Johnson C. Smith University - Guangdong Baiyun University

Center for Race and Culture




This center was very recently established in March of 2016. As we wait for exciting details from this new network member, you can read this press release from


Johnson C. Smith University’s College of Arts and Letters is establishing an American Center for Culture and Race at Guangdong Baiyun University in Guangzhou, China. The center, which is funded by a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Department of State, is scheduled to officially open March of 2016. [. . . .] As a historically Black university, JCSU’s center will be the only American Center in China to focus on race. 

[. . . .]

Guangdong Baiyun University is matching the grant in kind, providing space, faculty and cost-sharing for the center. Dr. Matthew DeForrest, interim chair of the Department of Languages and Literature, is traveling to GBU Dec. 13-19 to purchase computer equipment and oversee the preliminary set-up of a digital and hard-copy library, which will feature film, books and music from before the big band era to hip-hop. The center will mostly be an activities and gathering space, using all Apple-based technology, with stations where students can connect to the American experience. 

“The African-American experience provides context for American culture as a whole,” DeForrest said. “Making that context available for Chinese audiences will help put into perspective the complexities of events like Ferguson, for example. The center is a resource for people who want to gain that level of understanding.” 

There will be African-American art on the walls, African-American literature and a lecture hall where speakers will discuss topics in English that will help Chinese students understand culture and race. Quarterly podcasts, videos and lectures from the center are available to JCSU students on iTunes. U.S. students and faculty from Charlotte (primarily JCSU) who are taking Chinese language courses will also participate in exchange programs to intern and cross-pollinate ideas. 

[. . . .]

“It’s going to be exciting,” Jones said. “Our political system is built to evolve and change, and there is no better example of that than race. A people goes from chattel slavery to Jim Crow, through the Civil Rights Movement to Black Lives Matter. With the exception of the Civil War, most countries would not be able to absorb that kind of societal change without tearing apart. It’s arguable that to understand American culture, one must understand our relation to race.”