April 22, 2013
Images of Blackness: Black Women Filmmakers and the Normalization of Inequality features filmmakers and scholars whose work explores the impact the absence of black women visual artists has on creative and social representation. The Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA will curate this film and discussion series during Spring Quarter 2013 (May 15th) and will examine how continued marginalization of this group silences their stories in popular culture. The series will discuss how this absence reinforces prejudice and discrimination against black women in other areas of social and cultural production. Throughout this series, the Bunche Center will examine the intersection between race, gender, and sexuality and focus on its role in determining acceptance, critical consideration, and commercial success in the entertainment industry. For more information about the film series, Click Here.
April 18, 2013
Benjamin “BJ” McBride, a 2011 graduate of UCLA’s Interdepartmental Program in Afro-American Studies has recently been appointed Special Assistant to Mayor Kevin Johnson in Sacramento, California. As part of his new position, McBride assists the Mayor in tasks related to the City of Sacramento and also serves as young adult coalition lead for IndiviZible. The organization IndiviZible was assembled by Mayor Johnson and is composed of members of the African American community who focus on educational achievement, economic empowerment, and political influence. The vision of the project is for “The African American community to be one of the most powerful economic and political forces in our country.” Other projects assigned to McBride include assisting in the mayor’s effort to keep the NBA team, the Kings, in Sacramento, and build a new arena in the downtown area to house them. McBride states, “Honestly, God gets all of the credit for everything that has transpired in my life. I’m excited to learn from Mayor Johnson and to use this season in my life to sharpen my skills for whatever it is that God has in mind for me next in life.” Please Visit www.IndiviZible.com for more information.
April 17, 2013
The Speaking of Education Lecture series at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies will feature Bunche Center affiliated faculty members, Gary Orfield, UCLA Professor of Education, Law, Political Science and Urban Planning, and Lorrie Frasure-Yokley, Assistant Professor of Political Science at UCLA. They will discuss their book, The Resegregation of Suburban Schools: A Hidden Crisis in American Education, (Harvard Education Press, 2012) on May 9th, 2013, at 7:00pm in Moore Hall 100, on the UCLA campus.
The book, edited by Orfield and Penn State professor Erica Frankenberg, examines racial integration in schools, an issue thought to have been solved during the Civil Rights Movement. The book focuses on how suburban areas are handling an influx of poor and minority students, profiling six suburbs (outside of Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, San Antonio) as well as Beach County, Florida (which encompasses West Palm Beach and Boca Raton). Lorrie Frasure-Yokley contributed a chapter to the volume, entitled, “Holding the Borderline: School District Responsiveness to Demographic Change in Orange County, California,” which she will discuss at the May 9th lecture. For more information, call 310-206-4929.
April 16, 2013
The UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture, the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies, the Friends of Jazz at UCLA, the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, and the UCLA Department of Ethnomusicology present a celebration honoring the music of Duke Ellington on Monday, April 29, 2013 in UCLA’s Schoenberg Hall. The event features a lecture, panel discussion, and concert focusing on the many contributions of Duke Ellington in celebration of what would have been his 114th birthday. Grammy-award winning musician, UCLA Ethnomusicology professor, and Bunche Center affiliated faculty Kenny Burrell will deliver a lecture, “The Magic and Mystery of Ellingtonia,” which will be followed by a panel discussion about Ellington’s legacy by distinguished faculty and musicians. The Friends of Jazz at UCLA will host a reception prior to the 7:00pm concert. Space is limited. Concert seating will be on a first-come, first-served basis. Free tickets will be issued beginning at 6:00pm on the day of the event. For more information, call 310-825-5947 or visit http://dailybruin.com/2013/04/29/ellingtonia-to-honor-jazz-musician/ or www.friendsofjazz.ucla.edu.
April 12, 2013
Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad will discuss his award-winning book, The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America (Harvard Press 2010) on Monday, April 15, 2013 at 4:00 PM in Royce Hall 306. Muhammad serves as Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, one of The New York Public Library’s four research centers. Previously, he was an associate professor of history at Indiana University, Bloomington. He is great-grandson of Elijah Muhammad, founder of the Nation of Islam, and the son of Ozier Muhammad, a photographer for the New York Times.
