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Africana Studies professor selected for second Fulbright-Hays Program

Jacqueline McLeod, Ph.D., will study the African diaspora experience in Mexico.

By Josie Lavender

June 9, 2021

Jacqueline McLeod, Ph.D.Each year, educators around the country are considered for the prestigious Fulbright-Hays Seminars Abroad Program, which supports research and training related to non-Western studies. This year, Metropolitan State University of Denver’s Jacqueline McLeod, Ph.D., professor of Africana Studies, was selected for her second Fulbright-Hays honor. McLeod will soon be packing her bags and heading to Mexico to study multicultural perspectives that can enhance her instruction at MSU Denver and, in turn, the Roadrunner experience.

McLeod is a longtime advocate for multicultural awareness and education at MSU Denver. She joined the University’s Departments of Africana Studies and History in 2006 and was selected for her first Fulbright-Hays Program in India in 2018. This year, McLeod will continue her research through a seminar titled “The Third Root: Exploring African Heritage in Mexico.” She will have the opportunity to learn directly from the African-descendant communities of Veracruz and Oaxaca.

McLeod recently spoke with the Early Bird about this prestigious opportunity.

Why is Africana Studies such an important area of scholarship?

“Africana Studies is the multidisciplinary analysis of the lives and thought of people of African ancestry on the African continent and throughout the world. The value and importance of Africana Studies is grounded in its commitment to educating for the purpose of creating positive change. But if students are to truly understand the full experience of African-descendant peoples in the Americas (a goal of Africana Studies), then we have to account for all communities and experiences and not simply impose the African American experience, which is better known, onto other spaces.”

What initially inspired you to teach Africana Studies?

“I am a native of the Caribbean who had her first study-abroad experience in the United States, so I have always been aware of diverse African-descendant communities in the Americas and therefore never subscribed to the myth of a singular African or ‘Black’ experience. Teaching about the subject that had so fulfilled me as a graduate student was, therefore, the next logical step, and the promise it holds to empower students to be change agents is its own reward.”

What is Mexico’s significance in the African diaspora?

“The Afro-Mexican presence is strongest in the states of Veracruz, Guerrero and Oaxaca, which account for the majority of Mexico’s almost 2 million people who identify as Afro-Mexican. So the opportunity to have an organized travel-based experience in these communities through the Fulbright-Hays Seminars Abroad Program will profoundly enhance my curriculum and impact student learning in all of my courses, but especially Introduction to Africana Studies, which reaches a broad cross-section of students because of the University Multicultural Designation.”

How can the Fulbright-Hays seminar contribute to your curriculum at MSU Denver?

“The average student knows something about the African American experience, but their understanding of where African Americans fit in the global dispersal of Africans is inadequate. As a result, for many, the African American experience or Black experience becomes the singular experience of ‘black people’ everywhere. So the existence of an African diaspora in Latin America and its distinct history and experience would be a new encounter for many students. However, Africana Studies dispels these and other myths and empowers students to think critically about Africa and its diaspora, which they discover are more complex and dynamic than they ever imagined.

“As a historian, I value the use of primary sources/experiences to bring history alive for my students, and I believe that this firsthand experience with scholars of Afro-Mexicans and the Afro-Mexican communities will produce rich material for bringing the history and culture of Afro-Mexicans alive for my students.”

Topics: Academics, Award, Excellence

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