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Power to the People

Generations of African-Americans have gone to their graves without knowing where in Africa their ancestors descended, or if they’re even from Africa. So, it’s no wonder that with the advancements in science and DNA testing, an increasing number of African-Americans are paying, in some cases hundreds of dollars, to find out where their ancestors may have called home.

Would you do it? I have to admit that after reading associate editor Toni Coleman’s first-person account of her journey to trace her roots, I’m a bit anxious to embark on my own. Even though the science has its limitations, there’s a good chance that the results may yield previously unknown information about your lineage. Check out Toni’s own results in “Regaining a Lost Heritage.”

As we celebrate the contributions of African-Americans individuals and institutions this month, senior writer David Pluviose does a status check of Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center. Traditionally serving the health care needs of South Los Angeles’s Black community, the center is going through some monumental changes. First, the once predominantly Black demographic of the surrounding Watts community is now heavily Hispanic. Secondly, and most severely, the center’s doctor-training program was terminated last year. This has serious implications for the production of minority physicians in California who have the “cultural competency” to work with this population. And although MLK/Drew has played a positive role in the community for many years, there are some disturbing reports about patient neglect and mistreatment. Read more in “Resuscitating MLK/Drew” about how its new leadership plans to revive the institution. 

Those of you who read us regularly know that contributing editor Lydia Lum always finds gems of stories. In “Overshadowed” Lydia reports on the role that Asians played in the Black power movement. The Asian members of the Black Panthers are largely left out the history books and news reports, but University of California, Santa Barbara professor Diane Fujino is trying to change that. Fujino says her students are intrigued by the fact that the Asian panthers are a counter to the “model minority” image, but they are also angry that no one has taught them their complete history as Asian Americans.

In our cover story, “The Journey of Jackson State,” senior writer Ronald Roach says he discovered a university with great ambitions and talented individuals, such as its president Ron Mason and academic affairs vice-president Dr. Velvelyn B. Foster. Years ago, Ronald had written a story for Black Issues In Higher Education about Tulane University’s collaboration with the city of New Orleans that made the school responsible for managing the city’s troubled public housing authority. Mason, who was then Tulane’s general counsel, was running the housing authority and improving conditions for its residents.
“It was impressive to see a university administrator running a public housing authority of a major city,” Ronald recalls.

It didn’t surprise Ronald that Jackson State would grow and thrive under Mason’s leadership. “I knew Mason had skills and experiences atypical of most college presidents. He’s got vision and the savvy to make things happen.

What I most needed to learn was how Jackson State had evolved from the 1960s through the 1990s,” Ronald explains.

The transition for an institution moving from a college to a research university, as Jackson State has accomplished, represents a critical and ongoing evolution for many historically Black schools.

Hilary Hurd Anyaso

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A New Track: Fostering Diversity and Equity in Athletics
American sport has always served as a platform for resistance and has been measured and critiqued by how it responds in critical moments of racial and social crises.
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A New Track: Fostering Diversity and Equity in Athletics