June 16, 2020

"Aunt Jemima on the Pancake Box?"


I woke up yesterday and for at least 30-45 seconds could not remember what day of the week it was.  After fumbling around in my head, it occurred to me that my wife (who now goes into her office) had left for work yesterday morning and the day before, but not the day before that which would have been Sunday, so that meant that yesterday had to be Tuesday.  Crazy times as we navigate these spaces.  Being disoriented is an all too frequent occurrence.  But through this chaos, real progress has emerged.

The protests for racial justice and an end to police murders of black people continue and have reached around the globe and as far away as China and Great Britain.  People everywhere, like never before, are acknowledging that enough is enough.  And it is working.  Police reforms are happening in many U.S. cities, justice reforms are mounting, and even the currently constructed Supreme Court has weighed in recently on the right side of fairness and equity for all.  The revolution is happening and with apologies to the late great jazz poet/musician, Gil Scott-Heron, “the revolution IS being televised”, and live-streamed, tweeted and more.  And all of that is what is making this time around so very different.

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When I was a kid, a popular “catch-22” joke was to casually ask a black friend, “Aunt Jemima on the pancake box?”  To which if they replied, “No” the retort would be, “Yes she is. Aunt Jemima is too, on the pancake box.”  If they replied “yes”, the response would be, “Oh! Yo mama is on the pancake box?”, as we twisted the words to make them sound similar.  So many of us grew up with Aunt Jemima, and Uncle Ben, and others and we most often were disconnected from their racist origins.  Therein lies the danger.  We cannot become numb to these images, nor can we fall into the trap of the apologists who say “that was a different time”. Or perhaps, maybe we should agree with that last statement and remind them that indeed times have changed.


Quaker Oats (which is a subsidiary of Pepsi) has agreed to discontinue the Aunt Jemima brand.  NASCAR has banned the confederate flag at its racetracks.  HBO pulled “Gone with the Wind” from its streaming service then reinstated it but with an historical context introduction from a black scholar.  The continued use of the Washington NFL football team’s logo is once again being debated.  Even name changes are being proposed for military bases named after Confederate leaders. The revolution is happening and it is happening on our campuses much like it did following the civil unrest of the 60’s.  Campuses are removing statues (the devoutly revered Confederate Gen. Ross statue at Texas A&M University, which was vandalized recently, is being considered for removal following discussions of his horrific acts against Native Americans and African Americans); campuses are removing names from buildings named for individuals with racist and segregationist histories; and black studies programs and cultural centers are enjoying renewed interest in their full development.  The times are changing.  

AABHE is a full participant in that change.  We recently completed the third of three webinars on these changing times as part of our Online Lunch and Learn series.  We held a pop-up Town Hall to discuss higher education’s response to the racial mistreatment mentioned earlier.  Additionally, we have a writing boot-camp that will commence next week to assist those who want to write about these issues and/or for those with other writing interests. Your premier organization had to adapt and we had to respond; so that we could be part of the revolution.


  • Sign up now for AABHE’s Virtual Summer Writing Bootcamp. In supporting the achievement of African American/Black faculty, staff and students within higher education we have established a Bootcamp for AABHE members only to assist with increasing your writing productivity.
    Click Here for full program info and to register.


  • Again, regardless of what restrictions are lifted in your area, please remember that COVID-19 is not over.  Wash your hands for 20 seconds, stay home when you can, and when you go out remember, “I wear my mask for you!” “Will you please wear your mask or me?”

“It’s all about the students”,

Dereck J. Rovaris, Sr
Dr. Dereck J. Rovaris, Sr.
President, AABHE