francique said she never pictured moving to Silicon Valley as a step in her career trajectory, but when she saw the job posting for the executive director of the Institute for the Study of Sport, Society and Social Change at San Jose State University she had to apply. She first connected with SJSU when she was invited to be a faculty affiliate with the Institute for the Study of Sport, Society and Social Change (ISSSSC). She visited the campus for the first time in October 2018 for the Words to Action: Landmarks and Legacy of Athlete Activism Town Hall.

“It was great to have an opportunity to see the programming with Dr. Harry Edwards, Tommie Smith and John Carlos,” she said. “And especially to hear Wyomia Tyus—to sit in the audience and listen to one of my ‘sheroes’ talk about her experiences at the ’68 Games and learn about the challenges she faced and how she overcame them was a treasured experience.”

In July, Carter-Francique began her tenure as executive director of ISSSSC and will guide the Institute in honoring the university’s history of social justice while also looking toward the future. She aims to move the Institute into a position to not only host important discussions about issues of race, gender equity, and activism but to be able to educate through workshops and provide thought and research that will influence practice and inform policy creation.

Her personal and professional experience made her an ideal choice for the position. She grew up in Topeka, Kansas as the daughter of two K-12 educators. She herself was a student-athlete in track and field in college. She completed a doctorate at the University of Georgia and has experience working in in higher education as a professor and administrator in campus recreation. She also worked a short period of time in K-12 education stimulating her passion for young people and student engagement.

Her scholarly endeavors and field of focus encompasses the intersection of sport, society and social justice that is inclusive of issues of diversity, social movements, and the dynamics of social change and development. She will also serve as an associate professor in the Department of African American Studies, in addition to her work with the Institute. She is the co-editor of Athletic Experience at Historically Black Colleges and Universities: Past Present, and Persistence and Critical Race Theory: Black Athletic Experience in the United States.

Carter-Francique is using her first semester to get to know institutional entities and people on and off campus to find ways to connect on programming and research opportunities. For example, on-campus she is meeting with representatives from the African American Black Student Success Center, the PRIDE Center, the Gender Equity Center and Counseling and Psychological Services, among others.

“I have a student-first mentality, so I want to understand the student groups, who they serve, and how they can be involved,” she said. “I am excited to be here and excited for the opportunity to work with others here.”

While she continues to get to know stakeholders, both on and off campus, Carter-Francique said ISSSSC will focus on a theme of public health and wellness this year, looking at both physical and mental health issues that intersect with sport at all levels.

She noted that her own experience as a student-athlete as well as her husband’s experience as a student-athlete and professional athlete in his native country of Grenada, and who now coaches Grenada’s track and field team, allows her to understand the importance of helping athletes see that they are multidimensional individuals.

“Who do you want to be to make an impact?” she said. “How can you influence and inspire people? You as an individual have value—you can be more than an athlete. You are many things. Maybe you are a sister, a mother, a mentor.”

Carter-Francique is the 2018-19 President of the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport (NASSS), where she has worked to enhance student involvement in conferences with student poster presentation sessions that support the established “take a student to lunch” program.

“There are a number of undergraduate and master’s students who want to go to graduate school,” she said. “Having the opportunity to present research on a national and international level are very important educational opportunities because they are future scholars and leaders.”

Carter-Francique’s discussions of social and global issues extend to her home, where her children’s rooms are decorated with maps. When she or her husband travel to other countries, they discuss with their children the languages that are spoken, the foods that are eaten, sports that are played and other age-appropriate social issues.

“In my daughter’s last school she was learning Mandarin, so when my husband was traveling to China, she taught him how to say hello. She was thrilled that she could share that knowledge with him,” she said. “We are helping our children, and others we interact with, understand sport and its global, diverse communities.”

Department of African American Studies Lecture Series

Carter-Francique will be giving a talk on Thursday, September 12, 2019 in the Martin Luther King Library Room 225 6 to 8 p.m. as a part of the Department of African American Studies Lecture Series.

Celebrate Black History Month at SJSU

At left, Dr. Theodorea Berry, chair of the Department of African-American Studies, poses for a photo with Pastor Jason C. Reynolds during San Jose State University's Super Sunday event Feb. 10 at Emanuel Baptist Church.

