By Danielle McKinnon, Academic Division Coordinator and Valencia African Heritage Committee Chair
I’d like to personally invite you to join the Valencia African Heritage Committee (VAHC) to celebrate and foster inclusion of cultural and educational awareness of the African-diaspora at Valencia College. We are looking to build inclusivity of the social and political interests and concerns of faculty, staff and students of African-diaspora collegewide and in the community. Faculty, staff and administration of ALL backgrounds and experiences are welcome.
In fall 2016, a small group of colleagues from various departments on East, Osceola and West Campuses collectively identified an opportunity to enhance Black History Month programming on all of the campuses. With this shared vision, these colleagues made an effort to learn more about the opportunity to provide this level of programming and used their resources, time and the guidance of Falecia Williams, president, West and Downtown Campuses, to present a rich Black History Month Programming in February 2017. In the fall 2017 semester, the group advanced its work by developing the collegewide VAHC.
Since inception, the VAHC has developed into a centralized network of colleagues who embrace the opportunity to have meaningful dialogue, shared information and resources, and planning efforts for yearlong programming to observe black history as American history though rich events on all campuses. The VAHC also makes efforts in improving equity and belonging at the College that directly promotes a positive reflection and inclusion of the African-diaspora at both the collegewide and campus levels.
The VAHC continues to maintain committee representation on each campus and collaborate with internal and external stakeholders — to include the Peace and Justice Institute, Inclusive Excellence Series, Valencia Black Advisory Committee, Wells Built Museum, CAIR Florida, ASALH (Association for the Study of African American Life and History) Central Florida Chapter and more.
The work of the VAHC is beneficial to students and employees by:
- Exploring and developing partnerships in the community to enhance year-round, co-curricular programming for all;
- Providing a pathway for enrolled students who have an interest in African diaspora culture and education to develop clear personal and professional aspirations;
- Enhancing outreach efforts by the College to invite and support accessibility of higher education and opportunity to achieve goals for all; and
- Promoting the understanding of how diversity builds learning relationships and appreciation as an additional dimension in the quality of life for students and employees.
In order for the work of the VAHC to reach each campus and community served, VAHC members work collaboratively on their campuses to promote the goals of the VAHC and collaborate with campus academic departments, student development and student groups for rich programming and initiatives. The campus-based sub-committees have a continuous campus presence and reach to provide insight and support for observances and celebrations of the African-diaspora on their campus such as Black History Month, Juneteenth, Black Music Month, etc.
The West Campus Black History Committee and African American Cultural Societies in the East Campus region have continued to receive student development funding to provide programming. The leads on each campus take an initiative in communicating with their campus team of employees and students to discuss how the VAHC’s efforts can be combined with campus efforts for year-round programming and additional opportunities for inclusivity on their campus with the assistance of Student Affairs and Academic Affairs.
By joining the Valencia African Heritage Committee, you will have an opportunity to collaborate and engage with colleagues who share the same interest and desire to incorporate Africa-diaspora into programming for Valencia to celebrate and educate the College and community on African heritage, culture and diversity. Faculty, staff and administration with a desire to ideate, design and implement the vision and work of the groups are strongly encouraged to join collegewide and on your home campus. A diverse group brings an array of great ideas and support to this work.
For recent articles on VAHC efforts, click here.
To join the Valencia African Heritage Committee or if you have questions, please contact infoVAHC@valenciacollege.edu. You may express your interest and become an involved member at any time. If you do not feel you have the time to join the committee, please attend an event at your convenience and encourage others to attend.