BRC and NRC host “An Afro-Indigenous History of the United States” Q&A

Kyle T. Mays discusses novel on Afro-Indigenous identity and solidarity


Photo Courtesy: Brandon Gamble

Assistant Director of the Native Resource Center, Jen Clay, passes out the novel to students.

by Noah Lyons, Staff Writer

San Diego State’s Black Resource Center collaborated with the Native Resource Center on Thursday evening to host a Q&A on Kyle T. Mays’ novel, “An Afro-Indigenous History of the United States.”

This was the first collaboration between the two clubs in 2022. The BRC was created in 2016, while the NRC was added as an on-campus resource three years later. While the experiences of these identity groups are distinct, their mission is aligned: creating a safe space for students to grow and connect in community. 

The event consisted of three parts: an introduction to the clubs, a live Q&A and an art response. Staff members and students from both centers opened the event by giving information on their organizations. After some discussion about the novel, Kyle T. Mays joined the Q&A portion of the event via Zoom.

Mays, an author and a professor at UCLA, released “An Afro-Indigenous History of the United States” in 2021. This is the third book he has written, following “Hip Hop Beats, Indigenous Rhymes: Modernity and Hip Hop in Indigenous North America” (2018) and “City of Dispossessions: Indigenous Peoples, African Americans, and the Creation of Modern Detroit,” which he wrote earlier in 2022.

“An Afro-Indigenous History of the United States” focuses on the shared struggles of Black and Native Americans. The book offers a critical perspective on the history of the United States and the ways in which its history has been modified. 

At the event, Mays fielded questions from the room of around 20 students and staff members. The hour-long Q&A featured a variety of subjects: land acknowledgment, racism, the shortcomings of education systems and overcoming institutional obstacles. He also recognized the ways in which Black and Native American histories are often separated.

“We have to first start by acknowledging we’re not natural allies,” Mays said. “Solidarity takes a lot of work. We have to utilize kinship.”

While history books separate the experiences of Black and Native Americans, Mays placed a focus on intersectionality. 

Some of the subject matter discussed at the event were challenging. NRC Director Chris Medellin believes in the importance of these dialogues. 

“Collaborations like this really focus on things that may feel uncomfortable for some folks,” Medellin said. “In order for us to grow, we need to feel a little discomfort — that’s when we can really grow and shine.”

“We are humans, and we have to talk about ourselves. We have to understand our existence here in the world and it takes many shapes and forms,” Medellin added.

The Q&A was followed by an interactive art response. Students wrote and illustrated reflections on leaves, which they later hung on the wall. 

The event concluded around 7 p.m., but several students stayed afterward to talk to leaders of the NRC, BRC and their peers.

BRC employee Chike Amobi is hopeful this event can create opportunities for more collaborations between on-campus clubs. 

“I’m proud of the turnout and what we talked about,” Amobi said. “I hope to see more collaborations with other (resource centers) and the BRC.”

Amobi emphasized the importance of maintaining dialogue in everyday interactions.

“It’s important to have conversations not just inside the classroom, but outside, (too),” he said.  “At the end of the day, college is only four years, but outside of that, what are you going to leave your impact on?”