At left, Dr. Theodorea Berry, chair of the Department of African-American Studies, poses for a photo with Pastor Jason C. Reynolds during San Jose State University’s Super Sunday event Feb. 10 at Emmanuel Baptist Church.

This February, San Jose State University is recognizing Black History Month with a series of exciting and educational events, part of an ongoing effort to promote diversity and inclusion on campus. The various activities are sponsored by Student Involvement, the African American/Black Student Success Center, the Department of African-American Studies, Mosaic Cross Cultural Center and Student Affairs.

“These heritage month celebrations provide visible representation of our students on campus,” said Christopher Yang, the director of the Mosaic Cross Cultural Center, noting that SJSU celebrates four ethnic heritage months. “Students are so busy with all the things they need to work on–class, jobs, family. These events offer a chance to take a break and notice the efforts the campus is making.”

Yang noted that the events allow students of various identities to feel they have support on campus while also allowing an opportunity for campus communities who don’t identify with a particular ethnicity to learn about different cultures.

This year’s Black History Month events got an early start with a 30th anniversary celebration of African studies and a Legends and Legacies talk in January, with many more events planned into March.

For the remainder of the month, students are encouraged to attend weekly events such as the Black Male Collective: Barbershop Talk, the African History Film and Dialogue Series, the Leadership Drop-In Series, and monthly events hosted by the Black Student Union and the Black Women’s Collective. Topics include leadership, intersectionality, spirituality, and African and African-American history.

Visiting Scholar Lecture

On February 14 from noon to 1:30 p.m. in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library Fifth Floor Shiro Room, David G. Holmes, a professor of English and associate dean of curriculum and general education at Pepperdine University, will give a visiting scholar lecture on “Black Religion Matters.” Holmes will examine the influence of Black religious rhetoric on mass civil rights meetings in Birmingham in the 1960s. The event is sponsored by the College of Humanities and the Arts, the Department of Communications, the Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies, the Mosaic Cross Cultural Center and the Department of Justice Studies. RSVP to ryan.skinnell@sjsu.edu.

Super Sunday

San Jose State University staff members from Student Outreach and Recruitment and the Financial Aid Office attend Super Sunday to talk with community members about preparing for college. Photo provided by Coleeta McElroy.

San Jose State University staff members from Student Outreach and Recruitment and the Financial Aid Office attend Super Sunday to talk with community members about preparing for college. Photo provided by Coleeta McElroy.

President Mary Papazian visited San Jose’s Emmanuel Baptist Church February 10 as part of the California State University’s annual Super Sunday event, an effort to engage and serve underrepresented students. She and Theodorea Berry, chair of the department of African-American Studies at SJSU spoke with community members about planning for college, with representatives from Student Outreach and Recruitment and the Financial Aid Office also available to answer questions. Vice President for Student Affairs Patrick Day will be visiting the Maranatha Christian Center on February 24, as part of the Super Sunday effort.

“Yesterday’s services at Emmanuel Baptist, part of the CSU’s Super Sunday activities, were warm, welcoming and joyful,” President Papazian (@PrezPapazian) following the services. “I was delighted to see many Spartans, which contributed to the energy and enthusiasm. Thank you, Pastor Reynolds, and thanks to your congregation for having me.”

Other Upcoming Events

Special events include a film screening of Black Panther (February 12), mardi gras celebration (February 13), Meet and Greet: Black Students, Faculty and Staff (February 25), and the Spartan Speakers Series on February 20, which features Broadway actor Bryan Terrell Clark, who played the role of George Washington in Hamilton.

Black Panther screening
Tuesday, February 12, 6 – 8 p.m., Student Union Theatre

Mardi Gras
Wednesday, February 13, 4 – 7 p.m., Student Union Ballroom

National Panhellenic Showcase
Wednesday, February 13, 7 – 9 p.m., Student Union Theatre

Black Male Collective: Barbershop Talk

  • Wednesday, February 13, 5 p.m. at Barbers, Inc.
    Wednesday, February 27, 5 p.m. at Mosaic Cross Cultural Center
    Wednesday, March 13, 5 p.m. at Barbers Inc.

