New Lecture Series to Honor Dovi Afesi

September 21, 2017

Dovi Afesi made a lasting impact on the Greenfield College community during his many years teaching history at the College. Recognizing Dovi, who passed away in 2016, GCC’s College Affairs Committee has created the Dovi Afesi Lecture Series in his honor. Dovi was passionate about promoting racial justice and helping students understand how history impacts their daily lives. As he challenged everyone at GCC to be politically, historically, and ethically aware, it is fitting that David Lanoie, Coordinator of GCC’s Criminal Justice Programs, will present the first lecture in the series on “The Prisonization of America: Racial and Socio-Economic Disparities in the Age of Equal Rights.” David’s lecture will highlight the grossly disproportionate number of people of color, especially African-Americans, and the poor who are incarcerated pursuant to “tough-on-crime” and “drug war” policies in the United States. David Lanoie will speak on Wednesday, September 27 at noon in Stinchfield Lecture Hall. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Dovi was born in Ghana in western Africa and studied at Clark University and Michigan State University. He taught at the University of Massachusetts Amherst for several years before he began teaching history at GCC in 2000. His teaching at GCC included a focus on African and African-American history. Dovi passed away in 2016 and, this spring, the College community planted a tree planted in his memory between the Main Building and the East Building.

Reflecting on Dovi and his work, GCC’s Dean of Humanities Leo Hwang said, “Dovi was someone who could translate history into a kind of living story that students could relate to and understand on a visceral level. He helped students understand how their contemporary existence has been shaped by all the multitude of complexities that have occurred in the past and that everything is interconnected and related. First and foremost, Dovi treated everyone with respect. He could disagree, laugh, or express frustration about issues, but it was always with respect and intellectual curiosity. He cared so deeply for his students, his colleagues, his community. He was someone who expressed love in every interaction and despite all the distractions of the modern era, could stop and take a moment to pay attention to the immediate present. That was always a gift to whomever he had contact with. He inspired the kind of dialogue, humility, and scholarship that we all aspire to at GCC.”

Equity and justice are pillars of GCC’s mission of inclusion, diversity, community building, and collaboration. David Lanoie’s lecture will help the GCC community understand how the disparity between people of different races has been institutionalized via public policy throughout U.S. history. David said, “Since slavery ended, public policy governing access to basic rights, including housing, marriage, education, voting, and employment opportunity, has constrained or limited such access to citizens of color. In the post-slavery and post-civil rights era, Criminal Justice policy and its unequal enforcement has systematically created a measurable difference in the selection, conviction, and imprisonment of minority citizens, particularly African-Americans and Latinos. With my lecture, I want to help the GCC community understand how the racial disparity that exists within our social/criminal justice policy has tremendous negative and collateral consequences for African-American and Latino citizens.”

Kit Carpenter, who recently retired as Department Chair of GCC’s ESOL Department, is the former chair of College Affairs Committee. Kit explained the purpose of the new Lecture Series, “Dovi’s impact on GCC and everyone with whom he came in contact was profound. While he was at GCC, Dovi presented two powerful  lectures to the whole college, one about his family and life in Ghana, and another about what happened in Africa as a result of European colonization. Those lectures were part of his attempt to help everyone understand more about African and African-American history. The College Affairs Committee wants other GCC faculty and staff to be able to share their knowledge, skills, and passion with the whole College and the wider community. We want to promote the many gifts and resources that are here. The Dovi Afesi Lecture Series will feature one lecture by a GCC faculty or staff member each year in the fall. We named the series after Dovi because he left a profound mark on the whole GCC community, giving us much wisdom, joy, and philosophy. There is no better way to honor his impact on the College.”

For information about the Dovi Afesi Lecture Series and David Lanoie’s Sept. 27 lecture, contact the chair of the College Affairs Committee, Bjorn Silvia, at silviab@gcc.mass.edu or 413-775-1316.

By Mary McClintock, ’82

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