The African American Studies Study Abroad Program began in 2012 with Roneka Matheny. During the Maymester, she took a group of students to the island of Barbados. The following academic year, I was asked to continue the program. Instead of organizing a subsequent trip in the summer of 2013, with the assistance of Mary Battle, I had the pleasure of taking a planning trip to Barbados. Prior to my travels, Mary Battle connected me with Rhoda Green, the Honorary Barbados Consul to South Carolina who resides in Charleston, SC. She provided me with significant information on the history of the connectedness between Charleston and Barbados, along with providing me the names of several individuals to contact and plan to meet while in Barbados. As I embarked to Barbados, I had the privilege of meeting with several stakeholders who were vested in seeing the program continue as it did in 2012. I met with Janet Caroo, Marketing Officer and Regional Student Development at UWI-Cavehill, and Kevin Farmer, Deputy Director of the Barbados Museum & Historical Society. This planning session provided us the opportunity to work out details for the study abroad trip (e.g., costs; classroom space; dorm space; tours, etc.). Upon my return to Charleston, Dr. Conseula Francis and I created a planning committee that included the relaunching of the trip for the summer of 2014. During the 2013-2014 academic year, we actively promoted the trip through the Center for International Education, along with emails to the African American Studies minors as well as other students enrolled in our classes.
We billed the program as a bridge to Rhoda Green’s Carolina-Barbados Foundation, by highlighting the social, economic, political, and cultural link between Charleston and Barbados. Barbados has a unique cultural history with the low country. From the plantation life to architecture, there are relics of historic Charleston that owes its existence to Barbados.
Our recruitment efforts resulted in securing ten CofC students for the three-week study abroad trip. The program was organized into two sections. The first week students remained in Charleston, SC exploring the local history of Charleston, and its link to Barbados, by visiting Charlestowne Landing and Magnolia Plantation. Students also had an opportunity to meet with Mrs. Rhoda Green, who provided an in-depth history of the Carolinas-Barbados connection. The remaining two weeks were spent in Barbados where students took 6-credit hours (Comparative Black Identity; Blackface in the Global Imaginary); participated in several island tours exploring the local history (e.g., Barbados Museum of History; Mount Gay Rum Tours; St. Nicholas Abbey; Speighstown; walking tour of historic Bridgetown). Additionally, students were also able to explore the island as a group, void of professor oversight. During this time, students were able to shop, meet and interact with the locals, and connect classroom course information with the physical, tangible world of Barbados.
As an assignment, students were required to make daily posts on a created blog to chronicle their group outings and adventures. The videos below are examples of our experiences on the beautiful island of Barbados.
In the upcoming academic year, Roneka Matheny plans to relaunch the AAST Study Abroad program. She plans to create a broader, more comprehensive program where students would spend two weeks in Charleston, again exploring the cultural and historical links to the Caribbean; two weeks in Barbados; and two weeks in Jamaica. Although course proposals are in the preliminary stages, the two purported courses would focus on the use of music as a form of social protest (e.g., Bob Marley) and on the shared Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade History.
Dr. Anthony D. Greene