What Is Black Studies? The Shaping of an Academic Discipline

Black Studies is a relatively new academic field. It spans across disciplines encompassing the social sciences such as history, sociology, psychology, and political science as well as the humanities, including music, art, literature, and religious studies. Different academic institutions may use different terms to describe it depending on their particular focus, but, whether it goes by the name Black Studies, African-American Studies, or Africana Studies, the discipline is generally rooted in a radical movement for fundamental education reform.

The discipline of Black Studies is a direct challenge to the European centered framework and its justification of the subjugation, enslavement, and colonization of African people and their descendants throughout the world. The comments of well-known 18th century philosopher David Hume are fairly typical as an example of how Africa and its people were framed in the eyes of the European colonizers. As a footnote in his Essay and Treatises written in 1768, he writes:

I am apt to suspect the negroes… to be naturally inferior to the white. There never was a civilized nation of any other complexion than white, nor even any individual eminent either in action or speculation. No ingenious manufacturers amongst them, no arts, no sciences. (Harris 1987, 19)

The need to reclaim one’s heritage in the face of such a disparaging mainstream narrative is at the very core of the development of black studies as an academic discipline. As such, self-definition becomes critical. The different departments that have of sprung up throughout the country do vary in the terms they use to describe themselves. Whether they go by the name Black Studies, Africana Studies, or African-American Studies, the process of naming is very deliberate and carries a particular meaning for the individuals who undertook to establish the various academic departments. The different focus that each of these departments may have makes naming a matter of political control, which is a critical principle of self-determination and self-definition.

“African American Studies” focuses on persons of African descent throughout the Americas, including North, Central, and South America, the Caribbean, as well as northern countries like New Newfoundland and Greenland. So, the term, “African American” makes “African American Studies” a more historically specific branch of the discipline that describes the experience of Africans in the western hemisphere with a relatively narrow lens. (Colon 2003) While there tends to be some focus on the continent of Africa there is no specific focus on persons of African descent in Europe or Asia.

The term, “Black Studies” represents a more politicized vision of the discipline. The institutionalization of Black Studies – that is, the formal establishment of Black Studies within academic settings – came about largely as a result of what was known in the 1960s as the “Black Power” movement. (Colon 2003) Malcolm X and The Nation of Islam, in an attempt to reclaim their sense of self-definition urged the “so called Negro” to become “Black.” Black became redefined as a popular, a positive affirmation of self.

“Black Studies” reflects the politicization of the discipline in that it is largely aimed at the discovery and dissemination of information pertaining to what Black people have undergone and achieved, and the use of education and knowledge to defend and vindicate the race against its detractors. This reframing was a symbolic victory for the masses of Black people, but it also carries with it certain problems and challenges.

Like Black Studies, Africana Studies is not limited to the experience of persons of African descent on the continent of Africa or the western hemisphere, but is much broader and focuses on the African Diaspora as a whole. (Colon 2003) The African Diaspora of refers to the disbursement of persons of African descent throughout the globe. It is well known that persons of African descent had a presence in ancient Greece and Rome as well as widespread contact between Africans and Asians via the Indian Ocean. There is some evidence to suggest that there was a pre-Columbian disbursement of Africans across the Atlantic well before 1492.

Systematic and widespread dispersal of Africans throughout the globe, however, took place on a far more massive scale in the past 400 years as a result of the Atlantic slave trade and the subsequent colonization of the continent of Africa. Africana studies focuses on the Pan-African links and experiences of persons of African descent not only on the continent of Africa and in the Americas, but in places like England, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, as well as Russia and various other parts of Europe and Asia. It does so, however, without the political context that you find in the “Black Power” movement.

Aside from the terminology, Black Studies, African American Studies, and Africana Studies are similar in that they came about largely in response to a systematic misrepresentation of the experience of persons of African descent in such a way as to popularize the notion that they are inferior. It is in response to miseducation, which, as Malcolm X explained, has redirected the world view of black people in such a way as to prevent them from identifying with their true history, culture self-awareness, and well-being; and diseducation, by which black people have been deprived of access to education altogether. (Colon 2003) As such, a core value in Black Studies is an underlying social mission that requires the application of theory to methodology and the combination of knowledge to activism toward the practical resolution of issues in the Black community. That is the reason why Black Studies always has historically been so closely aligned with activism and social justice.


