Tarik Richardson

School: College of Liberal Arts
Degree: MA, PhD, Africology and African American studies, 2019, 2023 
Hometown: Eugene, Oregon

Growing up Black in a city that was primarily white left Tarik Richardson, CLA ’19, ’23, with a yearning to better understand his own culture and heritage.  

He credits his early forays into learning about Black history and culture to his grandfather, Arzina Richardson, who took classes in East Asian philosophy and culture while serving in the Vietnam War. That exposure to another culture inspired Arzina to explore his own roots and he passed that passion for learning on to his son and grandson. Today, as an assistant professor of African American and diaspora studies, Richardson shares that same zeal with his students every day.  

Finding community 

As an undergraduate student at the University of Oregon, Richardson longed to learn more about his heritage and to take classes in African American history, but at the time the school did not offer any. 

In 2015, he attended a conference in Atlanta, where he met activists from Howard University who had themselves studied at Temple. They encouraged him to consider attending their alma mater for further studies. When he moved to Philadelphia to pursue a PhD in Temple’s Department of Africology and African American Studies, he already had a rich cultural community waiting for him.  

Exploring his roots 

At Temple, Richardson felt right at home among his new peers. He chose to specialize in classical African culture and civilization and credits his advisors, Associate Professor Kimani Nehusi and Ama Mazama, professor and chair of Africology and African American students, for an influential graduate experience.    

Richardson’s dissertation was on how Swahili culture was perceived along the East African coast. “I was looking at the origin stories of the Swahili people, analyzing them, as well as studying how historians or anthropologists who studied African history conceptualized it,” Richardson said.

He specifically thanks Mazama, his faculty and dissertation advisor, for encouraging him to be more vocal and honest in his writing. As well, his experiences as a teaching assistant solidified his career goal of being a professor.

Tarik Richardson poses for a photo.
Tarik Richardon poses for a photo.

“Being able to talk with some of the alumni and understand that their training is the same as my training has opened up an opportunity to work with them further.”

–Tarik Richardson
Assistant professor of African American and diaspora studies

Shaping the future 

In August 2022, Richardson began teaching at the Xavier University of Louisiana—an HBCU (historically Black colleges and universities) in New Orleans. He was recruited, along with Temple classmate Rasheed Atwater, CLA ’23, to help shape the Department of African American and Diaspora Studies at the school.   

Today, Richardson teaches three courses to undergraduate students—one is an introductory course to African American history and culture; the second is on Pan-Africanism, a worldwide movement meant to bring solidarity among all individuals of African descent; and the third is on trans-Atlantic Blackness. He is also preparing to teach an introductory course to research methodology next fall.  

He is excited about influencing conversations about African culture, identity and spirituality in an academic space—something he didn’t have the opportunity to experience in college.  

“In 2024, we have entered a space where conversations about and explorations of African culture, identity and spirituality are already taking place throughout the community. Now, I am excited to be in a position to educate the next generation of leaders to understand issues of African American philosophy, religion and culture,” he said.    

“In the south, the study of Black culture hasn’t always gone hand in hand with the education of Black students. To be able to step into Xavier and help them rectify that is really monumental.”