Charles Watson, African American Leadership Forum Josie R.Johnson Leadership Academy Fellow

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Charles Watson began his journey at Minneapolis College as an adjunct professor for the Philosophy department in the Fall of 2012. Six years later, he became the African American Education Empowerment Program’s (AME) Coordinator at the College.

Once experiencing the administrative side of the school, Watson began to understand the importance of building relationships at the College as well as in the larger community.

“Certainly, those relationships are integral to our recruitment and retention efforts,” said Watson, “I knew the students in my classes. I'd like to think I knew the material quite well, but short of that I had no sort of connection to the larger Twin Cities community.”

After meeting Civil Rights Leader Josie R. Johnson at a Martin Luther King Jr. event hosted by AME, Watson became aware of the leadership academy named after her at the African American Leadership Forum (AALF).

“That was my first opportunity to meet her and she is a shining light in the community,” said Watson. The program coordinator was already interested in working with the AALF and knew they had four different working groups. He was interested in the education working group.

“To be a part of their education work group and thinking about how to close these disparity gaps in terms of education, and to have the chance to network with other engaged African American leaders across a variety of fields,” said Watson.

“Hopefully out of that set of networking opportunities, I would get more engaged in the larger communities. I would also be able to broadcast the good work we are doing at Minneapolis College and continue to grow our recruitment and retention efforts.”

Watson mentioned the book Out from the Shadows: Power, Pride and Perseverance at a Northern Community College, a collection of stories written by faculty, staff and students at Minneapolis College as one of the works he would like to share.

“The whole theme was that we at Minneapolis College want to be in the knowledge production business,” said Watson. Referencing American Academic Patricia Hill Collins and her work around Black feminism, Watson correlates wisdom, knowledge and lived experiences.

“There is a certain kind of knowing that we possess just as a function of this lived experience. We wanted to give students an opportunity to, in their own voices, narrate their own lived experience so their fellow students would know ‘you are not alone in that experience. Someone else like me has gone through that. ‘”