Caption: Black Studies Department Chair Dr. Ethan Johnson speaks to protesters in front of the Multnomah County Justice Center on July 28. Justin Grinnell/PSU Vanguard

Black Studies department hosts virtual Meet & Greet for PSU students and staff

A virtual Meet & Greet for Black students and faculty was held on Sept. 28 as a part of Portland State’s “Viking Days,” a series of events meant to welcome new students to the PSU community. 


Dr. Ethan Johnson, the only full-time faculty member of the Black Studies department, organized and facilitated the virtual event, which was held over Zoom. According to Johnson, the event was conceived as a way for African and African American students to connect with one another, faculty and campus resources. 


“You become Black through how you interact with others,” said Dr. Karlyn Adams-Wiggins, a PSU instructor in Black Studies and Psychology, as she introduced herself and her research. She argued creating spaces that center Black and African identity development, particularly in the form of academic and pre-professional support, is essential to the longevity of PSU.


As the only program of its kind in the Pacific Northwest, the PSU Black Studies department was officially founded in 1970 to “facilitate the study of past and present experiences of Black America,” according to the PSU website. 


“Portland is a unique place for Black people,” Dr. Johnson said. “I came hère 15 years ago and I am still trying to figure it out.”


“I’m really here just to help create community and if needed serve as a liaison for students,” said Courtney Taylor, a graduate student and coordinator of the Pan-African Commons (PAC), a resource center for students who identify as Black or African American. 


One resource recommended by the speakers was Access, an advocacy and retention program for students of the African Diaspora run by Vvdaul Rashaad Holloway, who serves as the Coordinator of Black, African and African American Student Services at PSU.


According to the speakers, the Black Studies department is conducting searches for two new faculty positions. Students who want to participate in the search by attending virtual interviews and meeting candidates can go to the Black Student Union and PAC websites for more information. 


“It’s really important that we show up for each other,” said Lisa Jarrett, a recently tenured professor with the College of the Arts.