The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, a research unit of The New York Public Library, is generally recognized as one of the leading institutions of its kind in the world. For over 80 years the Center has collected, preserved, and provided access to materials documenting black life, and promoted the study and interpretation of the history and culture of peoples of African descent.
The event is sponsored by the UCLA Department of History and the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA.
April 8, 2013
Françoise Lionnet, Director, African Studies Center, Professor, French & Francophone Studies, Comparative Literature, and Gender Studies, and Bunche Center affiliated faculty, gives the 114th UCLA Faculty Research Lecture, “Perilous Crossings: Shipwrecks, Migrations, and the Global Pursuit of Hope.”
March 26, 2013
Professor Richard Yarborough, UCLA Department of English and Bunche Center affiliated member attended the annual meeting of the American Studies Association in Puerto Rico in November of 2012 to receive the Minority Scholars Committee’s first Richard Yarborough Award in Mentoring. Named in Professor Yarborough’s honor, this award will be given each year to a scholar in recognition of his/her contributions to the academy though his/her work with students and younger scholars. Also at this meeting, Professor Yarborough chaired two sessions—one titled “Crimson and Clover: Hope and Dread in the Musical Countercultures of the 1960s”; the other, “The Sixties, Fifty Years Later.”
Earlier in the year, Yarborough delivered a keynote address titled “Black Power and African American Literature: Politics and Art in the 1960s” at American Literature and the Changing World, a conference convened at Renmin University in Beijing. Following this conference, Professor Yarborough remained for several weeks in Beijing, where he taught an undergraduate course titled “Twentieth-Century American Fiction” as part of the International Summer School program at Renmin University.
Finally, Professor Yarborough was recently invited to join the Managing Board of the American Quarterly. He also served as a featured commentator on American Literature for several programs produced by the Biography Channel.
March 25, 2013
This year’s Thurgood Marshall Honoree, John W. Mack, is the Vice President of the Los Angeles Police Commission. Mack served as President of the Los Angeles Urban League from August of 1969 until his retirement in 2005. He began his career with the Urban League in Flint, Michigan in 1964 and was appointed Executive Director in 1965. Prior to heading the Los Angeles Urban League, Mack served on the Urban League’s National staff for six months during the Whitney Young era in Washington, D.C. Mack was a leader in the 1960 student civil rights movement in Atlanta – and Co-Founder and Vice Chairperson of the Committee on the Appeal for Human Rights. John W. Mack was appointed to the Board of Police Commissioners by Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa in August of 2005, where he has served as both President and Vice President of the five-person Police Commission.
J.M. August 23rd will be the 50th anniversary of the event and it is important from a historical perspective to revisit the march and the impact that it had. Quite frankly, it changed the course of civil rights in America in so many ways. Of course, the march was highlighted by Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech, which inspired all of the 250,000 people who showed up. When you look at the course of the movement prior to that time, in many ways, the march was the new Emancipation Proclamation for America. At that time, segregation was deeply entrenched, particularly in the south and this was the response to that continued racism and discrimination.
Ed. How did the march inspire you?
J.M. When you look at the course of history, the March on Washington and King’s speech, (which I believe was one of the greatest speeches in American history) it pricked the conscious of many who were sitting on the sidelines and indifferent to the struggles African Americans were facing. The march elevated the issue to a new level. The March on Washington, coupled with the Bloody Sunday March, were the primary mobilizing events that moved President Johnson to pass the 1965 Voting Rights Act. And in so many ways, that laid the foundation for the ultimate election of President Barack Obama, the nation’s first African American president. So you see, there is a very important connection between that history [the March on Washington] and today. When we look at Obama’s election and reelection, there is no question that it took a broad, diversified collation to make change happen, just as it did back in the 60’s. And it happened today in spite of the fact that in over 20 states, Republican governors are still trying to suppress the voting rights of people of color. It is a reminder that every time we take major steps forward, there are a few steps back.
