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West African Research Society Symposium at Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C)

Posted Oct. 13, 2010


logoWest African Muslim Societies and their Contributions to US Culture


WARA will organize a symposium at Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) in Cleveland, Ohio during the month of January 2011. This program responds to CAORC's call for raising its visibility, promoting greater understanding of Muslim cultures, reaching out to smaller colleges and undergraduate programs, and increasing international contacts for such institutions. We also plan to invite the public to participate in this symposium and hope that by so doing we will be able to raise awareness of Africa's place in the wider Islamic world and of the diversity within that world.


Dr. Wendy Wilson Fall, Director of the Pan African Studies Department of Kent State University, former director of the West African Research Center in Dakar, and a current WARA board member, will introduce the symposium with a presentation on CAORC and its many research centers. She will provide an introduction to WARA,  its history, programs and resources, and the many opportunities it presents—through fellowship and internship programs—to  students wishing to pursue the study of Africa. Dr. Wilson Fall will also provide a brief overview of Islamic West Africa, and of its historic presence in the US, dating back over 400 years.  Given this long historical relationship, understanding of the cultures and religious practices of this part of the world can help us as Americans better understand our own society.


The panel will consist of presentations by three scholars, two of whom are former WARA grantees and all current or past members of the WARA board of directors, will present lectures in a symposium format on the diversity of Islamic cultures in West Africa.  Dr. Erin Augis of Ramapo College of New Jersey will present on West African Muslim women in the US, Dr. Ousseina Alidou of Rutgers University will present on women's role in reshaping Islam, comparing East and West Africa; and Dr. Fallou Ngom of Boston University will present on the ajami literary traditions of West Africa. Ajami refers to the use of the Arabic alphabet for the writing of African languages, a tradition that dates back several centuries.

Tri-C is a two-year college in Cuyahoga County, Ohio.  Founded in 1962, it is the oldest, and largest community college in Ohio with a Fall 2009 enrollment of 31,024. Tri-C  offers over 1,000 courses in associate degree programs through traditional classroom settings as well as distance learning services, and its flagship offering known as Cable College, which offers classes live through Cleveland area cable companies, providing a fully interactive, live learning experience for the student at home. Tri-C has transfer agreements with four-year colleges and universities, including Kent State University, and is accredited through North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. It has been the recipient of numerous awards from the American Association of Community Colleges (formerly the American Association of Junior & Community Colleges).


There are many institutions of higher education in the area; these include Cleveland State University, University of Akron, Hiram College, and the eight campuses of Kent State University, particularly Twinsburg, which is in the same county as Tri-C. The Muslim population of northeast Ohio has increased considerably over the past few years, as evidenced by the visibility of the Kent State University's Muslim Students Association. The association will be called upon in planning this event. Other partners will include the Tri-C students' association.


Through this program we intend to reach out to a broad audience including students and faculty at Tri-C and neighboring institutions, Cleveland public institutions and community organizations. In order to be sure that the results of this symposium are widely available, we will produce a final report that will include a description of the event, edited versions of the papers presented, and photographs. We will hire a Tri-C student as a rapporteur to take the lead in the preparation of this report, which we will make available through WARA, Tri-C, and Kent State University websites.