After 23 years in academia, Dr. Julia Jordan-Zachery joined UNC Charlotte in the spring of 2019 as the Africana Studies Department Chair. Her research focuses on the relationship between Black women and politics. Jordan-Zachery is also the author of several publications such as "Black Women, Cultural Images and Social Policy" and "Shadow Bodies: Black Women, Ideology, Representation, and Politics."
The department was born from a student-led movement to introduce Black studies to the UNC Charlotte campus. The department began in 1969 as a small group of students and faculty called the Black Studies Program Creation and Institutionalization Committee. The Black Studies program formally began in 1971 led by a female Black director, Dr. Bertha L. Maxwell-Roddey. Through her leadership, the department emerged into a four-year bachelor's degree program known as the Department of African-American and African Studies.
Last week, Jordan-Zachery met with the Niner Times to discuss her objectives as department chair and the program's role at UNC Charlotte.
Niner Times: What are the main objectives of the UNC Charlotte Africana Studies program?
Jordan-Zachery: The mission of the Africana Studies Department is to offer a comprehensive, interdisciplinary and transnational liberal arts curriculum; facilitate community outreach programs, and pursue critical research on the experiences of peoples of African descent worldwide.
Niner Times: Why is it important to teach Africana Studies on college campuses?
Jordan-Zachery: Africana studies offers students a springboard into the comprehensive study of African, African-American and Caribbean peoples' experience across major disciplines as it is interdisciplinary. Students are afforded an opportunity to sharpen their skillset and, more importantly, impact their communities.
Niner Times: How does the Africana Studies program promote racial equity and inclusion at UNC Charlotte?
Jordan-Zachery: Our commitment drives the Africana Studies Department to challenge racism and oppression to create positive change. Our focus is the 'big problems' such as anti-Black racism and ensuring equity, among others.
Niner Times: What do you enjoy most about being an Africana Studies professor?
Jordan-Zachery: When students realize how they have been systematically failed by educational structures, in terms of the history of African and African Diasporic people, and then they discover their thirst to know more and that they have the power to know more. And this is why I love the classroom, that moment of discovery and desire never gets old.
Niner Times: Why did you decide to teach Africana Studies?
Jordan-Zachery: Africana Studies centers the experiences of African and Africana Diaspora people. That, coupled with the interdisciplinary nature of Africana Studies, has always been attractive to me. I have long been curious about power and how it is used and responded to by African and Africana Diaspora people and being able to study this in an interdisciplinary way has allowed me to use methods and approaches, such as music and spirituality, to better understand how freedom can be achieved.
Niner Times: What are your personal goals as chair of the department?
Jordan-Zachery: Working collaboratively with faculty, my goal is to further elevate the stature of the Department. We have faculty that are doing amazing research and work in the community. And I selfishly want others to know about their work.
Niner Times: Can anyone take an Africana Studies class? Should it be a general education requirement for all students?
Jordan-Zachery: Yes and yes! Africana Studies is open to all students, and it offers them a critical set of tools for addressing many of the big challenges of society such as global warming, anti-Blackness, and how to engage in culturally responsive teaching.
Niner Times: What effect do you think the department has had on the UNC Charlotte community in 2021?
Jordan-Zachery: The Africana Studies Department has taught and mentored students over the years, and these individuals are now engaged in critical work in their communities. We teach for local, national and global engagement and this is how we contribute to the UNC Charlotte community.
The department continues to influence the UNC Charlotte campus by encouraging racial equity and inclusion through education. Africana Studies gives students a deeper understanding of the African, African-American and Caribbean peoples' experience through arts, social sciences and humanities. The study of African and African Diaspora people creates systemic change on campus, diffuses directly into the surrounding communities as students learn to embrace diversity and inclusion.
The department is engaged in the community and the education of subjects about African and African Diaspora peoples year-round. There are numerous activities planned throughout the semester, including panels on race, politics and health. The events can be found on the Department of Africana Studies' webpage.