Category Archives: Dept News

Randy Weston, Jazzmaster and Beloved Friend of the Department, transitions at 92

On November 18-20, 2010, The Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies brought together scholars and activists, writers and artists, youth and elders, to mark our 40th year on the UMass Amherst campus, as well as to support the exchange of knowledge about the dynamic Black Power Movement period in which academic Black Studies units like ours were established. The conference, Art & Power in Movement 2010 Conference, drew over 400 participants. One of those who participated was Randy Weston. He did not demand payment commensurate of someone of his stature, he did not require VIP treatment (although we extended to him our best hospitality), and throughout, he was most generous with his time, talent, and brilliance.
Photo of participants in the Plenary Session: Forty Years of Black Music in the Pioneer Valley
with John Bracey (Chair), Glen Siegel, Randy Weston, Terry Jenoure, Frederick Tillis, and Tom Reney.

Dr. Randy WestonMusician also appeared in concert at Bowker Auditorium, University of Massachusetts – Amherst, November 18, 2010, at 8:00 PM.  After seven decades as a professional musician Weston remains one of the world’s foremost pianists and composers, a true innovator and visionary. “Weston has the biggest sound of any jazz pianist since Ellington and Monk,” writes Stanley Crouch. In a career that began in the late 1940s, Weston has criss-crossed the globe connecting the African diaspora through sound. “Mr. Weston is a truth seeker who sees a power in music much greater than all of us,” writes The New York Times.

We send our condolences to the Weston family. Brooklyn born on 4/6/1926, to Garveyites, Frank, a barber and restaurateur from Panama, and Vivian, a domestic worker who grew up in Virginia, he lived a long and accomplished life. When he keynoted our conference in 2010, his book, African Rhythms: The Autobiography of Randy Weston had just been published. We will miss this jazz master, Africana Studies pioneer, and black power activist. Let us never fail to remember him in word and deed. —Amilcar Shabazz

Important links:

2010 Conference proceedings

2001 NEA Jazz Master 

“Randy Weston, Pianist Who Traced Roots of Jazz to Africa, Dies at 92,” NYT, Giovanni Russonello
Sept. 1, 2018.–click photo above to go to the article–Randy Weston performing in 1963. His playing and composing emphasized the African roots of jazz. Credit: Chuck Stewart

New Africa House Theater

The cultural hub of people of African descent on the UMass campus and the larger Pioneer Valley community since 1969, is known as New Africa House.We have been steadily working to reestablish the building as a choice destination for knowledge, creative expression, and intercultural exchange and solidarity. Here’s what we have:

  1. The W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies
  2. Augusta Savage Gallery
  3. Brown Paper Studio
  4. Media Africana Project

Details are forthcoming at the links above and additional information will be made available on this blog, especially the calendar of New Afrika House events coming up. The 4th floor, at present, continues to be used as “swing space” for University needs. The UMass Press has moved from it East Experiment Station location at 671 North Pleasant Street to our 4th floor. They will be with us until 2020, while their building is renovated.

This fall the work to our Underground Performance & Media Center was completed. Here are some photos showing the progress of the renovation work to NAH 03 to date:

[foogallery id=”485″]

The New Africa House Theater is beginning to return New Africa House to being a hub for academic and cultural activity related to African people locally and worldwide. Here are some of the dynamic events that have been held in NAT (New African Theater) this fall of 2018:



Black Panther Showtime!

Feb. 15, 2018 * 6:45pm to 9:45pm

Hadley Cinemark Theater at Hampshire Mall 

*Preceded by a commentary from Du Bois Dept. Faculty on Black Panther in relations to Re[pair]ations_Representation, AfricanaScienceFiction, & Afrofuturism*

The worldwide opening for Black Panther is Feb. 16th in the middle of Black History Month.

The Du Bois Department is a co-sponsor of an advanced screening with our students the night before the film is released to the general public. We’ve secured the 144-seat theater in Hadley Cinemark for this unique UMass/5 College screening.

Featured Pre-film Lightning Talks by: 

Demetria Shabazz  

Teaching our Spring 2018 courses “Black 70s Film Representations” and “African American Television Studies.” Also, last fall, she taught “Digital Video Production & Research in the Black Community.

Amilcar Shabazz 

Du Bois Professor, AfroAm Dept. Chair, Black Liberation Theoretician, author of Advancing Democracy & more

Priority reservations for AfroAm majors and minors until Feb. 1. Contact Sharon Coney for details.


A PechaKucha Night on the Black Panther movie and phenomena is being planned along with an Africana-STEM syllabus and an episode of the soon to be launched Africana Studies Today.


Fall 2017–Community Engagement Classes for you!

AFROAM 170–The Grassroots Experience in American Life and Culture I
A civic engagement/community-based service learning class you co-create
(#42677) / Meeting Dates: Wedn 2:30 – 5PM, New Africa House room 302
Prof. Demetria Shabazz


For details on the class go to


Digital Video Production and Research in the Black Community
(#42695) Meeting Dates: Tues 2:30 – 5PM, New Africa House room TBA
Prof. Demetria Shabazz

This course aims to increase the utility and impact of research produced at UMass by creating, adapting, implementing, supporting, and sustaining innovative digital tools and publishing platforms for content delivery, discovery, analysis, data curation, and preservation. It will also engage students in extensive outreach, education, and advocacy to ensure that scholarly work in the Du Bois Department has a global reach and accelerates the pace of research across disciplines.

The course will teach visual methodological research methods and digital camera usage to explore social networks, the inclusion of community partners in research, and black neighborhood and community spaces. We draw on the substantive and methodological experiences of visual researchers using photography, film, and video and the evident challenges of representing such a diversely situated experience as that of African Americans. We will discuss and learn camera use and operation, data collection and analysis, ethical concerns, community partnerships, refinement of research questions, and theoretical use and development of imagery in research regarding the African American community.

I welcome working with graduate students, and undergraduates, Emerging Scholars, and Commonwealth Honors College students. The course can focus on your own research project and/or connect with a new video production of the Du Bois Department we will begin that will air on Amherst Media. Contact Prof. Dee Shabazz at for more details on the course.