Following this year’s launch of the African American and African Studies (AAAS) Bachelor of Arts program, Mike Martin, a junior now double majoring in AAAS and Arts and Humanities, was one of the first students at Michigan State University to transition to the new major.
“AAAS isn’t just a major I gain knowledge in, but a place where I actively get to repair my soul,” Martin said. “It’s where I get to share my story and be loved and appreciated for my experiences and positionality.”
Born and raised in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Martin credits Ruth Nicole Brown, MSU Foundation Professor and Inaugural Chairperson of the AAAS Department, for her decision to pursue her passion.
“I have always loved reading about Black Studies and learning about my culture. While estranged from it because of my upbringing, Dr. Brown showed me just how important my experience is and how it doesn’t limit my Blackness,” Martin said. “Dr. Brown made it a mission to connect with us on personal levels and ask us to think of things outside ourselves. She emphasized our connection with nature and the Earth and made me connect with myself on a more spiritual level.”
“AAAS isn’t just a major I gain knowledge in, but a place where I actively get to repair my soul. It’s where I get to share my story and be loved and appreciated for my experiences and positionality.”
According to Martin, the faculty members she has made new connections with upon her transition to AAAS are “amazing” and “all bring something special to the table.”
“As much as we learn from them, they acknowledge how much they learn from us as well,” Martin said. “It’s so cool to think that we’re helping shape this college and how much our input truly matters.”
The current selection of AAAS classes includes a wide range of contemporary subjects in Black art, feminisms, gender studies, social justice, religion, and more. Martin currently is enrolled in Creative Expression, Culture, and Performance (AAAS 301) and Creative Expressions as Craft: African American Film (AAAS 307).
“Both classes are very rewarding, and I analyze my life so much because of them,” she said. “It’s nice to have discourse with people who have similar experiences and who are just trying to objectively look at the pieces to understand how it relates to us and our livelihoods.”
“It’s nice to have discourse with people who have similar experiences and who are just trying to objectively look at the pieces to understand how it relates to us and our livelihoods.”
While the Creative Expression, Culture, and Performance class promotes students to analyze a range of live and recorded events such as performance arts, protests, rituals, and speeches to complete their own expressive works, Creative Expressions as Craft: African American Film examines different historical and cinematic production eras of Black film from an aesthetic, commercial, and political point-of-view.
Next semester, Martin is excited to take Black Girlhood Studies (AAAS 303) and Black Entrepreneurship and Hustle (AAAS 405). She also is taking the time to explore her new major before deciding on a perspective occupation, adding she still has “so much to learn.”
“In so many ways, I want my career to reflect the spaces that are in the African American and African Studies Department,” Martin said. “It’s important to me to follow the values that are instilled in both AAAS and RCAH [Residential College in the Arts and Humanities].”
Written by Kseniya Lukiy