Leadership Drop-In Series

  • What Famous Black Leader(s) Inspire You?
    Tuesday, February 12, 1:30 – 3 pm, Student Involvement
  • Leading While Black
    Tuesday, February 19, 1:30 – 3 pm, African-American/Black Student Success Center
  • Calling in Black: Handling Racial Battle Fatigue
    Tuesday, February 26, 1:30 – 3 pm, African-American/Black Student Success Center

African History Film and Dialogue Series

  • African Children and Youth
    Tuesday, February 12, 6 pm, Martin Luther King, Jr. Library 225
  • Health and Nutrition in the African Community
    Tuesday, February 19, 6 pm, Martin Luther King, Jr. Library 225
  • African Women
    Tuesday, February 26, 6 pm, Martin Luther King, Jr. Library 225

Black Student Union Meeting
Wednesday, February 13, 6:45 pm, Peer Connections

Spartan Speaker Series
Bryan Terrell Clark
Wednesday, February 20, 12 pm, Student Union

Black Women’s Collective
Intersectionality: Being Both Black and a Woman
Thursday, February 21, 6 – 8 pm, TBD’

Meet and Greet: Black Students, Faculty and Staff
Monday, February 25, 11:30 am – 3 pm, Student Union, Meeting Room 3A/3B’

Community Conversation: Black Love
Thursday, February 28, 7 – 9 pm, Martin Luther King, Jr. Library 225

Black Cultural Showcase
Friday, March 1, 6 p.m., Student Union Theatre

Spirituality and Activism
Saturday, March 2, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., First AME Zion Church

Yard on the Green
Friday, March 8, noon to 3 p.m., Smith and Carlos Sculpture

Hidden Figures Screening
Wednesday, March 13, 6 to 8 p.m, Student Union Theatre

Book Discussion: Becoming
Thursday, March 14, 7 p.m., Washington Square Hall, Room 281H

 

Celebrating East African Immigrants

Celebrating East African Immigrants

Celebrating East African Immigrants

The Silicon Valley East African Diaspora Project represents immigrants from six nations: Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan (Michael Cheers photo).

The uncertain future of the diversity visa program and a novel online timeline tool are heightening interest in a new King Library exhibit sharing immigration stories of Silicon Valley’s East Africans.

But equally important is the way “Celebrate!” tells the story of an immigrant experience familiar to so many in the South Bay, perhaps the most ethnically diverse community in the nation.

The show opens Aug. 31 and continues through Sept. 29 at the Jennifer and Philip Di Napoli Gallery on the second floor of King Library.

Expect photojournalism, digital technology, films, cultural memorabilia, and text to introduce immigrants from six East African nations: Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, and South Sudan.

“‘The exhibit will increase the visibility of our region’s East African immigrants and their contributions to its economic, cultural, religious, and intellectual growth,” said Project Director and Professor of African American Studies Ruth P. Wilson.

Here are more details from SJSU’s Silicon Valley East African Diaspora Project.

Photojournalism

Along the surfaces of seven gallery walls will hang portraits of East Africans engaged in work, family life, community events and faith. Most poignantly captured is the intensity of the commitment of persons engaged in collective worship activities, family life and work. Whether in an evangelical healing service, a mosque or a Coptic church, immigrant communities of faith seek meaning in their new home away from home, find hope as they work to survive and thrive, and find comfort in celebrating the cultural rituals that make life more meaningful for individuals and families.

They consistently strive to support family members here, and in their home countries, who depend on them for some of the basic necessities: food, shelter, school fees, medicine, hospital care and funeral expenses. This collection of more than 50 photographs by photojournalist Associate Professor of Journalism and Mass Communications D. Michael Cheers captures the similarities and diversities of gendered, ethnic, religious, socio-economic and family experiences in these East African diaspora communities.

Telling Our Stories

TimeShaker, a Silicon Valley start-up, presents a new way to tell our immigrants’  stories. “What was the sequence of events that brought you to the U.S.?” and “What were the key events that have happened since arriving?” View these immigrants’ stories on a timeline, and overlay other pieces of history such as the history of their homeland or the history of U.S. immigration policies.

This allows you to see their stories relative to the world around them. These stories seek to evoke the audience’s sense of connection not only to these immigrants, but all immigrants as they face the challenges of adjusting to living in another country. In this part of the exhibit, visitors will view a short video that introduces the East African immigrants’ stories, then log into

Visit TimeShaker’s online portal to read the rest of the stories using an interactive, digital storytelling tool.