Ed. So do you agree with people when they say that today, we are living in a “post racial” time?
J.M. Idea of post racial America is an elusive goal. If it weren’t so serious it would be a joke, it would be laughable. Those who state that we are in a post racial time don’t get it. They are not in touch and are either in denial or naïve when look at today’s realities. Drawing the conclusion – that we are in a post racial time – is probably one of the good news, bad news results of the Obama election. People thought that when Obama was elected that it meant that all the problems of race were solved. While his election was a monumental event, and an event I’m personally very proud of and I’m confident that millions and millions of African Americans and other people of good will across the board are proud of, we still have attempts to suppress the rights of people of color. So when you look at where you are today, we have a mixed bag. We now have African Americans who are beginning to crack the glass ceiling, not shatter it, but crack it, like Ken Chenault, who is black and is the CEO of American Express, that’s undeniable progress, but the unemployment rate for Blacks is still 2-3 times higher than it is for whites. We’ve made some progress in implementing King’s dream, but it is incomplete.
Ed. You had a legendary tenure at the Urban League, serving from 1969 to 2005. What are some of the accomplishments that stand out for you?
J.M. It was my great privilege to serve as president of the Urban League for almost 30 years, and there were highlights and low lights. When I look at the first and most important change that I experienced and had the opportunity to be a part of, I would have to say it involved the Los Angeles Police Department. During my tenure at the Urban League, I, along with other leaders of non-profits, Civil Rights organizers, and ministers, battled with the LAPD, particularly during the Daryl Gates era. During that time, the LAPD functioned as an occupation force in the Black community. There were the series of choke hold incidents. It was being applied very widely and indiscriminately and as a result 21 black males died. Gates claimed it was because there was something medically wrong with the young Black men and had nothing to do with the officers and their behavior. We held a press conference at the Urban League with the late Johnny Cochran, and Dr. Madison Richardson, prominent ears, nose and throat doctor. Johnny Cochran condemned the police actions from a legal perspective, Dr. Richardson confirmed that the young Black men were not dying from the choke hold because of any inherent defects, clearing them from medical perspective, and I spoke about the choke hold policy from a human rights perspective. That event led to change in the LAPD choke hold policy.
Then there was Rodney King incident. That brutal beating of Rodney King ultimately served as a major catalyst for reforms in the LAPD. During the whole process, we demonstrated and protested to the police commission and the city council and as a result of our collective actions, Mayor Bradley appointed Warren Christopher. The Christopher Commission’s report was a very important milestone and its recommendations laid the foundations for strengthening the role of police commission. In my role at the Urban League, I testified publically and privately before the commission and served on the committee that mobilized, educated, and persuaded the voters to approve the recommendations of the Christopher Commission. Some of those changes included limited term limits for the police chief and creating the office of inspector general for the police commission, which has oversight over LAPD activities. This was very important.
Ed. Then after your retirement from the Urban League, it was sort of a natural move to serving on the Police Commission?
J.M. At the time it didn’t feel like it was a natural progression, but Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa thought it was! Based upon his experience, he appointed me. He knew I’d been an advocate and external critic of the force and because of that, he felt that my colleagues and I could provide the kind of independent oversight needed. I am proud of the progress that the LAPD has made – it is different institution today, a changed institution. As a result of Rodney King and Rampart corruption scandal, the police commission and then Police Chief Bill Bratton had the leverage and legal authority in certain areas to make sure that the department addressed some of those historic problems.
As I reflect upon my years as president of the Urban League, fighting the LAPD tooth and nail, and in my role at the police commission, the change that has occurred on the force is a major highlight of my history at both the Urban League and as President and Vice President of the Police Commission.
Ed. What issues do you think are still at the forefront for the police commission to address?
