More than 50 people gathered in the Ahmadieh Family Conference Room on Tuesday evening, April 24, for a special meeting of Duke’s Introduction to African & African American Studies class, taught this spring by department chair Mark Anthony Neal.
Professors Britt Rusert, Treva Lindsey, Alisha Gaines and Bianca Williams are Duke Ph.D.’s who each had a book on blackness published in the past year. Neal made those books assigned reading for the spring class and invited the alumnae back to campus to speak with students and to revisit their formative years where the seeds for their intellectual pursuits were planted.
The symposium, “Black Women, Black Studies, Knowledge Production,” was entirely curated by graduate and undergraduate students in a demonstration of vertical learning. English Ph.D. student and teaching assistant Israel Durham designed the program for the 2.5 hour symposium, allowing each student an opportunity to converse with the authors.
The students, divided into small groups, passed a microphone and peppered each alumna with thoughtful questions related to their research as well as their scholarly approach and process. View Photos
Wearing a “#CiteBlackWomen” t-shirt, Williams told students that what they were experiencing was special and a testament to the “brilliant teaching” at Duke.
“You get to co-create. You also know things. You have useful questions. You know enough to engage scholars,” she told students.
“I just want you to know this isn’t normal. This doesn’t usually happen,” Williams said, noting the generosity of professors like Neal and Wahneema Lubiano, an associate professor and mentor to the women, who also attended and joined the women for the last panel of the evening.
“Wahneema would write down every foolish thing we said,” Williams remembered of her time as a student. “It might not have been what I said, but [she knew] what I meant. She would take our nugget, add to it, and give it back… That is generosity and it’s not the norm. After being in other environments, I want you to know this is a gift that we all received.”
Lindsey agreed, reminiscing about the familial kinship she felt in her cohort and with the faculty.
“The faculty believed in us as knowledge producers,” Lindsey said. “I wouldn’t have made it without Wahneema and MAN because of the confidence they instilled in us to be voices, but also to be on the front lines when things went down here,” Lindsey said. “That is the type of faculty member I want to be.”
Gaines, who is interested in black popular culture and reality television, said Black women gave her a way to imagine herself as a scholar and a thinker, especially as an undergraduate student at Spelman.
“I’m a good teacher because I have had good models for it,” Gaines said.
Rusert remembers the freedom to be intellectually adventurous while she was a student at Duke.
“I was 22 years old and remember being in that class (The Post-Black Aesthetic). MAN took our ideas seriously. I remember being like ‘wow!’ This professor really wants to hear what I think,” she said, adding that the interdisciplinarity of the department prepared her for study in her field in unexpected ways.
Also, she said that she’s been able to confront Southern bias as a professor now teaching in New England.
“I am really grateful to have had time training in the South because I can correct some misunderstandings,” Rusert said.
Rusert is an assistant professor in the W. E. B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, is the author of Fugitive Science: Empiricism and Freedom in Early African American Culture and co-editor of W. E. B. Du Bois’s Data Portraits: Visualizing Black America, a collection of data visualizations Du Bois contributed to the 1900 Paris Exposition and forthcoming from Princeton Architectural Press in fall 2018. She earned an English Ph.D. and certificate in feminist studies from Duke in 2009. She is beginning a new monograph about William J. Wilson’s African-American Picture Gallery (1859), a text that imagines the first museum of black art in the United States.
Lindsey is an associate professor and the Director of Undergraduate Studies of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at The Ohio State University. She authored, Colored No More: Reinventing Black Womanhood in Washington D.C., a Choice 2017 “Outstanding Academic Title.” Recently dubbed #ProfessorBae by Bossip magazine, Lindsey’s research and teaching interests include African American women’s history, black popular and expressive culture, black feminism(s), hip hop studies, critical race and gender theory, and sexual politics. She earned a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in history at Duke.
