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Langston Exchange

Each year, students from Oklahoma's Langston University travel to Africa looking to give back while searching for answers from their ancestral home. It's a summer study abroad program that instills a sense of self-pride in everyone who attends.
Langston Exchange

Langston students

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Langston University

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Show 0932: Langston Exchange

Air date: August 9, 2009



Rob:  Well African students leaving their country in search of a brighter future for their community is a two-way street.  Each year, students from Oklahoma’s Langston University travel to Africa looking to give back while also searching for answers from their ancestral home.  It’s a summer study abroad program, and one that instills a sense of self-pride in everyone who attends.  Once again, here’s our Dwan Brumfield.

Dwan:  This is The Gambia, West Africa; one of the ten poorest countries in the world.  But ask anyone who has been to the country, and they will tell you it is a strip of paradise.

African music.

Africa is a paradise and you see happy people.

African music.

And you are greeted with warm hands, you know, “welcome home” this is important.

Dwan:  Willard Pitts has been traveling to The Gambia with Langston University, a historically black university, as a part of the Summer Study Abroad program, and he says the trip takes the students back to where slavery began.

And that’s why black people in the U S have British names; Cuba, Spanish names; Brazil, Portuguese names; Haiti or West Indies, French names.

Willard Pitts:  Most African-American children, unfortunately, grow-up thinking that their heritage started in 1865 or 1420, the beginning or ending of slavery.  And, I don’t think that you can define a people by one event.  You know, people were here in Africa long before the slave trade started.  And for a university to go back and reach that and try to recapture some of that, fill in the missing blanks, it’s extremely important.

Dwan:  Pitts says the Langston program is a finishing school for students, and under the leadership of Dr. Mary Mbosowo, who is the chair of the program, the curriculum picks up what the westernized education leaves out about the history of African-Americans.

Pitts:  This westernized education; some of our students don’t even know how many countries are in Africa.  So by the time we get into Africa, especially students of African descent need to know what happened to the continent, even after grandparents left.

Pitts:  We need something in the world for African people, the diaspora throughout the world, to hang their hats on so that they can say, ‘this is what I am’.  And until we are really able to come back to Africa and deal with Africa, then the word African-American is a misnomer.

Dwan:  Dealing with their heritage is not the only activity on the students’ schedule.  Outside of class time, the students volunteer almost daily.

Dwan:  Candy Page, a business school graduate of Langston University, traveled to Africa with the university in 2008.  She says, if it wasn’t for her studying abroad, she probably wouldn’t be as strong as she is today.

Candy Page:  For me, it was kind of like I can face anything after that, you know.  If you can survive in Africa, for two to three weeks, trust me you can go anywhere in the world; and that’s kind of the attitude that I came back with.

Dwan:  That “go get’em” attitude is what got Page a career with the Federal Aviation Administration working alongside Dr. Gwendolyn Flowers, who is a managing economist for the FAA.  Flowers says Page is a motivated, self-learner who is a fit for the future plans of the FAA.

Gwendolyn Flowers:  So in bringing Candy on, as well as other young people, what we’re doing is we’re looking to the future to establish expertise and a knowledge base.  Candy sort of represents a next generation of the future air traffic controller.

Dwan:  A new generation representing Langston University, Oklahoma, and the world.