New College Alumna Afua Cooper (New '86)Describe yourself in 50 words or less.

I am Jamaican-born. I am a trained historian, a scholar, a poet, an author, and a mother of three. I have lived in Canada for 32 years.

Why did you choose New College (be honest) and what were your expectations?

I chose New College because it housed the African Studies and Women’s Studies Programs and I wanted to have those as important components of my undergraduate degree. I did a major in African Studies and a minor in Women’s Studies. My specialist field was in history.

What was New College like when you came?

New College was a happening place. A place of activism. People were interested in and involved with social transformation. The anti-Apartheid struggle was given prominence, as was Toronto anti-poverty issues. New College was also a site of high intellectual discourse. There were ongoing discussions about various theories and how these impact people and society.

What are your fondest memories from your time at New College?

I remember most of all the lectures of Prof. Fred Case. I studied Frantz Fanon’s work with him, as well as the African novel. The lectures he gave were top quality and intellectually stimulating. I also remember being a TA for Prof. Arnold Itwaru in his Caribbean Studies courses. That was a lot of fun. His lectures were great and we got students who were interested in the courses and in learning.

Was there anyone in particular at New College (staff, student or faculty) who had a strong influence on your life or made a lasting impression on you?

Definitely was Prof. Case. His standards were high and he refused to accept mediocrity. He brought out the best in his students. He made you believe in yourself. He made me grasp the finer points of literature. He was certainly a mentor. Years later, when I was writing the Hanging of Angelique he pointed me in the right direction regarding research and key people with whom I should speak. He felt Angelique would change the way we think of Canada.

How did your academic and social experience at the University/College prepare you for life and your career?

University life at the College was a training ground for life. The intellectual life, the high quality of our studies, the friendships we made, all ensured that we would bring qualities such as discipline, perseverance, and humour to our career and life. I must say that I enjoyed my undergrad years at New College and at the University in general. The intellectual life and the social activism were key components of my life there.

What was important to you then – what is important now?

Creative and authentic friendship was important to me then; it is important to me now.

What are your major accomplishments and who had the most influence on your Career?

Well, I have had so many accomplishments that it is hard to choose the most important ones. I am proud of my work as a poet and in centering dub poetry in Canada. I would also say getting my three degrees was a major accomplishment. I came to Canada as an immigrant and basically had to start over from scratch. Some of my post-secondary courses from Jamaica were not recognized. In addition, I had to work while I studied. I also raised a young child. So graduating from New College was a big deal for me. Getting my Ph.D. was also tremendous. I must also add that I am a mother of three children, and giving birth to them, and raising them was just fabulous. My book The Hanging of Angelique was a Canadian bestseller, so of course that was a major accomplishment.

In your personal or professional life, what are you most looking forward to?

I look forward to publishing the novel I am currently writing, and a history of Black Halifax. Personally, I look forward to my children establishing themselves. My dream is to go to Istanbul, and to Chichen Itza in Mexico.

Do you have any final comments?

Way to go New College!