Africana Studies Capstone - Afi Koffi


When I was first challenged to come up with a capstone, I remember feeling very lost. Capstones were something I knew was there and would be quickly approaching but in September of my senior year, I still didn’t really know what I wanted to do. But one day, it kind of just hit me. This year I had the pleasure of being the SAT of an African American History class. And I felt early on like I did my freshman year, unimpressed and underwhelmed.

My inquiry question is how can students learn about West Africa in a way that surpasses African American History class? I asked this question because as a freshman I felt underwhelmed by the fact that African American History started with slavery. To me, it felt wrong to define a group of people’s history to the moment their oppression began. They were their own people before the mid-Atlantic slave trade with their own societies and cultures and to neglect that is to give in to the trend of letting white people tell the story. My capstone seeks to expose people to the culture of West Africa pre-slavery and show the influence it has on our lives today. Themes of West African cultures are present in everyday food, music, and literature. As such, those are the units present in my two mini-course sessions.

I’ve decided to do this as my capstone because I think that it is important to understand Africa as more than what it is portrayed as in the media. Many things that exist now in the American culture are derived from West African practices so it’d be beneficial to see how all these cultures connect.

This is the link to the website I created to showcase my work: 


"African Diaspora Cultures." Oldways. Accessed January 23, 2019.

This site discusses the African Diaspora. The disopara is an important to understand whenever Africana Studies are embarked on because of how culture has spread and changed throughout the years. This site in particular highlights the major groups that have been created by the diaspora and what that means in terms of their identity.

"African Studies." Data USA. Accessed January 23, 2019.

This source features data on Africana Studies in universities today. It supports the fact that the popularity of African Studies is increasing. As of 2016, degrees on African Studies are increasing by 10.6%. Interestingly enough, the average wage is decreasing by 6.64% showing that although the popularity is clear, the respect for that field is absent.

Chambers, Dr. Glenn. "The Transatlantic Slave Trade and Origins of the African Diaspora in Texas." Texas

Institute for the Preservation of History and Culture. 2017. Accessed January 23, 2019.

This is a article by Dr. Glenn Chambers the assistant professor of history at Texas A&M University. He discusses the impact of the diaspora in Texas; specifically, the history of slavery in the state. The identity of black people has been affected by the diaspora and the relationship between these people and their environment must be highlighted in Africana Studies and in the mini-course.

GEOZIK. "To the Origins of Music - Africa, Asia (English Version)." YouTube. January 04, 2017. Accessed

January 23, 2019.

This BBC documentary highlights the history and traditions of African music. This video shown on week one of the African Studies min-course. It gave background information on many instruments and the cultural significance of music in cultures of West Africa. This source allowed the avoidance of a powerpoint presentation that would have been boring. By using a video, the freshman could see how and where the instruments are played.

Hountondji, and Paulin J. "Knowledge of Africa, Knowledge by Africans: Two Perspectives on Afr..."

S.A.P.I.EN.S. Surveys and Perspectives Integrating Environment and Society. December 01, 2009.

Accessed January 23, 2019.

Paulin J. Hountondji discusses some of her reservations with African Studies. One of her main issues being that oftentimes, African Studies was not being conducted by Africans. Rather, it was a way for white people to “analyze” black people, generally in an unflattering and politically motivated way. By doing this, they continue to show exactly why African Studies is needed; so that black people can have a voice in regards to their own histories and cultures.

McPherson, A. Malik. "Afrobeat In Hip-Hop: The Influence On The Influential." OkayAfrica. September 28,

2017. Accessed January 23, 2019.

This contemporary African site gives insight into the overlapping that exist between West African Music and current music in America. This was used to drive home the significance of the mini-course to the students. West African culture should be studied not separately in and of itself but as an entity that stands on its own and contributes to other cultures. Many of the songs on the site were popular in the US and many of the students recognized them.

"Music of West Africa: Rhythms, Dance, Instruments & Characteristics." Accessed January 23,


This source worked as a lesson plan influence. In this plan, they highlight the themes and rhythmic patterns that are often found in West African music. Though the full source was not available, this short excerpt gave insight and inspiration for the path of the mini-course. After seeing this site, the purpose of the course changed a little from learning to learning and performing.

Sambira, Jocelyne. "Slave Trade: How African Foods Influenced Modern American Cuisine | Africa Renewal

Online." United Nations Africa Renewal. Accessed January 23, 2019.

This site is a transition of an interview with Chef Pierre Thiam. As a chef, he speaks of the influences of West African food on modern American cuisine. He even states that there is a lot of ignorance when it comes to this fact. Many don’t know that things like coffee and watermelon weren’t necessarily originated in America. Using this source will encourage members of the mini-course to evaluate the food they food and their origins and influences.

Staniland, Martin. "Who Needs African Studies?" African Studies Review 26, no. 3/4 (1983): 77-97.


This source features an excerpt from Who Needs Africana Studies by Martin Staniland. It discusses the need for Africana studies, how African history was ignored for centuries, and how it exist to shed light on the perspective of black people. The creation of the Africana Studies mini-course correlates with these ideas and seeks to introduce students to a previous neglected culture.

University of Notre Dame. "Why Africana Studies? // Department of Africana Studies // University of Notre

Dame." Department of Africana Studies. Accessed January 23, 2019.

The department of African studies at the University of Notre Dame explain what African Studies entails and its purpose. They, like many universities have, followed the upward thread of African Studies. In many universities, it is offered as a major. Students shouldn’t have to wait to be introduced to African Studies in adulthood. This mini-course allows them to be immersed now.