Africana Studies Program
Welcome from the New Director

Last spring, we were treated to an inspiring celebration of the Africana Studies Program’s 25th anniversary, featuring wonderful food, memories and music. Dean Adele Lindenmeyr, PhD, was even spotted on the dance floor. The Program’s past directors shared their reflections on the Program’s history and importance. Assuming the directorship of this program is certainly intimidating, given the wonderful sense of community that past directors have cultivated. But it is also reassuring to know that each of the past directors remain on campus, supportive of Africana Studies and passing along their wisdom to new generations of students and colleagues.

One of the things I love about Africana Studies is our sense of community, so evident when you walk into the office in the basement of Garey Hall and see students and faculty talking, eating, joking and learning together. Complementary to that sense of community is a sense of struggle. The first Africana Studies programs at universities were created a half century ago because of student demands that both the content of curricula and the form of academic work had to be challenged. Students should have the opportunity to learn about Africa and the African diaspora – and students should challenge the habits of thought that exclude or devalue Black histories and cultures.

When students called for the creation of Africana Studies programs across the country, their vision often included something unique in the academy: a commitment to community accountability. Africana Studies programs should feature excellence in research and teaching, and should challenge the university as a whole to notice how domination distorts knowledge, but these programs must also answer first and foremost to their community, broadly understood: students, staff, local residents and alumni. I look forward to advancing these core values of accountability, community and struggle during my time as program director. 

A little about me: before moving into this position, I taught in the Theology and Religious Studies Department at Villanova. My teaching and research focus on the intersection of religion, race and politics. For example, I co-edited a book on Anti-Blackness and Christian Ethics, I wrote a book on the use of natural law in African American political thought, and most recently I co-authored a book about religious communities challenging mass incarceration. I live in the West Powelton neighborhood of Philadelphia with my wife, six-year-old daughter, and six-year-old pitbull.

Vincent Lloyd, PhD
Director, Africana Studies
Get involved
Student News
Students attend Black Law Association Conference
The Africana Studies Program was pleased to support a group of Villanova undergraduate students interested in careers in law to attend a Black Law Students Association conference at Columbia University, where similarly interested undergraduates gathered from around the country. The students made valuable connections and gained knowledge that will be useful in the law school application process.
Africana Studies Course Offerings Span Disciplines
This spring, the Africana Studies program is offering a variety of courses for students in the major and minor. These include the core course, “Constructs of Blackness,” taught by program director Vincent Lloyd, PhD, and featuring visits from four authors whose work students will be reading in the class. Other courses range from:

  • the religious, “Do Black Lives Matter to God?;”
  • to the theoretical, “Critical Race Theory” and “Africana Philosophy;”
  • to the literary, “African American Women Writers;”
  • to the political, “#SayHerName: Gender, Race, and Social Justice.”

There are courses on the African diaspora in Italy and France, a course on race and genetic testing, and a course on the civil rights movement and much more.
New Africana Studies Faculty
Étienne Achille, PhD, is assistant professor and coordinator of French and Francophone Studies. He specializes in postcolonial and contemporary French literature, and in the spring, he will be teaching a course called “Black France, White Gaze.” Dr. Achille has published widely on race in the French context, including most recently a co-authored book, Postcolonial Mythologies: Decolonizing Everyday Life.
Norman Ajari
Norman Ajari, PhD, started teaching as an Assistant Professor of Philosophy with a specialization in critical race theory and Africana philosophy. He was previously a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toulouse, where he also received his doctorate. His book Dignity or Death? Ethics and Politics of Race has been attracting broad attention from scholars and the French media. Drs. Ajari and Achille will discuss their books at an event co-sponsored by Africana Studies and Falvey Library on Feb. 20.
Naomi Washington-Leapheart, MDiv, teaches in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies. An ordained minister and frequent preacher and speaker, Rev. Washington-Leapheart teaches courses on Black and womanist theology. She has worked as a community organizer, as a nonprofit leader, and, currently, as the Director of Faith-Based and Interfaith Affairs for the City of Philadelphia. In addition to her teaching and her work for the City, Rev. Washington-Leapheart has led a revitalization of the Villanova Gospel Choir. Recently, she was named by The Root as one of the 100 most influential African Americans.
Shannen Dee Williams, PhD, is the Albert Lepage Assistant Professor of History. She previously taught at the University of Tennessee, and she received her doctorate from Rutgers. Dr. Williams is an expert on African American Catholicism. Her forthcoming book, Subversive Habits: The Untold Story of Black Catholic Nuns in the United States, will be published by Duke University Press. Dr. Williams has a growing profile as a public intellectual, writing for a general audience and speaking at public events in Philadelphia and beyond. Last fall she convened a Black Catholic History Month event, co-sponsored by Africana Studies and the Office of Mission and Ministry.
Alumni News
Social Justice Documentary, Sankofa , Takes Home Gold Medal at Student Academy Awards
More than 1600 student videos were entered into the Student Academy Awards competition, and Villanova’s team, led by Africana Studies alumna and film director Princess Garrett ’18 CLAS, came out a winner. The team’s film, Sankofa, won a gold medal in the documentary category, with films by Columbia and UC-Berkeley students taking second and third place, respectively. Sankofa explores parallels between the US and Ghana and the way mental slavery burdens Blacks. The film has been selected for participation in seven film festivals. The students made their advisor, Africana Studies faculty member Hezekiah Lewis, very proud!

Photo credit: Todd Wawrychuk / ©A.M.P.A.S.
In Memoriam
It is with sadness that we learned of the death of Napoleon Andrews ’74 CLAS, president of the Black Student League from 1973-1974. Andrews built a strong sense of community among Black students at Villanova, including through intramural sports, and he was also a leader of campus activism. You can view videos of Andrews recounting his time at Villanova as part of the Black Villanova Oral History Project, here.
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