In an effort to integrate itself into the rest of the University, the Africana Studies department has put together a series of three lectures per semester.
Department head Trevor Purcell said most people have a stereotypical view of the department.”They think of us as the black department, and they question our academic integrity,” he said. “Through these lectures, we invite faculty from other departments to share their research with students from all over the campus so we can bridge the gap.”
The lectures are on topics affecting the black community such as history, health issues and education.
“Everyone should know about these issues affecting the black experience because it is a part of American history,” Purcell said.
The second of the lectures this semester, presented by assistant sociology professor James Cavendish, was about the role of black churches in community revitalization, a field in which he did his graduate research. The first was about health issues affecting the black community.
During his lecture, Cavendish maintained that unlike what sociologists of the past thought, black churches are more likely to be more socially or politically active in their community than white churches.
As an explanation, Cavendish offers the idea of “the black sacred cosmos.” According to this theory, blacks tend to think of the sacred as overpowering the secular.
“As a result, religious beliefs permeate all aspects of life,” he said. “African Americans expect their churches to be active in all areas of life.”
According to the Notre Dame survey of Catholic parish life, 59 percent of black Catholic churches are involved in social action, compared to 43 percent of interracial churches and 19 percent of white churches.
A survey conducted by NBC and the Associated Press found that 43 percent of black churches think their members should be active in community politics as opposed to 28 percent of white churches.
“These studies control for need in the community,” Cavendish said, “so that no one can say that the results are because African American communities need more church involvement.”
For his research, Cavendish took part in voter marches, anti-drug and anti-crime rallies and efforts to provide housing for the elderly hosted by black churches in south Chicago.
According to James Strange, a professor in the religious studies department at USF, the main difference between primarily black churches and white churches is political activism, but he said white churches also feel a responsibility to be active in their community.
In his own church, Strange said a large number of people are involved with a medical clinic. Others are involved in Metropolitan Ministries, Mothers of Preschoolers and the Child Abuse Council, he said.
However, Strange said political activism in white churches is not as prevalent.
“I think there is a certain reluctance to discuss politics in some predominantly white churches,” Stange said. “While many Afri-American churches are quite open about their support of political platforms and even candidates.”
The Africana Studies department will have its next and final lecture for the semester on Nov. 1. It will discuss a documentary about the first black student admitted to medical