J.M. We cannot become complacent. It is important that we ensure that issues of discrimination are effectively addressed. We recently had before us the extremely tragic series of murders by Christopher Dorner. While that killing spree cannot be justified, Dorner raised serious allegations of institutionalized racism. He alleged that he was discriminated against and that the LAPD is still rampant with discrimination. I reject that the LAPD is filled with institutional racism. But the reality is, when you have ten thousand people from all walks of life working together, there can be individual acts of racism. Chief Beck has authorized a review, and frankly, will look at the disciplinary system itself to see if there are areas of unfairness that can be improved upon. We have to remain vigilant in our oversight from that standpoint.
These past eight years, as I’ve moved around this city and participated in numerous meetings in Watts, in South Los Angeles, I’ve seen a different relationship between the police and the Black community. They have developed a mutual respect and a mutual trust. We can’t kid that when allegations are made — it is of concern and needs to be investigated. When these types of allegations are made, it makes us question if we’ve made progress or if we’ve gone backwards. The 5 of us on the Police Commission want to make sure we stay on top of it.
March 20, 2013
New Report Examines Diversity in Television Writing
On Tuesday, March 26th, the Writers Guild of America will host Dr. Darnell Hunt, director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA and professor of sociology, as he presents key findings to the media from the WGAW’s 2013 TV Staffing Brief. The report tracks employment trends for minority, women, and older television writers. Dr. Hunt has written extensively on race and media, and serves as principal investigator of the Center’s Hollywood Advancement Project. At the conclusion of the briefing, the Guild will announce the 2013 Writer Access Project (WAP) Honorees in television Comedy and Drama. The program is part of the Guild’s efforts to enhance employment opportunities for diverse TV writers. Other presenters at the event include WGA West President Chris Keyser and executive producers/showrunners from the popular television programs Burn Notice and The Walking Dead.
March 20, 2013
On March 6, 2013, Professor Jacqueline Cogdell DjeDje, UCLA Department of Ethnomusicology, and Bunche Center affiliated faculty member, was presented a festschrift at an event organized in her honor at Azusa Pacific University’s annual Common Day of Learning. Entitled Resiliency and Distinction: Beliefs, Endurance and Creativity in the Musical Arts of Continental and Diasporic Africa, A Festschrift in Honor of Jacqueline Cogdell DjeDje (MRI Press, 2013), the festschrift was edited by two of DjeDje’s former students, Professor Kimasi Browne, Azusa Pacific University School of Music, and Associate Professor Jean Kidula, University of Georgia, Athens School of Music. Including testimonies and essays by former students and colleagues, the scope of the festschrift is broad and covers geographical areas, issues, and topics that relate to DjeDje’s research and publications. (Pictured – DjeDje holds copy of festschrift prepared in her honor.)
March 14, 2013
In late January, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the master plan for the new Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital campus, an expansive health and wellness center to be built in South Los Angeles. The MLK campus will be at the heart of a web of community wellness resources. The master plan was the result of a year-long community planning process, and is expected to be completed by 2013.
The organizing principle of the master plan is a “Wellness Spine” of walking and biking paths designed to promote active lifestyles. The plan also includes a new mental health urgent care center, mixed-use health retail space, medical office space, and a retirement community. In 2007, the old MLKMC was shut down due to a series of problems.
The Bunche Center’s Black Los Angeles research project chronicled the shut down in the book, Black Los Angeles: American Dreams and Racial Realities (NYU Press, 2010). The rise and fall of King Drew Medical Center was chronicled in a chapter co-written by Bunche Center director, Dr. Darnell Hunt, and assistant director, Dr. Ana-Christina Ramon. To read the chapter on the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in Black Los Angeles: American Dreams and Racial Realities, Click Here. For additional information on the master plan Click Here.
March 5, 2013
Darnell Hunt, a professor of sociology and director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies, will participate in the panel discussion, The Hollywood Shuffle: Exploring Race and Ethnicity Behind and in Front of the Camera. Moderated by USC Annenberg’s Associate Professor Stacy Smith, the discussion is held in conjunction with the International Communication Association at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on March 29th, at 6:00pm.
