Burke Students Receive Award Named After Juvenile Justice: Dismantling the School To Prison Pipeline Course at CofC

(left to right) Burke students holding awards: Monasia Allen & Tyler White

By Dr. Ade Ofunniyin

I recently completed another semester of teaching at the College of Charleston. My role as a faculty member at the college is nebulous and mostly unnoticed by all except perhaps the students that take my classes. Like so many other faculty at the college, I am employed as an adjunct. The system is grossly exploitative and does not offer real opportunities for diversity or intersectionality. Like so many other institutions of “higher learning,” the College of Charleston is a place where students of color still experience the bite of racism and cultural annihilation.

I was getting on the elevator in the JC Long Building and noticing again the listing of language offerings at the college. Each time I see the list I am appalled that there are no mentioning of any African languages being offered at the college; imagine that, the city that is so well known as the port of entry for many of the enslaved people who were brought to Charleston from Africa. Charleston, a city that now boasts about the Gullah Geechee heritage of many of its residents; it now acknowledges the contributions that were made by African people and their descendants to the economic growth and architectural splendor that Charleston is noted for. But it still has only a few courses that instruct students about the wonders of the African continent or about the workings of the descendants of those who made America rich.

Although I am trained as an anthropologist, most of the classes that I teach are in the African American Studies Program. My classes focus on the African diaspora. My students are introduced to ways of looking at and examining African people and their global historical and contemporary development.

During the Spring of 2017, I taught a course, Juvenile Justice: Dismantling the School to Prison Pipe. The course examined the systemic racism and corporate greed that exist in both the prison industrial complex and the failing public education system. This semester the course was quite experimental and provided students with an opportunity to communicate with an inmate at a federal minimum-security facility via cell phone.

Students also created a end of year fundraising project that provided two $500.00 scholarships to two Burke High School graduating seniors. The awards were named after the Juvenile Justice: Dismantling the School to Prison Pipeline course and were presented to the students during Burke’s Senior Awards Night activity. The recipients of the awards were Monasia Allen and Tyler White. Congratulations to both students and all graduating seniors!

Students at the College of Charleston are aware of the racism and inequities on their campus. They deserve more than what they are forced to tolerate. I am there for them! I congratulate those that graduated this season and I salute those that remain, keep your head to the sky and always remember that to whom much is given, much is required.

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