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‘AHANA’ Still Relevant, Alum Argues

Co-Creator Of Acronym Considers Its Importance

Assoc. News Editor

Published: Thursday, November 7, 2013

Updated: Thursday, November 7, 2013 15:11

“AHANA is not a club, it is not a name, it is not a distinction of a particular group or a person. It is an acronym.”

Valerie Lewis-Mosley, director of Catechetics and Youth Ministry at Christ the King Church New Jersey and BC ’79, returned to campus Tuesday evening to discuss the relevancy of the AHANA acronym in today’s society. Lewis-Mosley was one of two Boston College students who coined the AHANA term in the late 1970s.

“The A in AHANA stands for anyone who comes from the diaspora of the continent of African peoples,” Lewis-Mosley said. “The H, which also can be substituted for L, is for the Hispanic or Latino peoples that originate from their diaspora nations, which are a multiplicity of countries and even various continents. A is for all of those folk who originate from a diaspora of Asian nations. N is for natives peoples. And the American is not so much that each person may be documented American per se, but that we are folk living here, on these shores at this time, embracing our cultures.”

Lewis-Mosley originally introduced the term as a BC undergrad studying in the Connell School of Nursing. She and Alfred “Alfie” Feliciano, BC ’81, created the acronym in the fall of 1979 and received the approval of the Board of Trustees to change the “Minority Student Programs” to the “Office of AHANA (African American, Hispanic, Asian American, and Native American) Student Programs.”

The AHANA acronym was trademarked by BC in 1991, and has since been used by dozens of higher education institutions, including Boston University, Seattle University, Emory University, Fairfield University, Cleveland State University, the University of Wisconsin, and LeMoyne College. The Office of AHANA Student Programs (OASP) now serves hundred BC students each year through its 23 regular programs, and reaches all students through events, presentations, outreach efforts, and collaboration with other BC departments.

When Lewis-Mosley first joined the BC community, a student programs office for minorities, multicultural, and multiracial students was nonexistent. Instead, there was the “Black Talent Program.”

“My relationship began several years before that when a Dominican nun told me about the Boston College scholarship program called the ‘Black Scholarship Program,’” Lewis-Mosley said. “It was a scholarship that was for the purpose of recruiting black students to attend this college for changing the fabric, the quilt if you may, so that it was more inclusive of what our society looked like.”

Lewis-Mosley was recruited as a student in the Black Talent Program, and during her time at BC, assisted in student recruitment, financial aid allocation, housing, and disciplinary procedures for AHANA students. When BC chose to reorganize the program and rename it the Minority Student Education Program, a number of students raised objections. Lewis-Mosley was one of them.

“AHANA became not just an academic endeavor that provided scholarship and admission to this program,” Lewis-Mosley said. “It was a family endeavor in protecting the young ones who came, providing them a safety net. It was a cultural experience to discover who you were and whose you were as an African, Latino, Asian, Native American people.”

When asked by Alex Sarabia, the facilitator for Tuesday’s event, chairman of the AHANA Leadership Council of UGBC and A&S ’14, if the AHANA name is still relevant today, Lewis-Mosley referred to the most recent Miss America winner, Nina Davuluri, who is of Indian decent.

“Whether the lovely woman who won was Muslim, Islamic, or Christian, I don’t know and I don’t care,” Lewis-Mosley said. “She won that crown legitimately. The stuff that I saw on social media speaks to the fact that yes, the term AHANA is very relevant for today. She was called everything but the child of God that she is, simply because she was Indian.”  

Lewis-Mosley urged the audience to celebrate, not ignore, differences in culture and ancestry.

“If you really want to do justice to anyone you engage [with], you want to be able to know their culture,” Lewis-Mosley said. “You want to be able to celebrate their culture. We are not a melting pot, and I don’t want us to be, because to assimilate something is to melt it down to its least common denominator. How boring would that be?”

Sarabia asked if Lewis-Mosley believed that the AHANA acronym perpetuates self-segregation.

“We need to look at the legitimacy that AHANA student affairs is there to build support, to help those students who may need it,” Lewis-Mosley said. “Every single person who walks on this campus does not have the confidence to walk through these valleys and these hills by themselves. They need a support service—they need to know there is somewhere they can go that is a safe haven.”

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