Films

Film screenings will evoke discussions, sharing of insights, and education of the general public about issues confronting East Africans in the United States and on the African continent. Some of these provocatively informative films, including but not limited to Salem Mekuria’s documentary “Deluge- Yewenze Meabel,” Kobina Aidoo’s “The Neo-African Americans”, and Vulcan Productions and Intel Corporation’s “Girl Rising,” will be shown on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, in Room 227, right
across from the main exhibit. Each film addresses important issues for immigrant communities in the valley, in their home countries, and in diaspora communities throughout the world. Scholars and community activists will lead the discussions and panels after the screenings.

Cultural Memorabilia

Six display cases will be dispersed throughout the exhibit, one for each of the six East African nationalities represented in the exhibit. Each case will contain cultural memorabilia treasured by immigrant communities. While viewing jewelry, beaded objects, woven tapestries, stoneware, religious relics, carvings, coffee pots used in coffee ceremonies, cooking utensils, prayer beads, etc., visitors will realize the homogeneity and diversity of some of humanity’s most ancient human civilizations and cultures.

The Meaning of Democracy

This text-based visual display seeks to explore themes in immigrant interviews on the meaning of democracy. It attempts to bridge the gap between a concept that has special meaning for immigrants’ nascent democracies, and America’s, where many citizens take the right to participate in governance for granted, often foregoing the most basic of civil responsibilities—
participation in the selection of candidates for office, and the right to vote. Featured are East Africans’ thoughts on the promise of democracy and their hopes for more opportunities offered in the Valley and in their distant homelands.

When Africa calls, East Africans answer. They travel throughout California, the nation and abroad for worship, weddings, sporting events, funerals, graduations, birthday parties, christenings, and feasts.

And, family members from the home country come to America to celebrate many other important family events. No matter what, East Africans’ enthusiastic celebrations include cultural foods, dance, music, colorful dress, and congregating as a community. Join them at “Celebrate!”

Participating community organizations include: Bay Area Somali Association, Bay Area South Sudan Association, Eritrean Community and Cultural Center of San Jose, the Eritrean Community Center of  Santa Clara, and the Ethiopian Cultural and Community Center.

Sponsors include the African Women’s Development Fund USA and the Cal Humanities California Documentaries Project.

Spartans at Work: San Jose Rep

Where will an SJSU degree take you? We hit the road to find out, visiting summer interns and recent grads on the job in the Bay Area and beyond. Our video series continues with Oluchi Nwokocha, ’11 Theatre Arts and African-American Studies. Read more about her experience! http://bit.ly/sjsu-rep-post

A young woman sitting in front of a clothes rack with colorful costumes

Spartans at Work: At the San Jose Rep, "I Get to Work With Kids and See Their Imagination Grow"

By Sarah Kyo, Web Communications Specialist

(This summer, SJSU Today hit the road, visiting students and recent grads on the job across the country and around the world. Our Spartans at Work series continues with theatre arts and African-American studies alumna Oluchi Nwokocha.)

Where will an SJSU degree take you? How about helping you develop your career, while you develop others? As an outreach assistant, Oluchi Nwokocha, ’11 Theatre Arts and African-American Studies, helped the San Jose Repertory Theatre make connections with the diverse community that it serves.

Besides responsibilities such as writing grant proposals, designing brochures or supporting various programs, Nwokocha interacted with kids and teenagers through the Creative Dramatics Summer Workshops. This summer camp teaches young participants about improvisation and developing a story for a play, culminating in a performance for family and friends.

“With the process that we do here, we get to really create and play and watch them learn and express themselves,” Nwokocha said. “It’s really cool. I really like that. And I work at a theater. How awesome is that?”

What started as a 2011 internship for the fresh Spartan graduate became a job and a chance to learn about behind-the-scenes work of running a theater, a complement to her acting skills. Observing actors on stage performing their craft was an added bonus.

In a role that is all about making connections, Nwokocha heard about this opportunity at the Rep, thanks to an announcement from one of her SJSU professors.

Her boss at the Rep provided feedback when she applied for graduate school, which is where Nwokocha is heading to this fall to earn a master of fine art in theatre from the University of Florida.

“Networking is really huge in my business,” she said. “It’s more of regardless of talent or what you look like, it’s more of who you know that helps you get your foot in the door, and I can say that’s definitely the case with me.”