Office of Undergraduate Research

Qayyum Ogunsanya '22

OUR Featured Researcher: Qayyum Ogunsanya '22

Portrait of Qayyum Ogunsanya.

Qayyum Ogunsanya (he/him) is a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow (MMUF) majoring in Africana Studies. He is conducting mentored research under Professor Darko Opoku. His project is titled "Music Dey Bridge: Fostering Transnational Black Solidarity Through Sound. 

Please describe your project: 

Music Dey Bridge is really examining two things. First, it explores the somewhat strained relationship between African diasporic groups in the United States; specifically, first/second generation African immigrants and African Americans. The second part of the essay offers music as a potent tool forward because of its enchanting harmonies and its construction of Black narratives from the US and Africa. Simply put, like any good wedding, music is the key.

Why is your research important?

As Americans, we must notice that our society is highly racialized. Historically and
contemporarily, everything has been based on race; so one’s ethnic or regional identity is consequently overshadowed. But this isn’t the case in countries such as Ghana or Nigeria where ethnicity, region, and/or religion are the premier forms of identity because — well — “Black” does not signify much if everyone around you is Black. So in the larger picture, Music Dey Bridge is a space to productively discuss the growing conversations on the complexities of race and ethnicity with the hopes of a more harmonious relationship forward.

What does the process of doing your research look like?

I’ve been home for over a year now, so my “work area” is our dining room table that is split between me and my lil bros when they home. I prefer to read in the mornings and write in the afternoon/night. And there’s usually a workshop on writing or researching here and there. But I always find time to relax to make sure my research does not absorb me, so I’ll exercise, journal, and/or play video games.      

In what ways have you showcased your research?

Right now, I’ve presented my research two times. Once with Oberlin’s Junior Practicum research, and once at the Mellon Mays Midwest Regional Conference a couple months back.   

What is your favorite thing about your project?  

First off, my title. I just like it. Secondly, I realized I actually enjoy writing when I am able to choose what to write about. From high school to now, I’ve been told to write about this and write about that—obviously, important for development—but it is refreshing to have something that is my own.

How has working with your mentor impacted the development of your research project?

It has been great working with Professor Opoku. I appreciate bouncing ideas off of each other and the non-research conversations we have about life. It is always nice when Professor Opoku says, “Qayyum, I don’t really like this,” because it means he cares about the work we are doing, and I am thankful for that.

What advice would you give to a younger student wanting to get involved in research in your field?      

Reach out and ask questions! I wasn’t sure if I was going to apply to Mellon because academic research is daunting and an exclusionary space. But eventually, I asked older Mellon Fellows, my friends, and my professors for guidance and I’m glad that I did. So ask questions because closed mouths don’t get fed.