A lifelong Michael Jackson fan, Alisha Gaines received a Ph.D. in English from Duke and also received the graduate certificate in African and African American Studies. She is assistant professor of English at Florida State University where she won a university-wide Undergraduate Teaching Award in 2017. Her first book, Black for a Day: Fantasies of Race and Empathy, was published in Spring 2017. Inspired by the short-lived F/X reality tv show “Black.White,” the book constructs a genealogy of white liberals who temporarily “become” black under the alibi of racial empathy. As such, Gaines has a love/hate relationship with Rachel Dolezal.
An associate professor of anthropology at The Graduate Center, City University of New York, Bianca Williams is also Black Lives Matter organizer, co-founding the Denver chapter. She earned a bachelor’s degree and a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology at Duke, and a graduate certificate in African and African American Studies. Her book, The Pursuit of Happiness: Black Women, Diasporic Dreams, and the Politics of Emotional Transnationalism, how African-American women use international travel and the Internet as tools for pursuing happiness and leisure; creating diasporic relationships; and critiquing American racism and sexism. Central to her research is the question, how do Black women develop strategies for enduring and resisting the effects of racism and sexism, while attempting to maintain emotional wellness?
Neal, host of weekly webcast Left of Black, interviewed the four women about their work earlier that day in the John Hope Franklin Center studio for upcoming episodes of the show. An appearance on Left of Black has increasingly become a rite of passage for a network of young black studies scholars.
“A cohort experience becomes part of our building of knowledge so the production part is apparent. We’re making it as craft, it’s not an arcane thing,” Lubiano, an associate professor of literature and a long-time Duke faculty member, told students at the symposium. “We are actively participating in creating knowledge, thinking about the students and making them central to the work early on.
“I’ve seen students go from undergrad to full professorships,” she said. “Making knowledge is not a finished ‘house,’ we’re always building. It’s important to make your fracturing speak to someone else’s fracturing. We take seriously the process of remaking knowledge.”
Mellon Foundation to Fund Expansion of Duke Model For Mentoring Underrepresented Early Career Faculty
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is funding the expansion of Duke’s Summer Institute on Tenure and Professional Advancement (SITPA) program. SITPA is an intensive research mentoring and professional socialization program for early career faculty who are from underrepresented groups or who otherwise deepen diversity at their institutions.
One of SITPA’s objectives is to address a nationwide problem in higher education—the underrepresentation of various racial and ethnic minority groups on the faculties of U.S. colleges and universities.
The SITPA approach concentrates support and mentoring of junior faculty early in their career, with the goal of enabling a successful transition to tenured associate professor rank. The Duke program will receive $698,000 over three and a half years, from July 1, 2018, to December 31, 2021.
“Duke is committed to the value and need for diversity in the professoriate,” noted Valerie Ashby, dean of Duke’s Trinity College of Arts & Sciences. “I have seen this program in action, and this approach will enable us to build a stronger, more inclusive university community which is essential to our future.”
The U.S. has succeeded in significantly increasing the number of minorities receiving doctorates in a broad range of fields in recent decades. However, faculty diversity has changed only marginally and is not keeping pace with the nation’s shifting population demographic.
“We need underrepresented minority faculty members and others who recognize the importance of having diverse faculties to become long-term stakeholders who help shape the mission, curriculum, student body and faculty at our institutions,” said SITPA creator and Director Kerry Haynie, an associate professor of political science and African & African American studies. “We’ve designed a program that provides promising scholars with the knowledge, strategies and support they need to earn tenure.”
Haynie plans to present the SITPA model at national conferences over the next three years and to publish on the benefits of this faculty development approach. In addition, he hopes to enlist two to three colleges to pilot the program on their own campuses.
Duke launched the SITPA program in 2014 with the support of the Mellon Foundation. To develop the program focus and format, Haynie utilized existing research, sought input from senior faculty from a wide range of fields, and made use of lessons learned from his experiences with other mentoring initiatives. The need for universities to invest more in the success of junior faculty was a consistent finding from these inquiries.
“We’ve designed a program that provides promising scholars with the knowledge, strategies and support they need to earn tenure.”
