Pan-African Studies ends the Saturday Academy

Let me be as direct as possible and not bury the lead. The University of Louisville’s Department of Pan-African Studies (PAS) is not ending Saturday Academy because we don’t value the program. We are doing so because we cannot get along with the late Dr. J. Blaine Hudson’s wife. It’s just that simple. As department chair, I owe a public explanation if my unit chooses to step away from such a long-standing program. So, here goes.

For those unfamiliar, the Academy is a free community history class founded by Blaine along with then-PAS chairman Dr. Robert Douglas. For many years, Blaine taught it most Saturday mornings until his untimely death in 2013. It had a small but loyal following. The dearth of attendance was unfortunate but was not Blaine’s fault. It actually speaks poorly of Louisville — especially black Louisville. If this is the type of city that pays more attention to a former dope-dealer-turned-profiteering-“community advocate” than to one of the finest minds the city has produced, then it deserves what it gets. As DuBois said in 1930, “Remain hogs!”

Let me be candid — Mrs. Hudson and I do not like one another. I’m completely comfortable with that. I’m sure she is as well. Undoubtedly, she regards me as a self-obsessed, arrogant cuss plagued by tyrannical inclinations. Admittedly, I have an ego. Most talented and aspirational people do, though they loathe admitting it. I’m just honest. While I certainly prefer leading to following, I think I fall a bit short of a 21st century “Papa Doc” Duvalier. I could be wrong.

That said, I see Mrs. Hudson as the latest in a long line of spouses of genuinely great women and men filled with misplaced senses of entitlement. As a result, they are given to onerous behavior if not accorded the deference they feel they deserve.

Despite us not appearing on one another’s Christmas lists, moving PAS away from Saturday Academy is not personal. Since Blaine’s death, Mrs. Hudson has expressed understandable concern for his legacy. Unfortunately, she has often done so in ways that are not only off-putting, but also often downright insulting. For more than a year, U of L, Pan-African Studies and select individuals have all dealt with her periodic japes and condemnations. Some have been private and veiled, others public and muscular.

From open and personal commentary to electronic mail (one in which she skewered me to U of L’s president and provost), she has taken various opportunities to articulate her displeasure. Of course, she has every right to her opinions. She must understand, however, that unnecessarily weaponized tongues and acerbic missives have consequences. Out of respect and love for Blaine, many may be willing to continue to suffer this behavior. I am not among that lot. There are too many other concerns to abide this type of periodic drama. It is simply untenable.

It should be noted that PAS had every intention of continuing Saturday Academy after Blaine’s death. We understood that we could not do it in the same way Blaine did, because he was a singular talent. Our plan was to adapt it to fit our skill set and expand its reach by the 2014-15 school year. We brought innovative ideas, socio-political commitment and 13 Ph.D.s — all willing to push the platform forward … gratis. This was not good enough for Mrs. Hudson. Ultimately, what we did not bring (and will not as long as I am chair) was a willingness to swallow unwarranted hostility, criticism and venom when we were doing our level best. No apologies will be made for that refusal.

So, PAS has concluded that we cannot do Saturday Academy to Mrs. Hudson’s satisfaction. Whether we agree or not, we certainly understand that they have a sense of ownership of Saturday Academy. To allay their criticisms and concerns, we are now giving this program to them and their supporters so they’ll have the opportunity to produce a product they see as viable. Henceforth, PAS cedes all ties to Saturday Academy. We will offer no programming on Saturdays to compete with what Mrs. Hudson and her compatriots may offer. We will offer no critique, no commentary and no quarter. All we offer are well wishes.

As always — do not leave the people in the hands of fools! MAINTAIN!

Visit Ricky L. Jones at rickyljones.com.