Worth So Much More:
Temple’s Pan-African Studies Community Education Program (PASCEP)
Annie Delores Hyman,
Founder of PASCEP
The famed 19th century African-American educator, linguist, and feminist writer Anna Julia Cooper once asked Americans, “What Are We Worth?”
Her response was that those who give more than is invested in them are worth much more than those for whom much investment bears little fruit. By her criterion, Temple University’s Pan-African Studies Community Education Program (PASCEP) is worth a lot. A whole lot.
Most members of Temple University first encounter this innovative program in the lobby of Anderson Hall on the Main Campus. The PASCEP African market is assembled there from 6 PM till 9 PM, Monday through Friday, during the fall and spring semesters. It is part of the cultural enrichment dimension of PASCEP.
The market attracts many people to Temple. Lewis Gordon, Laura Carnell Professor of Philosophy, was so impressed by the presence of the vendors and artisans he met during his interview visit in fall 2003 that he attributes the program as one of the persuading factors in his decision to join the Temple community.
PASCEP was founded 32 years ago by Annie Deloris Hyman, who was a Philadelphia activist and mother of three children when she enrolled in Temple and subsequently achieved her undergraduate degree in social work before going on for her Masters in Education degree at Antioch University. She taught at Whittier Elementary School for nearly 30 years. Ms. Hyman participated in a study tour of Nigeria in 1975, which clarified for her the importance of cultural education. She decided to create a culturally enriching community education program.
Classes for the new program were originally held in public schools, churches, and community centers until the program was brought to Temple’s campus in 1979 through the
Pan-African Studies Department, now called the Department of African American Studies. The community education program continues in the College of Liberal Arts through support from the Dean’s Office, which consists of a Director and a Curriculum Specialist and access to the classrooms of Anderson Hall. The current Director, Mr. Yumy (pronounced You-Me) Odom, has been involved with the program since 1989, and the Curriculum Specialist is Mr. Willie Rogers, who came to Temple in 1987 with 25 years experience in variety of related areas that included elementary education, counseling, career development training, psychotherapy, community activism, and directorship of a social service agency.
Mr. Odom describes PASCEP as “The greatest community education program on the planet earth!” If this claim appears hyperbolic, a glimpse of the program suggests otherwise. PASCEP serves approximately 2,000 students each semester with a volunteer teaching staff of 90 professionals offering 90 or more courses. A few of these courses include Act 48 credits for Pennsylvania state registered teachers and social workers through Harrisburg; continuing education units (CEU); certificate programs in human race studies, computer science and rites-of-passage; and a bevy of courses ranging from training in languages ranging from Spanish to Hebrew and Swahili, to General Education Diploma (GED) preparation and courses in business and finance. These courses attract students who travel weekly for 6 to 12 weeks per semester from as far north as New York State and as far south as the District of Columbia.
Mr. Odom, who was an education consultant from Brooklyn, New York, before coming to Temple for graduate study in the Department of African American Studies in 1988, argues that the concept of “community” should be looked at in a broad way at Temple. He rejects the campus versus community model and advocates an understanding of the university as part of the community.
Although the program began as a Philadelphia-focused project, it has attracted students from the global community to the point of functioning as an important representative of what Philadelphia has to offer. Mr. Odom mentions having Liberian, Russian, Brazilian, Portuguese, and Japanese students with others from all over the world, as well as from their youngest student, who is 6 years old, to the oldest, who is 96, both of whom are in the same classroom studying African American music.
PASCEP also reaches out to those who are unable to visit the campus. There is the SCI-Graterford Prison Project, which Mr. Odom has been involved in since 1989. He and some PASCEP volunteers go to the prison on Wednesdays, where they teach inmates who are serving long-term and life sentences. They work with about 40 men each semester.
The program’s outreach also includes the Black Male Development Symposium (BMDS) in collaboration with Arcadia University (formerly Beaver College) and the Village Builders Concepts, Incorporated. The symposium is held on Arcadia’s campus, and Mr. Odom has served on the Advisory and Executive Committees of the project since its inception in 2004.
East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention
PASCEP also hosts symposia on Temple’s campus. There is the East Coast Black Age of Comic Convention (ECBACC), founded by Mr. Odom, which has been meeting at Temple in May of each year since 2002. The ECBACC focuses on literacy among poor and urban youth through the utilization of comic books and comic book art. The Black Age of Comics Convention concept began in the 1980s in Chicago, under the leadership of Mr. Turtel Onli, Illustrator.
There is also an African Diasporan Men’s Health Consortium (ADMHC), which organizes health screenings and check-ups on that population of men who face many health challenges as the most vulnerable group to maladies ranging from hypertension and heart disease to diabetes and prostate cancer.
The African market, which offers goods ranging from African shea butter to African and Caribbean jewelry, educational videotapes and DVD’s, and soul food, was organized through PASCEP’s Official Vendors’ Association. Its purpose, Mr. Odom explains, is for the community to see what an African market is like on a regular basis.
African Market in Anderson Hall
The African connections in the program are rooted in its founder’s vision. In addition to her many accolades, which include more recently a Women of Courage, Women of Inspiration Award in 2005, Ms. Hyman was enstooled in Ghana as a Queen Mother, with the royal name Nana Konadu Yiadom III, in the town of Bekwai in 2003. Hyman/Yiadom has since then garnered financial support and material goods for the town. Two of the volunteer teachers are having a house built in her honor in that town. They are Mr. Walter Prescott, who teaches a course on personal financial planning, and his protégé Mr. Kenneth Christian. They raised the funds for the house.
PASCEP has also been a place of curricular innovation. According to Mr. Odom, the first Hip Hop 101 and Multilevel Marketing classes in the nation were taught in the program.
Many of the 2,000 students would have had no connection to Temple University without the Program. Although there are other adult education and GED programs offered by various institutions at Temple, PASCEP’s range and approach of placing education in a unique cultural environment distinguishes it from the others. Also, its services go beyond the categories of continuing education and adult certification programs.
By now, Anna Julia Cooper’s question of worth and Mr. Odom’s declaration about PASCEP gain greater clarity. That the program is woefully understaffed by having only a director and a curriculum specialist reveals how little is invested in this important program. That so many volunteers work in PASCEP is a testament to how much they value this community resource. Their efforts emphasize Mr. Odom’s reflection that everyone is a member of the community.
Mr. Odom encourages the university to remember the face of people behind scholarship and teaching and recounts that the Founder, Ms. Annie D. Hyman/Yiadom III, regularly evoked Russell Conwell’s vision of “acres of diamonds” right in front of us.
PASCEP has collaborated with Scribe Video in West Philadelphia to produce a video and DVD focused on the program. Entitled Precious Places, the documentary will premier in May 2007.