Department ofAfrican American Studies

On Wednesday, April 17th the Department of African American Studies celebrated its student award winners, recognized AFAM Outstanding Alumni Winner Brett King, and donning of the Kente Cloth to the Class of 2024.  It was a great evening honoring the hard work of AFAM.


AFAM Outstanding Alumni Award 2024

Brett King


Graduate Student Awards

African American Studies The Dickerson Family Fund in the College of the Liberal Arts

Kesla Elmore

Ashley Lamarre

Keisha Oliver

Cameron Sauers

Carmin Wong


Undergraduate Student Awards

Spring 2024 Adriana Lacy Scholarship in African American Studies in the College of the Liberal Arts

Maryanna Diallo

Spring 2024 Yaayaa M. Hunt ‘16 Memorial Award

Maryanna Diallo

AFAM Scholarship in Excellence and Leadership

Fall 2023

Amina Abdullah

Kulani Arrington

James Banks

Asim Baraka

Breanna Becnel

Kenisha Brown

Christyne Corasmin

Mary Diallo

Jayden Foxx

Natia Frisby

Abril Gray-Porter

Troi Howell

Malcolm Malone

Teara Lei’Ana Renee

Ava Starks

Sydney Wideman

Spring 2024

Kulani Arrington

James Banks

Asim Baraka

Breanna Becnel

Kenisha Brown

Christyne Corasmin

Jayden Foxx

Luke Gosnell

Amaya Hickson

Sofia Robinson

Alexis Ware

Schylar Watson-Satchell

Sydney Wideman


Class of 2024


Mary Diallo

Teara Lei’Ana Renee Veney


Amina Abdullah

Kulani Arrington

Alisa Asare

Dejah Coates

Christyne Corasmin

Natia Frisby

Troi Howell

Leena Morant

Alexis Ware

On Wednesday, April 17th AFAM invited Brett King to accept the AFAM Outstanding Alumni Award 2024 at the 2024 AFAM Awards and Kente Celebration.  Brett is a ’81 Speech Communications grad with a minor in AFAM.  He is a producer, creative consultant and DEI executive skilled in TV and film production. King’s experience include roles at Sony Pictures Entertainment, Paramount Television Studios, 20th Century Fox, BET, The WB, SNL, and more! King most recently led Sony’s creative efforts in Diversity & Inclusion for nearly a decade before parting ways to create his own consulting agency Non LP B-Side in Los Angeles, California.


On Thursday, April 18th AFAM and the PRCC hosted “From Vision to Screen: The Creative Journey of Brett King” where we invited students to engage with King and learn more about his creative journey after his time at Penn State.


Brett King has devoted most of his adult life to the training, protection, and fostering of creators. Whether as a producer, creative executive or cultural influencer, King has worked tirelessly with both creators and corporate partners to provide opportunity and strategies to bring stories to the screen that are commercially viable, culturally specific, and globally relatable. He has honed his craft working alongside legendary creators such as Reginald Hudlin, Joss Whedon, John Wells, and Quincy Jones.

King has built a reputation for strategically building shows and brands from concept to full completion across varied types of creative teams and audience targets. He has become known as a leader in discovering trends in physical and digital media and fighting for new, transformative, emerging voices.

King is a media veteran with oversight of literally hundreds of hours of television under his belt in his role as a senior level executive at BET, The WB, Paramount Television Studios, and 20th Century Fox Television. He has bought, sold, produced, developed, and overseen television series for both networks and studios throughout Hollywood. King was most recently Vice President, Creative Programming, Diversity & Inclusion for Sony Pictures Entertainment, (SPE), where he worked across SPE businesses to provide access and opportunity for the underrepresented, working with both the Television Studio and Motion Picture Group. As part of these efforts, King designed, built, and executed the studio’s creative diversity initiatives, including the studio’s signature Diverse Director and Diverse Writers Programs. Notable program alumni include Barry Jenkins, (Moonlight), Salli Richardson-Whitfield (EP, Winning Time, HBO) and Aneesh Chaganty (Screen Gems’ Searching and its sequel, Missing). King led Sony’s creative efforts in diversity and inclusion for nearly a decade.

