TEDxAustin was nearly everything Kevin Foster, associate professor of African and African diaspora studies, expected it to be — informative, thought-provoking and intriguing. The only problem: Nearly all the speakers were white.
Foster said TEDxAustin lacked a wide range of minorities’ perspectives, such as those of African-Americans. This left the audience with an incomplete understanding of educational research, American culture and academic opinions. He decided to create “Blackademics TV,” a 30-minute TV show that features black scholars and professors from across the nation.
The program tapes in front of a live audience at the KLRU-TV studio on the UT campus. The show’s third season premieres in the fall.
“I don’t see anything on the landscape that looks exactly like what we’re doing,” Foster said. “This is just the early 21st-century version of black studies. People like W.E.B. Du Bois, like Carter G. Woodson — all of these folks were scholars who lived in action.”
Gabe Whitaker, UT alumnus and “Blackademics” volunteer, said the show “Blackademics” is similar to a big brainstorming session in which influential leaders from different African-American communities come together to educate people on the need for positive change.
“You have people talking about these heartfelt emotions and causes and problems that we have in society,” Whitaker said. “Last year was tough regarding minorities in this country because of police brutality, incarceration rates and drop-out rates — and that’s all the negative stuff. But also you have the rise of professionals that are people of color.”
“Blackademics” aims to carry on the legacy of African-American pioneers from years past. The television show is part of a larger organization, the Institute for Community, University and School Partnerships, which provides academic tools and programs for students who want to obtain higher education.
Kendra Chambers, UT alumna and associate producer for “Blackademics,” found out about the TV program through a high school engagement event. Chambers said “Blackademics” is a much-needed resource that teachers in high school and college settings use.
“[‘Blackademics’] ignites perspective; it ignites conversation; it ignites discussion at a scholarly level,” Chambers said.
The first two seasons are available online at www.klru.org. Chambers said the show creates an alternative path to education because the program is free. From university professors to people who are curious to know more, “Blackademics” provides a way for traditionally marginalized groups to have a chance to share their views on trends in society, Whitaker said.
Foster said he views easily accessible media as an opportunity to present content that can supplement current education. He said Texas schools don’t offer a full picture of black history or the history of racism in America. Programs such as “Blackademics” aim to close the gaps that traditional educational institutions have left open, according to Foster.
The challenge is that anybody with a computer can generate content, and it might be inaccurate,” Foster said. “So it’s incumbent upon scholars, particularly scholars of color, to speak about marginalized groups and to generate high-quality content so they don’t get drowned.”