January 5, 2024

Dear members of the Du Bois Department Family,

Our Fall 2023 semester is well underway, but I wanted to welcome everyone back and extend a warm welcome to the new members of our Du Bois family. As I begin my second year as Chair of the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies, I am grateful to be a part of a department with such an amazing history and reputation. Our faculty, students, and alumni have accomplished so much and continue to make the department proud. I hope to be able to foster our continued pursuit of excellence and commitment to making a positive difference in Black communities around the globe.

As I reflect on the 2022-2023 academic year, I am encouraged by the wide variety of programming that we offered. We had a vibrant and robust Du Bois Department Workshop Series (thanks to Prof. Losier and Paul Michael Thomson), a free screening of Black Panther 2 co-sponsored by the Afro-American Studies Undergraduate and Graduate Councils, several professionalization workshops on conference submissions and publishing (thanks to Prof. Shabazz and dept. alum Prof. Ousmane Power-Greene), a career focused zoom panel on BIPOC Mental health Careers (thanks to Prof. Rusert), a large co-sponsored James Baldwin Lecture by Bill Fletcher Jr., a welcome dinner, holiday party, Art Music and Chill Event (sponsored by the AAGC), and a departmental graduation celebration. However, our entire year was upended by the unexpected and tragic loss of Professor John H. Bracey, Jr. for which we responded by hosting a reflection and grieving session and an amazing Celebration of Life event in honor of Prof. Bracey. Overall, our department pulled together to support one another during this academic year.

For 2023-2024, we have already gotten off to a great start. In September, the department hosted a dinner at this year’s ASALH conference, bringing together alumni and current graduate students. We had two lectures in September and October as part of a collaborative webinar series Renewing the Fight for Justice in Africana Studies, given by Prof. Tera Hunter and Prof. Rashawn Ray. In October we also had a well-attended symposium and campus wide memorial honoring the legacy of Prof. John H. Bracey, Jr. The Du Bois Workshop series also took off, with a session in October promoting alumna Prof. Nneka Dennie’s new book and a presentation just last week by Prof. Nadia Alahmed on the Black and Palestinian solidarity movement. In November we also had a teacher’s workshop for K-12 local teachers interested in teaching African American Studies. Plans for the rest of this academic year include a holiday dinner in December, a department assembly/town hall, a Spring graduate student conference, a Spring open house, a game/trivia night, a retirement party for Prof. Tracy, and a lecture series on Race and Environmental Justice. So be on the lookout for info on these events! I also want to acknowledge another sad loss to the department with the loss of Prof. Demetria Shabazz who transitioned to join the ancestors in September. May she rest in peace and power.

Looking forward to this year, I want to prioritize expanding student interest in our undergraduate major and minor and attracting more students to the department. I would love to work with all of you to foster our department as a place for undergraduate and graduate students to thrive and grow.

All the best,

Professor Covington-Ward