Africana Studies

Join our vibrant community and explore the rich diversity of African and African American social, cultural, political, and historical development.

102A Lippitt Hall, 5 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 02881


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Meet Shawn


antoineShawn Antoine II is the latest member of the Africana Studies community, adding our program as a minor to compliment his already packed schedule as a double Economics and Public Relations major. We sat down to talk about his current involvement, past achievements, and his future plans for the entertainment industry. He gave his insider prediction for the Rams’ upcoming football season as an added bonus.

Shawn first became acquainted with Africana Studies through a friend in Sankofa, who recommended he take a class with Dr. Norman Barber. Shawn took the recommendation, and found it transformative. “Once I took his first class I became enlightened, more conscious about our African community and our African history. Most of what you learn in history classes is about slavery; you don’t get to hear how blacks have contributed to major civilizations throughout the world, about how black history started way before that. It’s really enlightening to learn what blacks have contributed to society.”

Shawn was so inspired by the classes he took, including one on African American Superheroes and another on Sub-Saharan Africa, that encourages all of his friends to take them, even if they have a different major, even if they’re afraid they won’t fit in. “A lot of students think Africana is just for black students, but it’s not. It’s really about enlightening everyone about what blacks have contributed to society. And it’s important to diversify your views. It can impact you as a student and a person. It helps you become a more well-rounded person. A lot of my friends are hesitant at first. They don’t know if they’ll fit in, or if it’s worth taking a class if it’s not their major, but I tell them to take it as a gen ed. I would recommend Dr. Barber to any major.”


When he’s not busy recruiting fellow students to experience all Africana has to offer, Shawn plays football for the Rhody Rams. He’s been playing football since freshman year, recruited from Harlem, New York. “We’re gonna have a much better season” he assured me with a smile. “Younger players are grown up now, more experienced. We should have a way better season.”

It came as no surprise to me that Shawn was also voted to be an on campus representative for the Student Senate. Shawn’s campaign slogans were “Get Your Voice Out” and “Let Your Voice Be Heard,” which seems directly related to his passion for promoting awareness and activism; Shawn is also a documentary style film maker. In 2016, he won the Africana Studies Innovation Award and was celebrated as one of Africana’s most promising young students at the first annual Africana Studies Black History Month Mentoring Dinner, for his first film The Movement: Black Live Matter. As Shawn describes the film, “It’s taking place at a protest in New York City. I’m getting interaction with the protestors, explaining the Black Lives Matter movement. I tell a lot of my friends the reason I named it The Movement: Black Lives Matter, is because it’s our civil rights movement. Now you have a bunch of students and colleges all across the country doing what’s right. If I can be a person fighting for what’s right, I need to be involved. Instead of just saying it, I need to take steps. How can I be involved? What can I do? I think everyone has their own niche, what they’re good at. Some people don’t know what they’re good at. You gotta find it. You should definitely try to get involved.”

The keynote speaker for the dinner, Dr. Tarra Evans, former South Kingstown resident and physician at Dana-Farber Institute, remarked that the film is “outstanding” and it is important work and that is good to see young African American scholars being acknowledged for their work. Africana Studies director, Dr. Vanessa Wynder Quainoo states, “Shawn’s film demonstrates great initiative. It helps everyone to listen to and understand the voices propelling the Black Lives Matter movement. Africana Studies is delighted to award him the 2016 Innovation Award.”

Shawn geared his film not just to students, but to the public in general, hoping to share information about the #BlackLivesMatter movement. So far, it sounds like he’s accomplished that goal: “A lot of students that I tell about my films liked it. After watching it they understand that black lives matter is not just about black people. It helped raise awareness and open up their views.”

Shawn is currently working on another film which focuses on India’s poverty and how things are getting better. He expects that film to be out in mid-April. Such dedication will put Shawn in a great position for his future goal to work in the entertainment industry. When I asked if he could more specific about those goals, Shawn emphasized he was still open to all possibilities. That makes sense, especially when you remember that in spite all of his accomplishments and on-campus involvement, Shawn is only a sophomore. So instead of dreaming about the future, I asked Shawn to help me connect the present and the past. Why is he so inspired by Africana Studies? How does it relate to his film work? He eagerly replied: “It makes me more proud to be black. It builds my confidence. This has been done before. I can do this. If those black people were able to do so much despite all those obstacles, then what’s stopping me now? It inspires me to come up with better ideas. Learning about the people that have impacted society that you don’t hear about on a daily basis, like the pioneers in the black community, and people that lead social movements and have made an impact in America and throughout the world, it just motivates me altogether.”

Those motivations seem to know no bounds. After a career in the entertainment industry, Shawn also sees graduate school and a professorship in his future. As he considered the vast potential before him, potential which is richly informed by the diversity of his Economics/Public Relations/Africana educational background, Shawn notes with humor: “At some point I definitely wanna go to grad school, hopefully get my PhD. Hopefully become a professor. I don’t know what field. But professor sounds good.”

As our interview came to a close, I asked Shawn if he had any closing statements. His response exemplifies his enthusiasm, passion, and drive: “Be on the lookout for more work from me.”







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