Dr. Molefi Kete Asante, a pioneer in African American Studies, will deliver the inaugural lecture of the newly renamed Africans and American Indian Studies Program — formerly the Ethnic Studies Program — at California State University, Fresno on Wednesday, Feb.18.

His talk will be part of the official inauguration of the new name during a special reception at 6:30 p.m. in the Residence Dining Facility (5200 N. Campus Drive).

The name change was implemented this semester after 33 years of existence as the Ethnic Studies Program at Fresno State.

Since its inception in 1970, the Ethnic Studies Program at various times had been the home of different “ethnic” programs, including Armenian Studies, Asian-American Studies and La Raza Studies, all of which moved out to form their separate identities or merged with other academic programs on campus.

Dr. Yaw Oheneba-Sakyi, coordinator of the Africana and American Indian Studies Program, said the new name provides visibility and brings clarity to the department’s mission.

“Our mission is to provide students, the local community, and the Central California region with appropriate knowledge and skills necessary to understand the history and culture of our people and their contributions to the shaping of the fabric of American life and history,” said Oheneba-Sakyi.

He said Africana Studies emphasizes the fact that the African American experience cannot be understood in isolation but in relation to the experiences of the other peoples of African descent, both on the continent and in the Diaspora.

Thus, the current curriculum has been expanded to include new courses on Africa, the Caribbean and other geographical areas of the African Diaspora, said Oheneba-Sakyi.

American Indian Studies examines the indigenous cultures of ancient, historical and contemporary America focusing on American Indians, Arctic-Native peoples and natives of Northern Mexico.

Oheneba-Sakyi said the new program will continue to offer a major in African American Studies and minors in African American Studies, American Indian Studies and Ethnic Studies. The program serves as a social support arena providing students with needed role models and mentors.

The program’s current plans include continued support of interdisciplinary coursework and research, as well as experiential learning through community service and study abroad to Africa (Egypt, Ghana and South Africa) and the Caribbean.

“Additionally, the program seeks to build cooperative bridges for mutual support and understanding with the larger Fresno community and the surrounding communities,” said Oheneba-Sakyi.

The Feb. 18 lecture is a step in that direction, he added, with Asante — who is a professor and former chair of African American Studies at Temple University in Philadelphia — delivering the inaugural lecture.

Considered to be one of the most distinguished contemporary scholars, Asante is a prolssuesauthor with 55 books to his credit.

Black Issues in Higher Education recognized him as one of the most influential leaders in the last 15 years having created the first Ph.D. Program in African American Studies at Temple University in 1984.

Asante is the founding editor of the “Journal of Black Studies” and was the president of the Student NonViolent Coordinating Committee chapter at UCLA in the 1960’s.

In 1995 he was made a traditional king, Nana Okru Asante Peasah, Kyidomhene of Tafo, in Ghana. Asante has been or is presently a consultant for more than twelve school districts for rewriting curricula.

For the Feb. 18 inaugural, a donation of $50 includes admission to the reception and lecture. The proceeds from the event will exclusively benefit the Africans and American Indian Studies Program, Oheneba-Sakyi.

“A scholarship fund has been created to recognize academic excellence among the university’s undergraduate students,” he said.

For additional information about the fund, lecture or reception, contact the Africana and American Indian Studies Program officvondae@csufresno.eduor email Vonda Epperson at vondae@csufresno.edu.

EDITORS: See full bio and photo of Dr. Asante at www.FresnoStateNews.com.