By Rowan Shultz
On February 18, Professor Kashaunda Harris presented a program illustrating the history of Black resistance in America at the Redlands A.K. Smiley Library in honor of Black History Month.
According to the news brief provided by the A. K. Smiley Public Library staff, Professor Harris is a counselor for Extended Opportunity Programs & Services (EOPS) and Faculty Lead of Professional Development at Crafton Hills College. She is also a two-time recipient of “Faculty of the Year” with Chaffey College and has held multiple local, regional, and state leadership positions.
Professor Harris worked as a counselor at California State University, San Bernardino, from 2011 until 2015. She continues to work as a counselor, as well as a professor, with Crafton Hills College.
Professor Harris succeeded in celebrating this year’s theme of “Black Resistance” for Black History Month in her program, From Struggle to Strength – American History of Black Resistance.
The program presented an overview of the history of Black resistance in the United
States, from early fights for freedom from slavery to more recent Black Lives Matter protests. Culturally significant: music, art, movements, and people, were showcased to frame this timeline.
Overall, Professor Harris wanted attendees to take away a deeper understanding of “the richness of the history of the culture…to pay homage to all the things and all the struggles that we’ve endured because it makes so much of a difference in how we get to celebrate now, and how prepared we are for some of the things in our future.”
Professor Harris highlighted the importance of events like this, reflecting that “it’s a way to learn, to grow…education unlocks that key to freedom…it helps you to learn how to see the world, how to interact with other people.”
The presentation and Professor Harris emphasized that, as times change, it is increasingly necessary to examine America’s history to navigate changes and prevent the repetition of past mistakes.
Professor Harris observed that “if you know about your past, you’re equipped to handle the future.”
The program opened with a demonstration of a libation ceremony, a culturally significant ritual that involves the pouring of a liquid, in this case, water, to call upon ancestral spirits during important events or celebrations. Audience members were asked to participate in this process, providing a hands-on learning opportunity and a chance to engage directly with this cultural ritual.
Professor Harris emphasized that there are more than just the benefits of knowledge and increased exposure to African American culture when engaging in such learning opportunities.
“It just helps me to understand and to appreciate the education I was given,” said Professor Harris.
Professor Haris explained that her decision to immerse herself in African American studies led to the discovery of a new source of joy for herself.
“For me, it was just about learning all the things that I had not been exposed to in K-12…that joy, it radiated in me,” said Professor Harris.
Many libraries offer educational programs like Professor Harris’s, often with free admission. This is done to make such education and exposure more accessible to the public.
On the A. K. Smiley Public Library website, one can find the clever disclaimer that “The only ‘admission fee’ is curiosity.”
Professor Harris was grateful for the opportunity to present for the first time at the A. K. Smiley Public Library and requests that the library, schools, and other community spaces “continue to have events where…we get to tell these stories, that way people can learn and flourish.”
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