State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta has awarded Temple University a $1.3 million state grant to help fund the construction of the university’s new Center for Anti-Racism Research and for upgrades to the Department of Africology and African American Studies.
“Racism remains a threat to our country and our society, so the funds made available to Temple University’s Anti-Racism Center and to upgrade its Africology/African American Studies Department are a valuable investment in the future of Temple University and its impact on the larger community,” Kenyatta said in a statement.
Temple’s state grant was among two awarded by Kenyatta to North Philadelphia for redevelopment projects. The other state grant was awarded to Sharswood 1 LLC for $2.125 million to construct a grocery store and shopping center.
The grants come from the state’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, which is administered by the Office of Budget for the acquisition and construction of regional economic, cultural, civic, recreational and historical improvement projects.
“I’m very pleased to see this grant money being used for two areas that are crucial to our community,” Kenyatta said. “The addition of a supermarket to this section of North Philadelphia is a huge benefit to constituents and other businesses and retailers in the area.”
Professor and chair of Temple’s Department of Africology and African American Studies Molefi Kete Asante said the grant is significant for the university.
“State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta has always been a strong supporter of our department and of North Philadelphia, and we’re very thankful for his work,” he said.
“The state’s appropriation is a significant statement as it affirms their trust, confidence and vision for Temple University,” he said.
“It moves the university into the appropriate space of being the leader in terms of issues and questions of human rights, and the Department of Africology and African American Studies is extremely pleased to see this gratifying response from the commonwealth,” he added.
Temple will begin construction of the Center for Anti-Racism next week as part of the university’s $1 million anti-racist initiative. The center is slated to be complete in spring 2022.
Consultants for the project will be the Ian Smith Design Group and Pride Enterprise. The center will be in Mazur Hall, formerly known as Anderson Hall.
Students and professors in political science, psychology, sociology and urban education departments will be able to lead information workshops and promote social and cultural changes in the center.
The center will also host a variety of events and programs. Faculty and students from other universities in the Philadelphia area will also be able to use the center.
“The Center for Anti-Racism Research intends to bring into existence a cultural component to our quest for a common humanity,” Asante said.
“We will explore questions that relate to all forms of oppression and hierarchy,” he said. “Issues around race, class and gender will be studied and examined as we work to create a much more harmonious community than we’ve had in the past.
“All students, cultures, and communities are invited to come to the center,” he added. “If you’re interested in working on particular issues of race and racism and having them aired, discussed and debated, we’re interested in you.”
Asante was inspired to create the Center for Anti-Racism after the death of George Floyd in May 2020 and by the book, “How to be an Anti-Racist,” written by Ibram X. Kendi.
He said that Temple will have guests of honor to celebrate the opening of the space.
“We’re planning to invite Ibram Kendi, who was a graduate of Temple and worked in our department, to be the guest of honor,” Asante said.
“We also plan to have former Temple president Richard M. Englert,” he said. “After the murder of George Floyd, I personally wrote a letter to President Englert encouraging him to take on some initiatives that I had in my mind.”
“One of the initiatives was to create the Center for Anti-Racism Research,” he added. “He would add some other ideas in terms of bridges to the community programs. But we also have to give credit to him for being open to the idea in his last year as president of Temple University.”
Asante said what he wants people to take away from the center is optimism.
“We want the center to be an uplifting and welcoming space where people feel like all things are possible,” he said.