King’s creative passion was forged in the creative cauldron of New York’s downtown cultural blender, where he began his career working with visionary video artists such as Nam June Paik, assisting the curatorial team at the renowned Kitchen Center for the Arts, and distributing video art to galleries, museums, and universities around the world. It was a moment from which The New York Times posits “emerged a culture forever changed”. From that creative foundation, King forged a career in New York that saw him produce music videos, commercials, and unscripted content, culminating in multiple seasons on Saturday Night Live as producer of the commercial parodies, all while DJing in some of the city’s seminal downtown clubs.

King is a proud father of two.


Congratulations Brett on your award!

Dusé Mohamed Ali and Literary Pan-Africanism Symposium

Dusé Mohamed Ali (1866–1945) was an Egyptian political activist known for his African nationalism. He was also a playwright, historian, journalist, editor, and publisher. In 1912,he founded the African Times and Orient Review, and while living in Lagos, Nigeria, his novel Ere Roosevelt Came was serialized in 1934 in The Comet newspaper. He inspiredmany Black nationalists, including a young Marcus Garvey, who he mentored. Alicontributed to the political and literary project of Pan-Africanism and to global BlackMuslim diasporas. This symposium is to mark the publication of Ali’s novel, Ere Roosevelt Came and to probe the complexities of Ali’s biography.

Friday, October 6
8:30 a.m.–6:00 p.m. EDT via Zoom, 
Register Here:


Welcome and Introduction

8:309:00 a.m. EDT

Panel 1: Duse Mohamed Ali, the UK, and West Africa (tentative 9-10:30am EDT)

  • Tomi Onabanjo (NYU)
  • Stephanie Newell (Yale University)
  • Michael West, moderator/comment, (Penn State University)

Panel 2: Duse Mohamed Ali as early 20th Century Intermediary (tentative 10:45-12:15pm EDT)

  • Leslie James (Queen Mary University of London)
  • Musab Younus (Queen Mary University of London)
  • Alex Lubin (Penn State University)

Panel 3: Understanding Duse Mohamed Ali’s Biographies (tentative 1:00-2:30 EDT)

  • Rey Bowen (University of Chichester)
  • Jacob Dorman (University of Nevada Reno)
  • Hakim Adi, moderator/comment, (University of Chichester)

Panel 4: Duse Mohamed Ali and Literary Pan Africanism (tentative 2:45-4:15 EDT)

  • Marina Bilbija (Wesleyan University)
  • Tanya Agathocleus (CUNY)
  • Brent Hayes Edwards, moderator/ comment, (Columbia University)

Closing Plenary: Ere Roosevelt Came (4:30-5:30 EDT)

  • Marina Bilbija
  • Alex Lubin

This presentation draws on Professor Stecopoulos’s recent book Telling America’s Story to the World: Literature,
Internationalism, Cultural Diplomacy (Oxford 2022), which reconsiders transnational American Studies in light of the struggle between U.S. cultural diplomacy and the global activism of U.S. writers. After providing an overview of the project, Professor Stecopoulos will focus on Langston Hughes, Ralph Ellison, and other Black literary ambassadors who worked with —and against—the U.S. government’s propaganda campaigning sub-Saharan Africa.

NOON–1:00 P.M.

Harilaos Stecopoulos is professor of English at the University of Iowa. The former editor of The Iowa Review, he has published four books: Race and the Subject of Masculinities (Duke 1997); Reconstructing the World: Southern Fictions and US Imperialisms, 1898-1976 (Cornell 2008); A History of the Literature of the U.S. South (Cambridge 2020); and Telling America’s Story to the World: Literature, Internationalism, Cultural Diplomacy (Oxford 2022). He is currently at work on a new project, “The Heat of Modernity: American Modernism and the Energy Economy.”

Every summer, the Department of African American Studies sends an undergraduate student intern to work at the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project, led by Margaret Burnham at Northeastern University.  Sydney Wideman’s, a rising third year student and AFAM minor, joined the CRRJ project this summer on behalf of AFAM.

“Wideman said one of her biggest takeaways from her time with CRRJ will be a newfound understanding of the sheer scale of Jim Crow-era racist violence.” 

See the full article below on more information about Sydney Wideman’s internship and CRRJ’s research.

Summer interns support CRRJ’s research and expansion




Summer interns support CRRJ’s research and expansion: The Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project. The Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project | at Northeastern University School of Law. (2023, August 9).

