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Venetria Patton

Venetria Patton, Director of African American Studies and Professor of English, wants to explore the fascination that contemporary writers have with slavery. She explores this in her book The Grasp That Reaches Beyond the Grave: the Ancestral Call in Black Women’s Texts. Patton says, “We still see contemporary books that have characters going back to slave periods, characters still traumatized by experiences of slavery. And we also see a lot of books with ghosts, not just in the background, but talking to characters or commenting on characters’ lives.” Patton looks at how such texts call on the ancestor figure and connect those ancestors to children and motherhood as a way of reclaiming maternal and familial connections.

In an upcoming project, Patton plans to focus on Black speculative fiction. She explains that, “speculative fiction is kind of like science fiction, but it incorporates fantasy, things like ghosts. I’m interested in what happens when Black women’s stories aren’t contained by boundaries of realism.” Patton is still in the early stages of research, but she says, “We gain a better understanding of our society from studying literature. We’re having discussions about being a post-racial society, but in our literature we’re still writing about slavery and working our way through some of the baggage.”

Maurice Simon

Maurice Simon strives to promote a welcoming and empowering community for black men at Purdue. Simon is active in multiple campus organizations and in the greater West Lafayette and Lafayette communities, including Breaking Bread, the Black Male Excellence Network (BMEN), and Men of Color in Human Affairs (MOCHA). Each organization has unique goals, but they all work to create a safe atmosphere for black men on Purdue’s campus, reach out to the local community, promote image building and self esteem, and help students build professional skills.

Simon sees his coursework directly impacting his involvement with these organizations. Dual majoring in African American Studies and Human Services, Simon explains, “Human Services gives me a broader range of understanding how people function emotionally, ecologically, etc.” Simon says this helps him in his volunteer work tutoring local elementary school students in math. As for his first major, Simon explains, “My African American Studies degree is helping me learn histories of myself, and broader histories of other people. I learn who I am and how I relate to the world. I use that information to help shape how I empower people.”