Colon, Alan. “Black Studies: Historical Background, Modern Origins, and Development Priorities for the Early Twenty First Century.” The Western Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 27, 2003: 145-155.

Harris, Joseph E. Africans and their History. New York: Mentor Publications, 1987.

See African Elements (Episode 1: What is Black Studies?). 2011. www.africanelements.org.

NREMT Study Tools


Study Time

Provide plenty of time in advance to study. NREMT exams are not something you want to cram for. Make a schedule and develop a habit of studying for the NREMT during these times. Allocate the beginning of each study session when you are the most alert to the areas you have the most difficulty. It’s good practice to study that night, the material you discussed that day. If you attend an evening NREMT class, study immediately the following morning.

Audio Reviews

Audio Reviews such as those you can put on an MP3 player or play on a CD in your car can be a great resource for review. The repetition of concepts and theories will really reinforce what you learn during class and study from your notes and books. These are exceptional study tools for all those times when you would ordinarily not be able to study for the NREMT such as in the car, working out, running, etc.

Study Sheet

One very helpful tool you can create while you study is to summarize and outline the material to be used later as a study sheet. This accomplishes two things; it provides you with a quick, summary of the NREMT material for review at a later time, and by outlining and re-writing your material, it reinforces what your learned that day. Anytime you re-write a concept in your own words, it really reinforces those concepts.


Flashcards work very well, especially when you need to memorize terms or simple concepts such drug actions, indications and dosages. The use of flashcards will really enhance your NREMT study time. Not to mention, flashcards printed on notecards are easy to take with you wherever you go so you can utilize downtime to study such as when you travel, during lunch, etc. When creating your NREMT study flashcards, be sure to put them into categories for easy “grab and go” review.

Utilize Your Instructors

Don’t limit the knowledge of your instructor to just the amount of time you spend with them in class. Most instructors are more than happy to help you outside of class, especially if you are struggling with a particular topic. With the NREMT, it’s imperative that you fully comprehend all of the complex topics that you will be expected to know for the NREMT exam.

NREMT Study Groups

This is HUGE! If you don’t already have a study group together, get one. Keep two things in mind when you are seeking study partners. First, look for those that seem to “Get It” in class and those that live close to you. This should be obvious. It does you no good to study with people that are really struggling unless you feel that by helping them you yourself will gain more knowledge. They say that if you can explain a concept, they you really understand it. Secondly, find people that leave near you. You will be more likely to maintain a study schedule if you live near each other as opposed to one of you having to drive an hour or more each time you plan on studying. Also, keep your NREMT study sessions to a reasonable amount of time and have a plan on what you will cover. I like 2-3 hours.

Practice Tests

I put Practice Tests at the bottom for a reason. While I think practice tests can be helpful, I feel that students often rely on them too much. They take a few practice tests from a book they bought, do pretty well, and think they’re done. This can really give a person false hope. I do feel that practice tests are great for helping to identify the areas you need to focus your study. With that being said, the most effective way to pass the NREMT is to simply know your stuff. I believe that combining a good practice test with a good audio NREMT paramedic study guide, flashcards and study sheets are the most effective.


Before You Start

Since you won’t be able to review the entire exam before you start and you are required to answer each question before moving on to the next one, you need to be prepared for anything they throw at you. I recommend utilizing the blank sheet of paper and pencil that they provide. Use this paper to quickly write down any little thing you think you might need to remember, such as drug drip formulas, the Parkland Burn Formula, the Rule of Nines for burns, etc. Do this as soon as you enter the testing area, before you “start” the exam. The exam is timed and you don’t want to be rushed.

Read Each Question Carefully

You’ve heard this a thousand times before, read each question carefully before answering. Are they asking for “everything except” or “the most” or “the least”. Make sure you understand what it is they want to know before you answer the question. Repeat it back to yourself if you need to.

Eliminate Incorrect Answers

After you read the question and know what it is exactly that they are asking for, eliminate as many answers as you can. This is often times very difficult during the NREMT Exam because this exam wants you to know the “best” answer. You will find that many that more than one choice would be an acceptable answer. You need to determine which is the “best”.