– Kerry Haynie
Research reveals that graduate programs do not routinely include professional socialization as part of their formal training. In addition, most university faculty mentoring programs fail to address some of the distinctive concerns and needs of faculty from underrepresented minority groups.
For example, a significant proportion of humanities and social sciences faculty of color specialize in research related to race, ethnicity, difference or intersectionality. However, few senior faculty will have matching expertise in any given department or university. As these topics are positioned at the margins of most disciplines, it is more challenging for such scholars to publish in leading disciplinary journals. As a result, it is more difficult for underrepresented minority faculty to become part of professional networks with influential scholars in their fields.
To date, three cohorts of 16 fellows are engaged in the sustained, two-year sequence of SITPA programming. Each fellow has ongoing guidance and feedback from a senior faculty mentor in their discipline at an institution with similar expectations for tenure. Thirty-eight of the 48 fellows come from doctoral universities, five from master’s colleges and universities, and five from baccalaureate colleges, including two from historically black colleges and universities.
At the start of the fellowship, selected SITPA faculty members attend a three-day workshop to learn about the formal tenure process. They also learn how to develop a research agenda and teaching portfolio that meets the standards and requirements for tenure at their particular college or university. Fellows engage in conversations about constructing a teaching portfolio, navigating university service demands, making effective use of professional networks, and managing work-life demands.
Preliminary evaluation results suggest SITPA fellows are outperforming a selected comparison group with regards to research productivity, said Haynie.
On Wednesday, Vanessa K. Valdés of The City College of New York, presented her research on Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, whose personal collection became the foundation for the Harlem-based and world-renowned Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
Valdés is the author of “Diasporic Blackness: The Life and Times of Arturo Alfonso Schomburg,” only the second full-length biography.
During her talk, “Building an International Archive in the Jim Crow South: Arturo Schomberg at Fisk University,” Valdés highlighted the collector’s global vision for his collection as well as the importance of access to the material.
The lunchtime talk was the latest installment of “Wednesdays at the Center,” held at the John Hope Franklin Center, which features a different speaker each week throughout the semester.
Valdés, a professor of Spanish and Portuguese, said that Schomburg, a Black Puerto Rican, helped establish Fisk University’s Africana collection in Nashville, now named the John Hope and Aurelia Franklin Library.
“Most have no idea about the man himself,” said Valdés, who pursued her graduate degree in Nashville. There is only one biography of Schomburg and it was published in 1989, she said.
The Carnegie Foundation bought Schomburg’s personal collection for $10k which he used to travel across Europe and further develop his collection. However, he donated much of his work without compensation.
In Nashville, Thomas E. Jones was president of Fisk when Schomburg began assembling the library in 1929. He worked alongside his good friend, sociologist Charles S. Johnson, to replicate what he had accomplished in New York, building a black archive in Fisk University’s Cravath Hall, complete with a reading room.
“At the time, black people were steered toward vocational schools and not necessarily reading for pleasure,” Valdés said. Under Schomburg, Fisk established a reading room to “inculcate a desire” in students to read for pleasure.
“Being an active member of society meant being knowledgeable. He was creating spaces of liberation,” Valdés said. Schomburg spoke through his collection, highlighting moments of black independence and responding to U.S. hegemony in the Caribbean.
The Fisk collection concentrated on presence of people of African descent internationally, taking on a global character, telling the story of blacks in Europe and the Caribbean. There were 140 books when Schomburg arrived and more than 4,000 by the time he left Fisk. His efforts were not replicated at other schools until decades after his death, she said.
Johnson, the first black president of Fisk, acknowledged Schomburg’s “generosity and foresight” in curating books for the university’s then-named Race Relations Institute.
“Johnson was trying to get Schomburg to write his book but he wasn’t interested in that. He only wanted to disseminate his work,” Valdés said. “It’s important to consider different modes of scholarship and knowledge production. Establishing the collection, made it unequivocal that black folks were worthy of study and international analysis.”
