Dearest Friends and Colleagues,
As chair of the University of Michigan’s Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, I have been looking forward to celebrating our 50th anniversary with you this coming September. It is with great sadness, therefore, that I write to let you know that we have decided to indefinitely postpone the celebration. These are challenging times for the university and even more so for African and African-descended communities across the globe. Of course, challenging times are not a new thing for our communities, but we felt at this time that we could neither adequately nor ethically prepare to bring together our alumni, student, faculty and staff communities in a way that would truly honor the vital and life-affirming work done in CAAS/DAAS over the past half-century. I pledge to you that we will celebrate the CAAS/DAAS anniversary as soon as we can do so in the right way. As soon as I know when that is I will let you know.
Our decision to postpone the September celebration does not mean, however, that we are any less committed to commemorating 50 years of Black Studies scholarship and pedagogy at the University of Michigan. For the past year, a team of students, faculty, staff and alumni has been working to develop a series of historical exhibits and curations that will detail the many contributions that the CAAS/DAAS community have made to the study of African, African-American and African Diaspora communities as well as to the university’s educational mission over the past five decades. By the end of this summer, we plan on creating a new website on the history of CAAS/DAAS which will include online exhibits, short documentaries, podcasts, oral histories, and curated historical debates, all designed to capture the many varied aspects of our community’s history. We envision this website as a dynamic and ongoing catalogue of the Black Studies tradition at Michigan. We can’t wait to share it with you.
Finally, it is with a heavy heart that I close by sharing the very sad news that CAAS's long-time Assistant Director Evans Young passed away in April from a rare and aggressive form of cancer. Evans served as CAAS's Assistant Director from the late-1980s through the 1990s. In that role, he was a tireless advocate for the center, its students and faculty. After leaving CAAS, he moved on to serve as Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Education where he continued unabated his advocacy for students and for multicultural education. Most recently, Evans had agreed to serve on the alumni advisory committee for the DAAS 50th anniversary celebration. His ongoing support for DAAS and our mission was something I was deeply grateful for. I first met Evans when I arrived at Michigan in 1995 as a research fellow. I learned so much from him about CAAS and about the university. And over the years I could always count on Evans for sage advice and an encouraging word. That's the way Evans was, there for everybody, students, staff and faculty alike. I will miss him dearly.
At the request of Evans's wife, Catherine Shaw, and their children Joslyn and Rob, DAAS has established a memorial fund in Evans’ name to support student projects and activities. You can donate to the Evans Young Student Support Fund through the “Give Online” button on the DAAS website or by going to leadersandbest.umich.edu/find/#!/give/basket/fund/336848. We are obviously deeply grateful to Evans' family for remembering his commitment to DAAS in this way.
In hope and in gratitude,
Matthew J. Countryman
Chair, Department of Afroamerican and African Studies