In October of 2010, as part of their “Eyes on Africa” seminar, 14 first-year students flew to New York for a one-day excursion. Their learning trip included a visit to the African Burial Ground National Monument and tickets to Fela!, a Tony Award-winning Broadway musical based on the life of legendary Nigerian musician Fela Kuti.
“[Seeing Fela!] was my absolute favorite part of the trip,” recalls Briana Mongerson ’14. “I absolutely loved it…I’ve been to New York in the past with my family, but we went more as tourists—this time, as a student, I learned about how diverse and rich the cultures are in Africa.”
The class also visited one of New York’s best kept secrets—the African Burial Ground National Monument. Hailed by historians as one of the greatest archaeological finds of our time, the site serves as the final resting place for an estimated 15,000 freed and enslaved Africans dating back to the 17th century. Professor Chandler described the burial grounds as his most memorable part of the experience, and wanted to make sure his students saw the monument before heading back to Atlanta.
“[The monument] evidences the little-known but significant impact of African influence on Manhattan and New York City’s evolution…[Dr. Lutz and I] wanted our students to see Africa outside the boundaries of a map on a piece of paper. We want them to see that Africa is all around us in the music that we love, the food that we eat, and the history we claim as our own.”
After dinner at Brooklyn’s JOLOFF, a Senegalese restaurant, the class returned to Atlanta with a fresh perspective of the cultures and history of the continent. “This class has really opened my mind toward the people and cultures of this awesome continent,” said Allison Kearley ’11, who works with the class as a mentor. “Being mentor reminds me of my freshman year and how much I’ve grown as a student. It really makes me value my time here at Oglethorpe.”