The Pan African Cultural Heritage Institute has appointed as its first director Dr. Phyllis Gray Ray, Chair and Professor of Sociology/Criminology at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, FL.The Pan African Cultural Heritage Institute was founded by Rev. Dr. Eugene Franklin, chair of the Florida Black Chamber of Commerce, as a part of the Pan African American Cultural Heritage to educate, celebrate and promote the culture and connectivity of the people of the African Diaspora. Dr. Yvonne Freeman, the owner of the Alliance for Global Education and Leadership in Atlanta will serve as chair of the Institute.
As director of the Institute, Dr. Gray Ray, who has produced approximately 20 professional research final reports, and has presented nearly 60 papers at national and international conferences, will be in charge of providing documentation and research related to black culture. A foremost researcher and veteran in getting needed funding, Dr. Gray Ray has generated close to 10 million dollars in external research funds. Her research has been funded by such noted Organizations as the National Science Foundation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U. S. Department of Education, the Kellogg Foundation and various departments of the government of Mississippi.
Dr. Gray Ray will use her expertise in funding to help with some of the Institute’s projects. In addition to cultural heritage and cultural commerce research, some of the goals of the Institute include the launch of the Leadership Academy which will serve to develop leaders and cultural ambassadors with character and integrity. The Institute has already set up youth academies, a speaker’s bureau and an arts and entertainment department will do various conferences, workshops and seminars and festivals related to black cultural awareness. The Institute will help to enhance the platforms and visibility of cultural heritage artists in various cities, thereby contributing to the livelihood of the artists.
For the past 30 plus years, in addition to her research, Dr. Gray Ray, the founding Director of the National Black Graduate Student Association, Inc., has used her professorship to teach about the African American Experience in areas of race relations, classism, the justice system and crime and several other topics related to race. Her administrative leadership skills include having once served as a coordinator, director, department head, dean, and a vice-president where her social and scholarly network has spanned across the African Diaspora. She is the author of “From Imagining to Understanding the African American Experience” which will be the basis of the core curriculum of the Institutes Leadership Academy.
Dr. Gray Ray wrote this book to aid individuals in developing their “sociological imaginations” and to broaden their understanding of the “Sociology of the Black Experience,” particularly in the United States’ multicultural society. Her book provides a unique sociological exploration of the African American experience and how it has been specifically impacted by culprits such as slavery and racism. “The reality of slavery and racism is deeply threaded throughout the fabric of the current state of African Americans and this threading must be understood,” explains Dr. Gray Ray.
Dr. Gray Ray says that “From Imagining to Understanding the African American Experience” is applicable to the goal of the Institutes’ Leadership Academy since the focus of the academy will be teaching the next generation of leaders from a cultural perspective by using proven historical experiences as a teaching foundation. She hopes that the book will serve as inspiration to prepare individuals to appreciate their responsibilities in seeking out opportunities that will make their communities a better place.
“Individuals and young adults who are interested in participating in the Pan African Cultural Heritage Institute’s “Leadership Academy” must be trained about the book as a part of its core of the curriculum. I hope that the Institute will have a profound and lasting impact on today’s youth, blacks in general and other races,” says Dr. Gray Ray. She intends to lead the Institute in such a way to accommodate African American students who still find themselves subjected to segregated and inferior schools that are located within their own neighborhoods.
Dr. Gray Ray knows firsthand about inadequate schooling because,even though she was bright as a student, she was often overlooked and unsupported in a white school system. “The importance of educating “Negros” (African Americans) “the right way,” was first boldly introduced by William Edward Burghardt (W.E.B.) DuBois and Carter G. Woodson.”
W.E.B. DuBois who advocated that blacks are going to have to save and educate themselves, was a crusader for the creation of a black college educated elite group leaders and teachers to educate the masses with an emphasize on heritage. Woodson, known as the “Father of Black History,” wrote the book “The Mis-education of the Negro” where he blasted the educational system in America, and described the vicious cycle that occurs when mis-educated people graduate from schools, and then go on to teach and mis-educate others. Both of these through leaders believed that black children are denied the real truth about their race and culture. Both scholars were ahead of their time, and contributed monumental knowledge through their writings, and their message is still very relevant today.
“If some of their knowledge teachings had been rigorously applied especially throughout the black community, perhaps the outcome for Blacks in terms of education would have been a lot better,” says Dr. Gray Ray. “The Pan African Cultural Heritage Institute embraces these men’s philosophies, and hopes to fill gaps within the current educational system. My hope is that the Institute will have a global impact and contribute to the re-education of Americans and the Global Diaspora in terms of contributions of black people.”
The philosophies and teachings of these great men will be incorporated in the curriculum and mission of the Institute, which is one of the basis for Rev. Franklin founding it. Dr. Gray Ray will work with Rev. Franklin as well as Dr. Freeman towards accomplishing these and other goals and missions of the Institute. Other goals of the Institute include working to improve and alleviate disparities not only in education, but also regarding cultural commerce issues that affects economic development in African Americans communities in particular.
With the National Black Chamber of Commerce as a strategic partner and member of the Pan African Alliance, the Institute has a goal of contributing to cultural economic development. The Institute will support and work with other chambers of commerce, state and local governments, community and economic development groups of the US and global African Diaspora. Colleges, including HBCUs; institutes of higher learning, schools, churches and faith based initiatives, as well as corporations and organizations have started partnering with the Pan African Institute to help in the preservation, education and promotion of cultural heritage and cultural economic development.
For more information and continued updates about the Pan African Cultural Heritage Institute, please visit panafricanchi.org.