On Thursday, May 4, 2023, AFAM celebrated its 2023 graduates in the annual donning of the Kente Cloth Ceremony.  At the Kente Cloth Ceremony, AFAM’s 2023 Outstanding Alumni Award Winner Adriana Lacy received her award and delivered an inspirational speech to the new graduates.

Congratulations to all the 2023 graduates!


Ahyanna Navarro-Foreman

Tarsha Proctor


Kalyn Cayne

Marcayla Connell

Varsella Guilford

Skylar Flynn

Kendra Napier-Fonash

Nasih Peterson

Regan Stoddard

Kayla Taylor

Tiara Zhanè





Ray Block is Senior Research Advisor for the African American Research Collaborative.  Dr. Block has led research design for AARC on a range of polls, including research involving elections, health policy, and African Americans’ policy goals.

The AARC’s expert team is made up of pollsters, scholars, researchers, and commentators with 30 years of expertise in polling, African American political behavior, and everyday issues that impact us all, such as the economy, housing, civil rights, policing, jobs, grassroots organizing and social justice.

Providing high quality research on African American polling behavior and the skill to interpret that research is their top priority. African American Research Collaborative

Cynthia Young, associate professor of African American Studies and English, recently shared her expertise in the Yahoo News article “Critics say Mastriano’s pledge to make Pennsylvania citizens reregister to vote is aimed squarely at Black Americans“.

Professor Young told Yahoo, “There is much to say about the Republican nominee, most especially that he is a Christian Nationalist, the current term for white supremacist. His stated desire to have voters re-register is a dog whistle designed to reinforce the racist belief that Black and other BIPOC voters are not, in fact, fully enfranchised citizens guaranteed the same rights as white voters. The irony, however, is that were his scheme to be implemented many white, rural voters would be excluded from the voter rolls. …Rights won in one moment can be lost in another. Without constant vigilance and organized struggle against such racism, Black people can easily lose what we have fought and died to secure. Mastriano and his ilk count on us being exhausted (we are) and unaware (we are not) and just as with reproductive rights we have to say loudly and clearly that their will be no return to a fantastical vision of a white nation that exploits Black labor and intellect without granting us our Constitutionally guaranteed rights.”

A new award to assist students enrolled in the Department of African American Studies in Penn State’s College of the Liberal Arts has been established in memory of Penn State alumna Yaayaa M. Hunt, who passed away unexpectedly at age 26 on December 29, 2019.

“She had the biggest, brightest personality, and for her, the sky was the limit,” said Penn State alumna Alecia Panuski, a friend of Hunt’s, who is helping create the Yaayaa M. Hunt ’16 Award with a $5,000 lead pledge. “After talking with some friends from Lion Line and Yaayaa’s mother, I knew we had to do something — to start a fund in her name — right away.”

Hunt grew up in southeast Washington, D.C., the first in her family to attend college. While at Penn State, she worked as a student supervisor for “Lion Line,” Penn State’s telefund organization. Hunt also was involved in several campus organizations and was universally revered by peers and professors.

After graduating, Hunt returned to her hometown to teach. Her most recent position was at Eastern Senior High School, where she taught mostly Black and low-income students.

“It was clear that Yaayaa cared deeply about Black students, Black people, and Black history because of what she had been exposed to growing up,” said AnneMarie Mingo, assistant professor of African American studies and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies. “[Washington] D.C. mattered to her, and she became a bridge, an inspiration, and a role model to students in her community.” Hunt had taken one of Mingo’s classes, titled “Scandal: Black Women, Power and Politics,” where her “zest for life” was evident, according to Mingo.

“The cost of this kind of loss is just too great,” added Mingo. “Yaayaa was doing work that she loved in a community she loved. She was reaching students and touching the next generation. This memorial fund extends a legacy allowing African American Studies students for years to come to know Yaayaa’s name and what she stood for here at Penn State and beyond.”

“To me, the greatest tragedy is that there are students who will never have the chance to learn from her or to know her energy, her positivity, and her determination to help others succeed,” said Panuski. “She was a rare find in a person and a friend.”

The Yaayaa-Maria Hunt Memorial Award


Penn State News recently interviewed Timeka Tounsel, assistant professor of African American studies and media studies, on her new book Branding Black Womanhood: Media Citizenship from Black Power to Black Girl Magic. Check it out here:

Congratulations, Timeka!