February 28, 2013
The Institute of American Cultures (IAC) kicks off its two-day inaugural conference, “Super Diversity California Style: New Understandings of Race, Civil Rights, Governance and Cultural Production” today at the UCLA Faculty Center. The conference seeks to encourage discourse about the effects of California’s changing racial demographics on traditional spatial boundaries, cultural production and being. Along with UCLA Law Professor Devon Carbado, Vice Provost, M. Belinda Tucker, who oversees the IAC, was one of the forces instrumental in shaping the conference.
“The conference was planned over a year ago, but the timing is wonderful because many people didn’t realize that we live in a much more heterogeneous place, and what that means for governance, representation, cuisine, and cultural production,” said Tucker. “In many areas people have to learn to deal with the new environment. The recent election made that clear.”
Additionally, the conference will focus on questions about the pursuit of equality, social justice, racialization within this super diversity context, and the various ways that global pressures interact with, and shape responses to emerging geo-political dynamics.
“The environment since the 1960s has changed pretty drastically here. All the same ‘isms’ – racism, sexism, etc. – that we had back then are here today, but the contours have changed dramatically,” Tucker said. “We have more people from more backgrounds in this area [California], so in addition to considerations of race and ethnicity, we have more languages and cultures. That makes for interesting complexities to the ways in which we engage people.”
The conference also seeks to discover why these changes have to date, been under-examined and poorly understood, and what this diversity means for Los Angeles and the United States. IAC conference organizers expect a filled to capacity event as participants identify the kind of research necessary to both understand and manage the changing face of today’s society.
The IAC serves as the administrative hub for UCLA’s four ethnic studies centers: the Asian American Studies Center, the American Indian Studies Center, the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies, and the Chicano Studies Research Center and also initiates campus-wide programs and collaborations supporting a wide range of disciplinary approaches to the study of ethnic and American cultures at UCLA. For additional information about the IAC, Click Here.
February 25, 2013
Eight days, five cities, and six lectures later, Paul Von Blum is back from Germany. Von Blum, a Senior Lecturer Emeritus in African American Studies and Communication Studies at UCLA, a Bunche Center affiliated faculty member, and a Civil Rights and political activist, was invited by the U.S. State Department to speak to German college students, high school students, and the general public about the importance of Black History Month, his personal experiences in the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, and the significance of the Civil Rights Movement today.
Von Blum’s father was a Holocaust survivor who lost the rest of his family at Auschwitz. Arriving in the U.S. at age 14, Von Blum’s father observed racism in America that reminded him of the atrocities he left in Germany. That set the stage for a lifelong dedication to confronting and addressing racism in any form – a philosophy he instilled in his son.
In his 2011 memoir, A Life at the Margins: Keeping the Political Vision (New World African Press, 2011), Von Blum chronicles his 50 years of political activism, starting with his civil rights work in the South in the early1960s, including meeting Rosa Parks, and participating in the historic March on Washington in 1963, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary this August.
Von Blum is the author of numerous books and articles on African American art, culture, and politics. Also trained as a lawyer, he has taught at the University of California since 1968, serving eleven years at UC Berkeley before arriving at UCLA, where he has taught Communications and Afro-American studies since 1980.
Von Blum’s first presentation on the U.S. State Department sponsored tour was for the W.E.B. Du Bois Lecture Series at Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität (now Humboldt-Universität) in Berlin, where Du Bois was a doctoral student from 1892 to 1894. Another acclaimed African American, Paul Robeson, also received an honorary degree from the school in 1961. During his multi-city tour, Von Blum spoke to a variety of audiences, noting that in Stuttgart, he was surprised and eager to speak to members of that city’s NAACP branch, many of whom were Germans of African descent, but also some of whom were African American expats with direct knowledge of the Civil Rights Movement. In all of his lectures, Von Blum noted the progress that has been made in race relations and civil rights, but emphasized that there is still a long way to go both nationally and globally to ensure equality for all.
