June 14, 2010

Professors, students to visit Ghana through Fulbright grant

Posted: June 14, 2010
Duku Anokye in Ghana
ASU faculty member Duku Anokye (right) poses with two Ghanaian women during one of her previous visits to the West African nation.

Culture, oral history, social justice and human rights will be the focus of a month-long visit to the West African nation of Ghana this July, funded by a Fulbright-Hays Group Project Abroad grant. Teachers from Phoenix elementary and high schools will join faculty members and students from Arizona State University’s West campus for a seminar that aims to document “Stories from the Other Side.”

“The ‘other side’ refers to those left behind when family members were taken away in the slave trade,” said Duku Anokye, associate professor in ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences. “The experiences of slaves have been documented by many scholars, but it is much more infrequently that we hear the stories of how slavery affected the families, the economies, and the societies from which the slaves were taken.”

Anokye will be joined on the seminar by fellow New College faculty member Charles St. Clair and Les Irwin, a native of Ghana and a professor in ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. “This trip will substantiate my experience with indigenous cultural groups that I infuse in my multicultural course for future teachers,” Irwin said.

Five students from New College’s master’s degree program in social justice and human rights also will make the trip, along with four teachers from Betty H. Fairfax High School and another from Starlight Park Elementary School.

Seminar participants will learn from renowned international scholars about topics including the legacies of past and present slavery in Ghana; links between Ghana and the Americas; and education, culture and shrine life in Ghana. They also will study Akan Twi, the most dominant language spoken in Ghana other than English; visit arts and cultural centers as well as slave castles; interview families about their memories of the slave trade from centuries ago; and interview non-governmental organizations working to end modern slavery (human trafficking) in Ghana.

Upon their return to Phoenix, participants will develop K-12 curriculum materials, a monograph and a documentary video based on their research.

“This project represents an opportunity to touch lives for many generations to come,” said St. Clair, who will lend his years of experience in film and television production to the documentary project. “The K-12 teachers joining us on the trip will devise curriculum materials that they not only can teach first-hand but also share with colleagues in their own districts and others.”

“Not only do I get to visit another continent and learn about its history and culture, but I also get to work and play with its people and then come back and share it all with my students,” said Bettina Bennett, a journalism teacher at Fairfax High School. “It’s incredibly cool that I’ll have the chance to connect real-life people to ‘global awareness,’ a term students read a lot about. I also get to prove that you’re never too old or too poor to get out there and learn more about the world, and in essence yourself.”

Once the documentary about the seminar is complete, it will be available in a web-based video conferencing site being developed by the master’s program in social justice and human rights. Also included on the site will be links to lectures from the prominent scholars who will address seminar participants, and curriculum modules to be used with the documentary and lectures.

The trip will provide a deeper understanding of the connections between human slavery from centuries ago and modern-day slavery, an issue of great concern to students in the master’s program in social justice and human rights. The students have made contact with four non-governmental organizations working to combat modern slavery, and plan to make personal contacts with those organizations during their month in Africa. “I look forward to gaining more insight into human rights issues while exploring the world,” said Paul Bork, a student in the master’s program.

Anokye, who has been making trips to Ghana since 1971, said she is particularly enthused about the opportunity to document oral histories of families in Ghana.

“It’s a common practice for Ghanaian families to recall and recite their histories going back more than 400 years,” said Anokye, whose research focuses on African Diaspora orality and literacy practices, folklore, discourse analysis, and oral history with a specialization in Ghanaian culture, religion, storytelling, and dance. “All of the participants in the seminar are committed to extending what they learn from this trip to their educational institutions and the wider community when they return to Arizona. So we will spread these family stories to future generations on multiple continents.”

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