Scene Safety and Personal Safety First

This seems to always get people. A question may be something like, “You and your partner are the first to arrive at a house fire. Upon your arrival there is a person lying in the front yard that appears to have just come out of the burning house and multiple bystanders are gathering in the street.” What is your first course of action? A) Provide life saving measures to the person in the yard B) Secure the scene by placing “Do Not Cross” tape along the front of the yard C) Wait for firefighters to arrive D) Call for additional help. My answer? I have no idea, but one very similar to this was on my NREMT exam. I feel a good argument can be made for any of these. These are the type of questions you need to be really careful with.

Pay Attention To The “Least Invasive” Answer

This is a great rule for the NREMT Exam. Often times, test takers want to “use their newly acquired skills” when in reality, the most appropriate treatment is often times the least invasive. Don’t let the exam drag you into choosing “Assist Ventilations With High Flow O2” on patient with a low oxygen saturation when “Provide O2 via a Non-Rebreather” is a choice. Most of the time, the least invasive is the correct answer.

In summary, nothing can take the place of good preparation. Allocate sufficient study time, utilize study groups, flashcards, audio paramedic study guides, cheat sheets and then follow up with a practice exam to see how you’re doing.

Study Preparation

Why preparation is important?

Most students typically begin their preparation by sitting down in front of the TV or bed and either passively start reading a textbook or actively writing out notes or completing an assignment. Although this is probably the most common approach that most students take, it is also one of the worst.

To start with, the study environment is not conducive to effective studying. The Television is a distraction and the bed, although comfortable for sleeping, doesn’t provide the body enough support to study.

Preparation also includes gathering all your study material together and having it handy and all in one spot. The bedroom or TV room isn’t typically a place where the study materials are, and if the student has to get up every few minutes to find something they need, it wastes valuable study time and detracts from their study focus.

Even when the student has all their study materials together and is using an adequate study environment there is still more preparation that must take place. The mind also needs to be ready.

By ensuring that you are in the right state of mind, you can dramatically increase your study efficiency. By spending a few minutes to change your state of mind before you begin studying, you can save yourself countless hours of inefficient studying.

We have all experienced inefficient studying. This is when you try reading a passage over and over again and it still doesn’t make sense. A student who studies inefficiently have to repeatedly review information before it sinks in. By getting yourself in the right ‘state of mind’ and those alpha brain waves move, you’ll be able to study efficiently.

When a student doesn’t take the time to prepare for their studying time, they may begin to study inefficiently in other ways. Inefficient studying has many compound effects including:

– contributing to procrastination

– increases academic stress

– causes a fear of failure due to inefficient studying

– causing a feeling of being overwhelmed, and

– creating an overall negative association with studying

By spending just a few minutes to properly prepare before studying, you can improve your study efficiency and make it a more enjoyable activity.

Preparation goals:

Your preparation goals are simple; ensure that your mind and body are relaxed and your study environment is adequate before you begin your study session. You will want to create the best state of mind for learning. To do this you will need a quite, comfortable, study environment and you must also feel relaxed, alert, focused and in the alpha state of mind. Preparing your study environment The first step is ensuring that your place of study is adequate for your needs. The environment in which you study has a direct impact on your study performance and you will need to ensure that they are right for you. Here are some questions that you should ask yourself:

The biggest mistake most students make when preparing is their study environment. Your study environment is your own personal study sanctuary. It should only be used for studying, but for many people this isn’t an option. So they resort to other poor study environments such as school cafeterias, coffee shops, in front of the Television, on your bed, in the kitchen, etc. The list can go on.

Typically the best place is a separate room just for studying. For many people this is impossible, so the second best choice would be to have a desk in your bedroom without any external distractions, such as a television. Public venues like library or school study rooms and university study rooms are all good alternatives.

A back-up study place is also helpful for those times where your primary environment is not suitable. Rather than wasting time looking for another study environment, have your backup handy for those odd occasions. A backup study place can also be any of the aforementioned areas.

