On Aug. 31, Andaiye Qaasim joined NC State’s African American Cultural Center as its assistant director. After a year-long search, the center found its perfect fit and is now fully staffed.
Andaiye Qaasim attended Spelman College, a historically Black, all-female university for her undergraduate degree and received her doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania in anthropology of music. She is interested in how different aspects of culture can be integrated into the student experience.
“I'm really passionate about intersecting community with higher ed and arts and culture,” Qaasim said. “I think these are all domains that should be integrated and working together. So that's kind of how I think about this work and envision this work. I'm so excited to be a part of this team here who's super dynamic and creative.”
Qassim said her experience growing up as Black student led her to the field of higher education.
“I was often one of very few Black students,” Qaasim said. “So that experience of having to navigate what we call predominantly white, or historically white, institutions was challenging. I had to do that since I was a preschooler. So I think that really stuck with me ... going through those challenges really made me passionate about also helping other students, particularly Black students, or students of color, or any student, really develop and navigate those institutions, and really thinking about how we not just reform or add on to things in institutions, but actually transform [them].”
Qaasim’s role as assistant director means she is responsible for helping plan big upcoming events like the center’s 30th anniversary celebration, Harambee, and collaborating with other centers on campus.
“We don't want to be siloed or isolated away,” Qaasim said. “So the beauty about this campus is that I think there are a lot of people across the campus cultural centers, who would love to, and do, collaborate. So also thinking about new ways in which we can forge those partnerships, and really expand our presence across campus and expand that work across campus … I would say that's what my work pretty much will be.”
Angela Gay, the center’s director, said Qaasim’s love for students is evident and what makes her such a great fit for the center.
“You have to love students, no matter who they are, no matter how they identify, whether they're Black or nonblack,” Gay said. “If a student walks in the center, I don't care who they are, we need to treat them with love and hope, grace and compassion. Andaiye is all of those things. And because we are the African American Culture Center, and our focus is specifically on the Black experience, and it's important to note that she does love Black folks, and it's evident in her research and her practice, and her consulting work.”
Qaasim said the African American Cultural Center is important because it provides a space to affirm students who may not get affirmation in other areas on campus.
“This center is so important, because for most anyone, anyone who's lived as a Black person in the United States, you know that you're not necessarily maybe affirmed when you enter a space, or maybe it's not conscious,” Qaasim said. “So spaces like this are so important, because you're centered. Your history is centered, your needs, your identity, your culture, and again, being Black, being African American, being African, being Caribbean, you know, there's many, many identities under this umbrella; we're not a monolith. I think that's super significant, particularly on a campus where in your day to day, as a student going from class to class, you may not necessarily see that visibility of other Black peers or staff or faculty, but we're here.”
Gay said she is excited to have Qaasim join the center’s team and had a hard time finding the words to adequately describe Qaasim.
“I don't think these words are going to do justice to what I’d really like to say, but I'm gonna go with: dreamer, enthusiastic and gentle,” Gay said.
Students can find more information about the African American Cultural Center and its upcoming events on its website.