The Griot Institute

Cara LeCoz, Contributing Writer

On the second floor of Hildreth Mirza Hall sits a timelessly rich archive of African history and culture. This place serves as a mecca of art, literature and discovery of Black identity. The resources offered at the Griot Institute provide an awakening for some and nostalgia for others. It is here where we as students get to take initiative with our own education on such matters in an effort to entangle the complicated cultural fabric of our current society. We approach this space with curiosity, humility and a further thirst for more.

The reputable Toni Morrison Society is known for celebrating the groundbreaking literary work of the titled writer. It was a traveling non-profit program dedicated to spreading Morrison’s work. In July of 2008, the organization partnered with the University to serve as its institutional home for the next three years. This would later ignite the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) progression of a notable predominantly white institution (PWI) to design and conduct more comprehensive programming.  

“Griot” is derived from West African terminology as a central cultural figure who held functions such as “community historian, cultural critic. Indigenous artist, and collective spokesperson.”

History and International Relations Professor Cymone Fourshey, Director of the Griot Institute, is the driving force in establishing and fostering cross-cultural intellectual engagement and forwarding the awareness and celebration of black lives at the University.

“The mission of Bucknell’s Griot Institute for the Study of Black Lives and Cultures is to follow in the intellectual practice of the Griot to foster collaborative enterprise devoted primarily to the interdisciplinary exploration of the aesthetic, artistic, and scholarly cultural products and intellectual currents of historical and contemporary Africana communities.” 

Griot consists of a select group of student assistants along with an advisory committee of faculty, staff, and emeriti to promote its mission.

The Griot Institute works on and produces a plethora of DEI and cultural awareness initiatives throughout the academic year.

The Griot Book Project can be found in the Bucknell Digital Commons. It showcases an array of works of BIPOC writers and academics reflecting and shedding light on Black culture.

For Martin Luther King Jr. Week, Griot headlined a weeklong celebration showcasing lectures, featuring discussions, holding community dinners, and fundraising for a charitable gift drive.

The Griot provides inter-disciplinary opportunities for undergraduate research that focus on projects centered around their overall mission.

They offer their very own study abroad program in the Caribbean (Study Abroad with Griot) for those planning to travel for a tropical and experiential learning experience in the Summer of 2023.

Earlier this year, the Griot held events in the Weis Center of Performing Arts such as dance programs, concerts and speakers. Back in January Valarie Kaur, “civil rights leader, lawyer, award-winning filmmaker, educator, best-selling author, renowned speaker, Sikh American mother, woman warrior” was one of those keynote speakers. With free admission to the event, her talk was on See No Stranger: Revolutionary Love as the Call of our Times. This was followed by a book signing and post-talk discussion.

In the weeks to come, the Griot will be holding weekly events featuring guest lecturers for their annual Spring Series focusing on Technologies of Disruption: Aesthetics, Innovations and Narratives of Blackness. On Feb. 16, the series kicked off with André Brock Jr.: This, That, and a Third: Black Joy as Cyberculture.

Some upcoming events are as follows:

  • Feb. 23: Hanif Abdurraqib.  
  • Mar. 9: Ruha Benjamin.
  • Mar. 23: Sona Jobareth: Transforming Education in Africa

The series will conclude with Boris Willis: Creative Interactive Digital Black Experiences on Mar. 30.

The Griot Institute offers numerous cultural and academic resources at our fingertips. The Griot has a specific online catalog of resources on Race, Racism, and Resistance, “We provide these curated sources as one means of reflecting on the lived experiences of black Americans in the 21st century as shaped and constrained by more than four centuries of racial bias and racism in a democratic society.” They are furthering their endeavors in confronting issues of injustice and systematic discrimination not only at the University but in the world beyond. This not only provides a safe haven for those whose identity aligns with BIPOC culture but an avenue of awareness and vulnerability for those who have little acquaintance with Black history.  

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