Comfort is a very important preparation step and because studying is a very sedentary activity, comfort should be a premium requirement. Spend the extra money on a correct height, ergonomic table and chair. Ergonomically designed equipment can relieve the muscle strain and fatigue associated with sitting for long periods of time. Also consider the other factors in your study environment.

The lighting in your study environment has a dramatic impact on your ability to study. There are generally three types of light sources which have three distinct light spectrums; natural light, fluorescent light and incandescent light.

The very best is natural light. If this is not available then incandescent light is the next best alternative which is light which is given off as a result of being heated. Most home use this type of lighting. The poorest form of lighting is fluorescent that caused by exposure to radiation and these are most commonly found in institutions and should be avoided if possible. Preparing your mind Your mind and body function best when they are in top form. However, people generally focus more on body well being and forget to relax the mind. Your brain is where all the action will be taking place when you are studying, so it is just as important to prepare your mental state of mind as it is your body. Visualization Although visualization is an ability we have had for thousands of years, it has only been through recent research in this area that it has noted its benefits.

Most of the studies involve athletics and their improvement through the use of visualization. Some studies have shown that by visualization alone, some participants were able to increase their muscle bulk by up to 40%. This is without even lifting iron.

Visualization is a powerful and simple technique. It involves ‘visualizing’ the activity you want to do. Gymnasts frequently use this technique to help them learn a new move. They will use visualization to play the move in slow motion in their mind detailing every single move and in multiple angles until they feel comfortable with it. Visualization has allowed many gymnasts to perfect their moves without even being in the gym.

Visualization is also a technique that can be used for study preparation. It can be used by the student to visualize:

-The quantity of work that will be completed during the study session.

– By visualising being in a relaxed state during studying.

– By visualising the material and depth of coverage that needs to be studied.

Contingencies in the Reserve Study

We are right in the middle of the reserve study busy season and are again being asked by a number of our clients whether or not it is permissible for them to have contingencies within their reserve study.

In some Associations, this is just a given. In other Associations, there are member factions that will react quite strongly against the inclusion of contingency in the reserve study.

There are a number of issues to consider when addressing the issue of adding a contingency factor into a reserve study.

1. Is a contingency reserve permissible under state statute?

2. Is a contingency reserve permissible under the Association’s governing documents?

3. Is a contingency line item permissible under tax law?

If you’re determined to have a contingency factor within your reserve study, once you get past the above issues, you then have a decision to make as to HOW contingencies will be included within the reserve study.

1. Will contingency be a separate line item expense within the study? If so:

-will it be a flat dollar amount?

-will it be a percent of current year expenditures projected in future years?

-will it be a percent of reserve fund assessments?

-will it be the excess operating income that is transferred annually from the operating budget?

2. If contingency is not treated as a line item within the report, can it then be factored into the study as a percentage of future expenditures?

And the last question:

3. Will your reserve software support the reserve calculation method you prefer?

As you can see, there a number of factors to consider in response to the simple question we are often asked of “Can we add a contingency factor to our reserve study?”

Some reserve preparers are adamantly opposed to ever including contingencies within the reserve study, perhaps because of the multiple unknowns identified above. Other reserve preparers don’t seem to have a particular problem with contingencies, but generally have a specific manner in which they prefer to present the contingencies.

Let’s take a look at each of these issues identified above:

1. State statutes – The answer to this is not as transparent as we may wish, simply because most state statutes are silent on the issue of contingencies. Statutes primarily address the physical common area components for which the Association has maintenance responsibility, if they address content of the reserve study at all. I have not seen contingency specifically listed within state statutes. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist; it just means that I haven’t seen it. Many interpret state statutes as being specific about reserves not being able to be included in the reserve study by the absence of a discussion on the matter. Others state that you are not necessarily prohibited from having a contingency reserve simply because it is not enumerated in statutes; many other things are also not specifically listed in statutes. However, depending upon how a contingency factor is added to the reserve study, it may not be an issue. (See item “2” above.)

2. Governing documents – The position here is very similar to that of state statutes. Most governing documents do not have any language at all that addresses the issue of contingency within the reserve study. Therefore you are left with the same question of whether or not it is permissible to include contingencies in the reserve study simply because of the absence of any language addressing the issue.

