When Essence Gaines took a Black Studies course at the Community College of Philadelphia (CCP), she didn’t know at the time that this course would be a springboard for a change of major.

“When I joined the CCP in the fall of 2019, it was the first semester of Black Studies,” Gaines said. “I took Black Studies 101 with a professor [Anyabwile] Love and I just enjoyed the course.

“At the time, I was majoring in English, but after talking to Professor Love, I eventually changed my major from English to black studies,” she added.

The 21-year-old Gaines graduated from the CCP last fall. She said getting a major in Black Studies was the best decision she made.

“It didn’t take me long to feel my belonging, and the courses were very informative because it was through the prism of black history, literature and culture,” Gaines said.

“I was able to build relationships between generations,” she added. “I’ve read a lot of books, including“ The Coming ”by Daniel Black, who is a professor at Clark University in Atlanta, and“ From Black Power to Black Studies ”by Fabio Rajas. I had a great time in the program. “

Established in 2018, the Black Studies program provides a set of courses to develop academic knowledge and skills suitable for the scientific study of global African and African American communities.

“This is an academic program that can be transferred,” said Lucia Gbaya-Kanga, a professor and coordinator of black research. “The program is aimed at African people and New World cultures who are descendants of Africans.

“It not only introduces students to the experience of African peoples, but also to the socio-political and economic system,” she added. “We have developed special courses that guide students through this experience.”

The program offers afrocentric courses, critical foundations of racial theory, insights into resistance movements, and an emphasis on social justice. The final course includes a service project or study abroad in an African place

“One of the things we think is important is the connection of the community with the development of leadership, so our core course is what allows students to gain that experience,” Gbaya-Kanga said.

“We linked the program to people in the community through partnerships so that students had some leadership / internship and mentoring experience,” she said. “We also encourage students to study abroad.

“In the past, several Black Studies faculty members have been on study trips abroad to South Africa and Tanzania,” she added. “My dream is for our Black Studies program to become global through partnerships that help facilitate it abroad, as well as at our local level.”

Among the courses in the Black Studies program is a course in contemporary black cinema taught by professor and screenwriter Nvena Gates.

The course explores the historical, aesthetic and contemporary analysis of the dynamics of black cinema. Students view, analyze and critique a wide variety of films by genre and theme.

“This class lasts 10 weeks this semester and I have divided the class into different topics,” Gates said. “The second week of classes is dedicated to the African-American family and the closeness of blacks on screen.

“Students will watch two films in the first couple of weeks of classes, including“ If Bill Street Could Speak, ”which is based on a James Baldwin novel and“ 1982, ”directed, authored and produced by Oliver Thomas. was born and raised in Philadelphia, ”she said.

“I try to get my students to see beyond the surface of these films and see subtle messages,” she added. “My goal in this class is never to make students watch another movie the same way.”

In the future, Gaines will be a lecturer at the Sala Keturah STEM pavilion, which is currently under construction at North Philly Peace Park.

She will teach third-graders African-American history with an emphasis on the Black Panthers. She is also interested in traveling to Togo, Ghana and South Africa.

Gaines said she would not be where she is today if she had not passed the Black Studies program at CCP.

“My teachers at CCP have had such a strong impact not only on my professional life, but also as a person,” Gaines said.

“I’ve grown a lot mentally, and I’m definitely trying to focus more on the joys of life rather than the traumatic things,” she added. “As an educator, I want to inspire my students through history, literature and culture just as I was inspired by teachers.”

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