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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

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Taharka Adé, an assistant professor from Africana Studies, at the site of the expanded Africana Studies collection which will also feature new study rooms, tables, chairs and clustered seating. (SDSU) Taharka Adé, an assistant professor from Africana Studies, at the site of the expanded Africana Studies collection which will also feature new study rooms, tables, chairs and clustered seating. (SDSU)

New Faculty Fellow to Help Expand Access to Black Scholarship

A grand opening for the wide-ranging research space is set for April 27.
By Aaron Burgin

With expanded library resources for Africana Studies scholars and a new fellowship program to promote research, San Diego State University is making strides in its commitment to the study of African history and culture. 


Taharka Adé, an assistant professor in Africana Studies, is the newly named faculty fellow in the University Library. His appointment is part of the yearslong effort to create a space in Love Library for students, faculty and scholars to access an expanded Africana Studies Collection


The library will host a grand opening on the third floor, from 4-5:30 p.m., April 27. 


In his new position, created by former College of Arts and Letters (CAL) Dean Monica Casper, Adé will join Gloria Rhodes, outreach and diversity initiatives librarian, and an advisory committee. Together, they will work to bolster the library's Africana Studies collection and to create a new space designed to support individual and group study, discovery of Africana Studies resources, and the provision of public programming. 


“By launching this new library fellowship program with Taharka Adé, CAL supports the library and the Department of Africana Studies — and ultimately the many students whose future research on topics of race, culture and diversity will be strengthened with new library resources,” said CAL Interim Dean Ronnee Schreiber


Library Dean Scott Walter lauded Rhodes for her years of dedication and contributions as an original member of the working group responsible for establishing the physical space to house the collection. Her work, and the work of many others within the library and partners on campus, have contributed to the expansion of the collection and the creation of the new space. 


Building on a Decades-long Library Effort 


The CAL Library Faculty Fellowship program was created to promote deeper engagement between CAL faculty and Library faculty in areas of shared strategic interest, including Digital Humanities, Comics Studies, Sustainability and Ethnic Studies, Walter said. 


“Professor Adé has made important contributions to the design of our Africana Studies Collection initiative this year and continued support for his involvement over the next year will ensure that its implementation is equally well-informed by the broader vision for Africana Studies and support for African American faculty, students and communities at SDSU,” Walter said. 


“Working together on issues of shared strategic interest, CAL and the Library will be able to design and deliver distinctive library services and collections that allow us to play a leadership role in these areas across the CSU and as part of the broader research library community,” Walter also said. 


The furniture housed in the physical library space contains Adinkra symbols that represent concepts from West Africa and uses colors from African flags or symbolize African royalty. The study rooms were repainted with accent walls in colors highlighting the African diaspora. Artwork from the University Archives featuring Black leaders from San Diego and beyond will adorn the walls.


The project team credited Maureen Dotson, project facilities coordinator and a 35-year employee of the university, with the layout, furniture choices, colors and curation of the photos and frames that will hang from the walls. 


“She is frankly the glue keeping our library buildings together,” said Melisa Farnsworth, the library facilities project specialist.


Adé, who joined the SDSU faculty in 2021, said that so far the partnership between CAL and the library has yielded 300 additional books for physical space in the library, with hundreds more titles on the way in advance of the April 27 opening.


Adé will work closely with an advisory committee of faculty to develop plans further for the physical space and for the collection that will be housed there. 


“I plan to introduce to the collection the best scholarship in the field relating to a host of subjects throughout the African diaspora,” Adé said. 


“Right now my short-term focus is to assist in developing this space so that, upon opening, faculty and students of African descent will recognize the Africana Studies Collection as a sacred space of cultural memory that further opens the mind to cultural possibility,” Adé said.  


“For the long term, I am in the initial stages of developing events, such as book clubs, a film series and a research symposium, that will engage the campus community in Africana history and culture.”


While the new fellowship and the library space are strategic, partnership initiatives of the library, Adé also said SDSU’s commitment to Africana Studies and its other ethnic studies majors is critical to validating multiple cultural perspectives on history and not just adopting one view. 


“This is an important goal for the university to embrace because ‘all things are cultural,’” Adé said. “The problem in the Western world (and the cultural domains in which Europe colonized) is that Eurocentric culture and perspective on all subject matter has become hegemonic. This, of course, does not mean our work is to replace the hegemonic Eurocentric view but to establish the truism that all cultural perspectives are equal and there should be pluralism without hierarchy. This, to me, is important for the sake of a better humanity.”


Understanding Cultures, Identities is Essential 


Schreiber said it is currently a time of intense national discourse about teaching ethnic studies in K-12 schools and at the university level.


One such example: In California, students will be required by 2030 to take at least a semester of ethnic studies to graduate from high school. Students at SDSU must take at least one three-unit ethnic studies course to graduate. 


“By bolstering library collections in Africana Studies now, and later adding to the collections of American Indian Studies, Asian American Studies, and Chicana and Chicano Studies, the College of Arts and Letters supports the collective mission to empower students to become global leaders through the understanding of world cultures and peoples,” Schreiber said. 


Adé echoed Schreiber’s sentiments. 


“By embracing cultural pluralism without hierarchy and continuing to nurture an environment that allows for the addition and expansion of ethnic studies departments and research, SDSU will present itself as a leader in conversations about race, culture and the progression of human intellectual heritage,” he said. 


Learn more about the Africana Studies Collection and its space or how to donate by visiting