Public Scholarship

 

Finding Our Common Humanity Amidst “The Fierce Urgency of Now”

In partnership with the Newman’s Own Foundation and W. K. Kellogg Foundation, the Association of American Colleges & Universities selected ten campuses out of 125 applicants to host the first Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Campus Centers to educate, prepare, and inspire the next generation of leaders to dismantle the belief in a hierarchy of human value and to build equitable communities.

 
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The Heavy Lifting of Diversity: A Need for Scholar Administrators

Technological innovation and new economic terrain of the twenty-first century has called for higher education to re-examine how interdisciplinary ethnic studies and minority serving programs are positioned in the twenty-first century. This essay considers the utility of spaces like Black Studies departments and programs like the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship within the structure of Liberal Arts education today from the vantage of a recent graduate. In the wake of increasing hostility towards minority students and unfavorable media coverage of incidents on campus, colleges and universities must consider how rolling back minority focused academic and programmatic offerings alongside dramatic increases in contingent faculty and administrative staff hiring has left cultural voids. As Liberal Arts educators grapple with narrowing budget constraints and changing campus climates, the call for higher education employees who understand why disciplinary and programmatic offerings are tied to campus climate and how to use such resources grows louder. Scholar Administrators, in their ability to straddle the historically divisive line between faculty and staff, can help usher in a type of diversity that allows each student, faculty, and staff person to bear witness to the humanity in others, which ultimately is the heavy lifting of diversity.  

 

Knowing When to Leave: Lessons from an Academically Unaffiliated Life

“Getting a PhD is a journey” and “You must trust the process” are two of the many mantras I heard in preparation for entering and during my first years of graduate school. While these intentionally vague declarations tend to be universally true, they do not account for the personal nature that journeys to the PhD take on nor that your trust must also be placed in yourself to make the best decisions possible.

 
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Creating Space for Black Women in Academia

Co-Authored with Nneka Dennie, PhD

Generations of scholars have fought to uncover the nuances of black women’s lives. In their attempts to make black women legible within their respective disciplines, researchers steadily carved out space to interrogate black women’s experiences despite institutional forces and social pressures that sought to delegitimate their work. The field of black women’s studies has emerged because of scholars who insisted that black women’s lives matter and merit intellectual inquiry. Building on the scholar-activism of those who came before us, today, the Black Women’s Studies Association emerges out of a desire to continue to create space for black women in academia—as knowledge producers, as culture creators, and more. 

 

Decidedly Black and Decidedly for Women: The Reading Blackness Project

As a researcher of contemporary African American urban and popular literature, there are few archives to support my work. This dearth has required a re-imagining of traditional humanities research sources and a bit of technology. The “Reading Blackness Project” takes a digital humanities approach to understanding the culture that created and supported Street Lit* at the turn of the twenty-first century. After discovering a considerable discrepancy between best-selling African American literature from 1990-2010 and the most celebrated literature of the same period, I digitized the fiction bestsellers list published in Essence magazine from 1994 through 2010. I chose Essence magazine for its commitment to Black women and its best sellers list because it was generated from sales information reported from independently owned Black book stores across the United States. The list was decidedly Black and decidedly for women.

 
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Street Lit as an Economic Backbone of African American Lit: A Data Project

At the 2018 College Language Association (CLA) conference, I presented findings from my Essence Bestsellers digital humanities project. I generated a data set from the fiction bestsellers list published in Essence from 1994 through 2007 as an attempt to validate the following argument: Street Lit*, despite controversy of appropriateness, was the economic backbone of African American literature at the turn of the new millennium.

 
 

The Horror of Black Psychological Trauma: How ‘Get Out’ Tackles Black Psychological Trauma

Everyone is buzzing about Jordan Peele’s debut film Get Out  -- a suspenseful thriller that doubles as a social commentary on race and gender -- and for good reason.

History has lowered the bar for black people in horror films. To be honest, we're lucky if the black character makes it past the first three scenes. Get Out, on the other hand, deviates from this norm. It isn’t all creepy and dark with that annoying, I’m-going-to-stab-you-after-letting-you-painstakingly-run-half-a-mile-while-I-stalk-behind-at-a-steady-pace music.

To be fair, the film has its share of gory, edge-of-the-seat scenes, however, the movie is effective because it artfully touches on so many cultural tropes. This movie gets in your head and screws with cultural norms.