Afrikan Heritage House Friday Night Lecture Series Returns

November 11, 2020
Yvonne Gay
A picture of a podium in an empty room.
The podium in Afrikan Heritage House. Photo credit: Yvonne Gay

A signature Afrikan Heritage House program that gives participants the opportunity to hear and learn from Black professionals is making a virtual return.

The Afrikan Heritage House Friday Night Lecture Series had its start more than 40 years ago and ran until the 1980s. The vast array of presenters included professionals in academia, the sciences, artists, politicians, entrepreneurs, and activists. After each lecture, a question and answer period helped students widen their understanding of the presenter’s career path. 

“I hope the speakers help students think more about how they can use their expertise to give back to or work in the Black community, regardless of what they decide to pursue as a career,” says Candice Raynor, director and faculty in residence of Afrikan Heritage House.

Raynor learned about the series from her colleagues in Africana Studies when she came to Oberlin College four years ago. And again last year during Black History Month and the 50th anniversary of Afrikan Heritage House and the department. Alumni from the 1970s who were active in the House were invited back to Oberlin and talked about the series. After students learned about it, they immediately asked Raynor if they could bring it back.

“I don't recall a series like this when I was in college, but being from Atlanta, which has long had a sizable Black professional class, I was fortunate to be exposed to Black people from a variety of fields growing up,” says Raynor. 

“I can still remember listening to Monica Kaufman, a Black news anchor who was the first woman and first person of color to anchor the evening news in Atlanta, speak at my middle school about her career path. I remember the head of the local NAACP branch speaking regularly at my church. I would definitely bug him afterward with a hundred questions that he always tried to answer. I remember watching the mayor of Atlanta, who has always been a Black person since 1974, speak on TV. My pediatrician was Black. I grew up feeling like anything was possible for me partially because I was surrounded by people that looked like me who were doing all kinds of things.” 

Raynor says she hopes the Afrikan Heritage House Friday Night Lecture Series at Oberlin will echo the event’s initial goal: Help students see the possibilities for their futures and the futures of their peers. 

The virtual series launched on October 9, with Daniel Black, an award-winning novelist and professor of African American Studies at Clark Atlanta University. In recognition of Kuumba Week—Oberlin’s annual celebration of Black creativity—Jamal Parker, a performance artist, author, educator, and international slam poetry champion, will give a virtual performance at 7:30 p.m., November 13.

A list of speakers for next semester is under way.

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