The event was sponsored by the Center for Arts, Digital Culture and Entrepreneurship at Duke.
Professor Yaba Blay, founder of #ProfessionalBlackGirl, will give a talk on Duke’s East Campus Monday evening.
The talk, “Black Joy As Resistance: Why I Do What I Do,” will be held at 6 p.m., April 16th, in the Friedl Building’s Jameson Art Gallery. Filmmaker Natalie Bullock Brown and local independent artist Natasha Walker Powell will join Blay in the discussion.
The event is free and open to the public, with nearby parking available. Light refreshments will be served.
Blay will discuss her online campaigns, #PrettyPeriod, a visual celebration of dark-skinned Black beauty, and Professional Black Girl, a web series and online community celebrating everyday, around-the-way Black girl magic. Blay will highlight how she uses Black joy as a methodology for resistance.
Blay is the Dan Blue Endowed Chair in Political Science at North Carolina Central University and has authored (1)ne Drop: Shifting the Lens on Race. A professor and ethnographer, her scholarship centers on Black racial identity, Black aesthetic practices, and Black beauty, with particular attention given to hair and skin color politics.
Named to The Root 100, an annual list of top Black influencers, Blay is one of today’s leading voices on colorism and global skin color politics. Her commentary has been featured on CNN, BET, MSNBC, NPR, The New York Times, Ebony Magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Root, Huffington Post Live, Colorlines, and elsewhere.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Researchers to learn from Homeward Bound’s success with support from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Every person who lives in a shelter or on the streets in our community needs a combination of affordable housing, appropriate services and adequate income. The longer people are homeless, the more complex their needs become. As a consequence, homelessness ultimately costs taxpayers.
Homeward Bound, a nonprofit based in Asheville, N.C. and serving Buncombe and Henderson Counties, is dedicated to alleviating the effects of homelessness. Over the past 11 years, 89 percent of the more than 1,800 people that Homeward Bound has moved into housing have remained housed.
Now, Homeward Bound’s model of tenancy support services will expand its reach to the rest of the state. It will participate in a research project funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Interdisciplinary Research Leaders program.
The research team is made up of two Duke University faculty members and a community advocate. They are Mina Silberberg, Ph.D., an associate professor in Duke Health’s Department of Community and Family Medicine; Donna Biederman, DrPH, MN, RN, associate professor at the Duke School of Nursing; and Emily Carmody, LCSW, program director with the North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness. The Duke Council on Race and Ethnicity (DCORE) is a collaborating partner, providing consulting and staff support services to the research team.
As part of the study, the research team will conduct interviews and focus groups with staff and program participants as well as analyze program data. By closely studying Homeward Bound’s model, the researchers will learn about promising practices for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, which is interested in using Medicaid to fund tenancy support services across the state.
Information from the study will help to create a Medicaid funding stream that supports effective services in the field and provides more people with supportive housing.
Tenancy-focused case management services are not the typically considered health services, but these services contribute to better health outcomes and recovery. For those with ongoing disabilities, long-term housing subsidies and services are a lifeline. For communities, the result is reduced costs to jails and hospitals.
“Most people think of the emergency room and/or community mental health providers as those directly addressing the health issues that formerly homeless individuals are experiencing,” says Leslie Stewart, Homeward Bound Program Director. “However, tenancy support through case management is the frontline intervention that works to make that connection and facilitate long-term engagement so that individuals can experience lasting wellness and stability in housing. Housing is health care.”
Besides helping residents to get and keep housing, Homeward Bound also connects residents to community resources, teaching them skills that will help them maintain their home and find employment and volunteer opportunities.
Homeward Bound is one of the two programs in North Carolina chosen for the study because of their success in housing vulnerable populations. Two programs in Louisiana will be studied as well.
Says Stewart, “Housing stability is a crucial piece of the puzzle when considering overall health and wellness and is necessary to fully address these issues.”
For more information about Homeward Bound’s success, go to https://homewardboundwnc.org/stories.
