Living Beyond the Facade – The Cougar’s Byte

On Feb. 11, the Office of Africana Studies and Kean University's College of Liberal Arts held Living Beyond the Facade: Inside the Health and Wealth Practices of Americans of African Descent, which took place in the Little Theatre at the Miron Student Center.

This lecture was part of a series called 400 Years: The Shaping of the African Experience in America 1619-2019, which took place to honor Black History Month for the entirety of February. The Office of Africana Studies hosted many other events for the Kean community during the month.

Christine Thorpe, Ed.D., dean of the Nathan Weiss Graduate College, had a conversation about her book, Living Beyond the Facade, which is about the African-American community and how health and wealth is measured within it.

In addition to her work as an author, Thorpe is also the founder and co-director of Stronger Tomorrow Wellness, Inc. a nonprofit organization committed to inspiring women in engaging with healthy lifestyle practices while providing education on physical and mental wellness to lessen disparities within communities with people of color.

Thorpe is a certified wellness coach and health education specialist with over 20 years of experience in the field. She has a B.S. in psychology from Syracuse University, a Ed.M in International and Comparative Education Development along with an Ed.D in Health Education from Teachers College, Columbia University.

Along with holding memberships in Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and Mocha Moms, Inc., Thorpe is a wife and a mother of two.

The lecture began with an opening statement from the Director of the Office of Africana Studies James Conyers.

Once Thorpe was introduced, she talked about how the book came to be due to the result of the 2016 presidential election and what Donald Trump had to say about the black community during one of his speeches.

"My desire for writing this book was to take ownership of the conversation and not have someone dictate to us what we do or do not have," said Thrope.

For her book, Thorpe has managed to interview 60 people and do extensive research about wellness in the African community over the course of two years.

"I interviewed these people and asked them questions about their health practices," Thorpe said. "People would answer questions for me to gain an understanding of how they got to where they did in terms of managing their health."

She continued to explain why she streamlined the questioning process.

"I kept it as broad as possible because I really wanted people to feel like they had an opportunity to share their experiences," said Thorpe.

After discussing the criteria she used to evaluate her interviewees, Thorpe talked about the meaning of the book's title. She mentions that it took her a while to come up with a proper one.

"I wanted a title that captured the trichotomy between how we currently live, how we want to live and how we need to live," Thorpe mentioned. "These were the three areas that I wanted to be seen through this title."

Through the entirety of the lecture, Thorpe discussed the state of the black community in consideration of its history and her experiences in bettering her health and increasing her knowledge.

She made the discussion interactive by asking audience members questions and having the floor open for discussing the topics at hand, providing those an opportunity to voice their opinions and discussing solutions for a healthier community.

The Office of Africana Studies offers an 18 credit minor program with more than 50 course selections. After completion, students are awarded with a certificate in Africana Studies at the annual African Heritage Graduation Ceremony. Aside from its academics, the office provides cultural programming year round.

Its multicultural society uses an African-centric perspective to grasp understanding of economies, history, culture, education, politics, philosophies, aspirations and achievements of those of African descent globally. More information about the office can be found on Cougar Link.

They are located in Hutchinson, Room 103 S & T and can be contacted via phone at (908) 737-3916 or emailed at

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Living Beyond the Facade - The Cougar's Byte

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