3. Tax law – For what may be the only time we can ever say this, the fact is that tax law is quite specific on the issue of contingencies within a reserve study. Many people may disagree with the following statement simply because it is exactly the opposite of what they have been told numerous times, but the fact is the IRS takes NO position with respect to contingencies in the reserve study.

The IRS cannot force any taxpayer (Association) to include or exclude ANY item from the reserve study. The only thing that the IRS can do is to react to what has been included in the reserve study by telling you the appropriate tax treatment of that item. While the HOA industry thinks in terms of operating versus reserve, the IRS thinks in terms of capital versus non-capital. They are not the same thing.

The IRS has issued three specific Revenue Rulings, 74-563, 75-370, and 75-371, all of which address the issue of reserves. All three rulings take the same position that for reserves to be excludable from taxable income under Internal Revenue Code Section 118 (contributions to the capital of a corporation), the reserve assessments must be for “specific capital purposes.” For that reason, IRS takes the position that contingency reserves, because they are not for a specific capital purpose, cannot qualify for the exclusion from taxable income under code section 118.

That is definitely not the same as saying that contingencies cannot be included in reserves, but it does reach a similar result. Why is this a critical distinction? Because many Associations are regularly including contingencies within their reserve study. How can they do that without incurring the wrath of the IRS? Simple! File Form 1120-H. On Form 1120-H, the IRS does not care if you included contingencies in your reserve study because the contingency reserve additions for any given year are considered to be exempt function income which is not taxable on Form 1120- H.

That is the exact opposite of the tax treatment on Form 1120. On Form 1120, the contingency reserve addition for the current year is considered to be “member” income, which means it gets added back to your operating income. If net member income is a positive amount in a given tax year, it will be considered taxable income unless the Association makes an election under Revenue Ruling 70-604.

Next, let’s look at the calculation methods identified above. These calculation methods can also have a very significant impact upon how the contingency factor is included within the reserve study, how it is perceived by readers of the report, and how it is treated for tax purposes.

In all variations above, the contingency factor is effectively presented as a line item within the reserve study, even though the methods of calculation may be different.

However, in the second option above, the contingency factor is spread out amongst all of the components of the reserve study and loses its identity as a separate contingency line item. In fact, it cannot even be seen within the reserve study, but it still exists.

Probably the easiest way to understand this is to conceptually treat the contingency the same as you would treat the inflation factor that is part of the reserve study. Let’s look at an actual example. If a component has a current replacement cost of $100,000, and you are using a 3% inflation factor, and a 1% contingency factor, then the replacement cost calculated in the reserve study one year from now will be $100,000 (currently placement cost) plus $3,000 (inflation for one year) plus $1,000 (contingency for one year) for a total estimated future replacement cost, including contingency, of $104,000. Imagine that same calculation being repeated for dozens of items within a reserve study, and you’ll see how the contingency factor can certainly exist but not be separately identifiable as a contingency line item.

Is this defensible from a tax standpoint? The answer is yes, because it is no different than an estimate for future inflation. That means it is part of an overall calculation that determines each year’s funding within the reserve study, although no part of it is separately identifiable as a contingency reserve.

The larger question is, “Should an Association have a contingency reserve?” Since all future costs, as well as future inflation and future interest earnings, are nothing more than estimates – no matter how sophisticated the calculations determining those estimates – there is little likelihood (a virtual impossibility) that future costs will occur exactly as planned. Therefore, many may consider a contingency factor to be a prudent judgment.

What if your Association is extremely underfunded and your current assessment structure makes it virtually impossible to raise reserve assessments to a level needed to bring the Association to a stable funding platform? Adding in an additional contingency factor that increases assessment requirements makes no sense in that scenario.

What if the Association is either very highly funded or even overfunded? Does it make sense to have the contingency factor then? It makes more sense then, but it still does not make it a necessity. It may be considered more prudent to recognize early on the highly funded or overfunded situation that exists, and reduce reserve assessments so that any overfunded situation works itself out.

Bottom line, there is no right or wrong answer to the issue of including a contingency factor in the reserve study. The reserve study belongs to the Association and it should reflect their best estimate of future major maintenance and replacement costs, and the funding plan that is appropriate for the Association.