DURHAM, N.C. – On the eve of a federal briefing on voting rights in Raleigh on Friday, a panel of experts will gather at Duke Thursday night to discuss the state of voting rights in North Carolina.
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, an independent federal watchdog agency, will hold a public hearing in Raleigh, which will include testimonies about N.C. voter experiences at the polls. Ahead of the hearing, The Duke Council on Race and Ethnicity (DCORE) and The Raben Group are co-convening a Thursday, Feb. 1, panel discussion and public forum to bring attention and awareness to voting rights issues.
The free event will be held at 5:30 p.m. in the Ahmadieh Family Lecture Hall at Smith Warehouse, Bay 4, C105 (114 S. Buchanan Boulevard, Durham). Free parking is available. Those unable to attend can watch a live stream here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pgQ9mgFZYME.
The forum is intended to allow scholars and community leaders to examine the state of voting rights in North Carolina and to provide cultural and historical context for the hearing.
- Debo Adegbile, commissioner, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
- Juliana Cabrales, National Association of Latinx Elected Officials
- Richard L. Engstrom, faculty affiliate, Social Science Research Institute at Duke University
- Kerry Haynie, professor, political science, Duke University
- Catherine Lhamon, chair, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
- Theodore M. Shaw, Julius L. Chambers Distinguished Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Civil Rights at the UNC School of Law
The event will be moderated by Mark Anthony Neal, chair of the Department of African and African American Studies at Duke, which is co-sponsoring the forum.
The following day, Feb. 2, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights will hold a day-long public meeting in Raleigh to gather public testimony about voting rights obstacles in for its 2018 report to Congress. The Commission plans to address voting rights enforcement efforts after the 2006 reauthorization of the temporary provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the impact of the Shelby County v. Holder Supreme Court decision. The Commission will also consider enforcement of Sections 2 and 203 of the Voting Right Act, and whether new or enhanced federal protections could expand voting opportunities for all Americans, including those historically underrepresented because of their race, color or minority language group membership.
For more information on the hearing, visit http://www.usccr.gov/press/2018/01-26-Sunshine-Notice.pdf.
A public conversation with producer 9th Wonder who has been nominated for his work on Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Duckworth’; event postponed until further notice
The Department of African and African American Studies at Duke will host an event celebrating the success of Patrick Douthit, aka 9th Wonder, who is up for two Grammy Awards this year.
The 7 p.m. event, “How To Get Nominated for A Grammy,” is free and open to the public. It will be held in the Friedl Art Gallery in the Ernestine Friedl Building on Duke’s East Campus. Light refreshments will be served.
Douthit, a lecturing fellow in Duke’s African and African-American Studies Department, will discuss the work behind his two recent Grammy nominations. He was previously awarded a Grammy for his work on a Mary J. Blige album in 2015. This year, the Grammy Award committee recognized the prolific producer for his work on Kendrick Lamar’s most recent release, which is up for Album of the Year, and for his contributions to Rapsody’s “Laila’s Wisdom,” which is up for Best Rap Album.
Douthit has worked with many musical celebrities including Jay-Z, Erykah Badu, Beyonce and Destiny’s Child, among others. Last month, as the Grammy nominations were being announced, Douthit dropped a surprise album of beats, Zion II. He has taught at North Carolina Central University, Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania as well as Duke. In addition, he is a major contributor to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.
The event will also feature “SexyNotSilent,” a visual arts exhibit by self-taught local artist Natasha Powell Walker. An artist talk for the exhibit will be held in the same location the following week, at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 25.
Her work tends to focus on the female figure and the struggles women face in society. Through her use of vibrant color, Walker is able to tackle complex issues and provide a sense of empowerment and enlightenment.
Walker will interview Douthit about the opportunities and challenges in Durham’s rising local arts scene, and what it takes to win a Grammy.
The Grammy Awards will air live on CBS on Jan. 28.
The event is sponsored by the Duke Council on Race and Ethnicity and the Center for Arts, Digital Culture and Entrepreneurship.