Africana Studies Department publishes annual Kapu Sens literary journal

Cover illustrating a father grand father and son with red title reading one love: strength and solidarity in a time of uncertainty
The Africana Studies Department published Kapu Sens for the Fall semester of 2017. It includes poetry, short stories, and art. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Christpher Ewing

The Africana Studies Department publishes Kapu Sens ever year, which is a literary journal which contains student-written poems and essays, and this year’s the theme is One Love: Strength and Solidarity in a Time of Uncertainty.

Poems and essays in the journals consisted of various topics from abusive relationships and racism to police brutality.

“It’s such a wonderful opportunity for students to get published in an actual book that is distributed widely, very well regarded and has a long history,” said Dr. Shubha Venugopal.

Venugopal is the current editor of Kapu Sens. However Dr. Tom Spencer-Walters created the journal 32 years ago.

In 1985, a student approached Walters and asked him if he could read her poems from a few old journals she had. Walters read them and was amazed because of how creative the poems were.

“I told her that these are very promising and that she should continue writing,” Walters said. “She was too shy to show anybody because they wouldn’t think it was good enough so I took it in and I read it. I was really moved.”

Walters said he committed himself to study a journal that would help students have their own work to be in a publication before they graduated.

The name of the journal, Kapu Sens, means grasping knowledge in Krio which is a language used in West Africa.

Walters used the journal as a textbook while he was a visiting professor at the University of Fort Hare in South Africa. He sometimes sends the journal to the English department there. He also distributes the journal to different African-American Studies departments around the US.

“I can’t remember the name of the college, but they wrote back to thank us because they got the inspiration for their own journal. It has been doing pretty well,” Walters said. “I am just very happy that I have created a creative outlet for so many of our students. To give them an opportunity to receive public acknowledgment and even public scrutiny of their creative works.”

Walters said he feels joy whenever the parents of students who had their work published call him to thank him.

“In a sense, it’s not just getting them public exposure, it’s also preparing them for careers and putting them in more advantageous positions,” Walters said. “I’m able to help students realize their potential.”

The themes for the journal vary each year. Venugopal mentioned that last year’s theme was Beauty and the Blues. It was all about art that comes out of pain or any kind of art. The first part of the title “One Love” means bringing people together in a divided society, said Walters.

“This year, the theme was a bit broader,” said Venugopal. The journal accepts most submissions as the editors are open to interpretations to see how the works can fit into the journal.

Many of the submissions came from Venugopal’s classes: Africana Studies 350 and 280 and English 208 and 308. The student editor for this year’s Kapu Sens was JaiAnn Hawkins who recently became an Alumni.

She got involved when she had Venugopal for an African-American female writers course. Venugopal enjoyed her work and suggested being an editor for the journal.

Her job consisted of designing and passing out flyers, as well as asking people for submissions for the journal. She read about 60 submissions during her time as an editor. Most of the submissions were published in the journal. Reading the submissions was Hawkins favorite part of her job.

“I just want to express my gratitude for everyone being brave enough to submit what they did because I know there were somethings that I read that were very personal,” Hawkins said.

Any student can submit their poems or essays through email to Venugopal, or to the student editor which has not yet been chosen for the next edition of the journal.