Happy to be home after his whirlwind lecture tour, Von Blum is busy completing his upcoming book for Random House, Paul Robeson for Beginners. Just as Von Blum was motivated by his own father to a life of promoting civil rights, Von Blum is pleased to note that the Robeson project is a family affair, with his daughter serving as lead artist on the book, and plans to work with her again on his follow-up project, The Civil Rights Movement for Beginners.
Numerous press agencies recently reported on research led by Chandra L. Ford, assistant professor of community health sciences at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. Dr. Ford’s research found that at-risk older adults are often deterred from taking HIV tests because of lack of trust in the government and AIDS-related conspiracy theories. To learn more about Dr. Ford and her work, Click Here.
Kimberly A. Townes, a former Bunche Center Graduate Student Researcher who graduated from the UCLA MFA directing program last June, wrote, directed and edited the short film, Zero, which will premiere on HBO this month. The film is about an introverted teen that is forced to defend herself when bullies threaten to spill the beans about her crush on the math teacher.
Zero was a finalist in the 2012 HBO/American Black Film Festival Shorts Competition. It was also the winner of the 2009 UCLA/Alfred P. Sloan Thesis Production Grant, and is an official selection at the 2013 San Diego Black Film Festival. To watch the film, Click Here. The film can also be seen on HBO on 2/16/2013 at 10:30AM.
The Bunche Center Authors’ Series presents award-winning writer Charlotte Pierce-Baker discussing her latest work, This Fragile Life: A Mother’s Story of a Bipolar Son. Described by novelist Jewell Parker Rhodes as “illuminating and brilliant . . . a touching, lyrical memoir,” This Fragile Life tells the powerful and moving story of an African American family confronting the agonizing realities of mental illness. Pierce-Baker is a Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies and English at Vanderbilt University, where she teaches in such areas as African American women’s literature, race and feminisms, socio-linguistics, and gender, trauma, and violence.
The lecture will be held on Monday, February 11, 2013, at 4:00pm in 193 Humanities. The event is co-sponsored by the Institute of American Cultures; the Disability Studies Program; the Vice Provost, Diversity and Faculty Development; the Center for Language, Interaction, and Culture; the Department of English; the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies; and the Center for the Study of Women.
February 7, 2013
On February 14, the Bunche Center Circle of Thought presents Tyrone Howard, professor in UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Sciences, speaking on “The State of African-American Education in a Post-Racial Era: Promise or Peril?” This lecture, part of the Bunche Center’s Brown Bag Lunch Series, will take place in Haines Hall 135 from Noon – 1:00 PM. Howard will examine the consequences of looking at education as a civil rights issue and what that means for African-American youth. This lecture will be centered on the current state of affairs for African-American education, and will outline ever present challenges at the nexus of race, education and equity.
February 6, 2013
The Bunche Library and Media Center concludes its Black History Month Film Screenings on 2/21/13 with the documentary, Dorothy Dandridge “An American Beauty.” The film offers a look at an actress who although limited by racism and sexism, forged a career in entertainment and broke barriers. The film features rare pictures and footage of this Black Hollywood legend. Screenings are held in Haines Hall 135 from noon to 1:00 PM.
February 4, 2013
Historian Scot Brown, a faculty associate of the Bunche Center, discusses the legacy of Leroy “Sugarfoot” Bonner, frontman for the pioneering funk group the Ohio Players. Bonner recently passed away at 69. Click HERE to hear the NPR interview and for the full transcript.
Françoise Lionnet’s two recent books are on the Indian Ocean – Writing Women and Critical Dialogues, and The Known and the Uncertain, both published by (l’Atelier d’ecriture; 1ST edition, 2012). The former work examines authors of the region who provide salient examples of contemporary multilingual “world literature;” while the latter title looks at crucial issues of public policy, language, and democracy in Mauritius and Reunion Island.
Also, Lionnet’s 2012 Presidential address for the American Comparative Literature Association was published in the Fall 2012 issue of the journal, Comparative Literature; it is titled “Shipwrecks, Slavery, and the Challenge of Global Comparison: From Fiction to Archive in the Colonial Indian Ocean.”
Lionnet is Director of the UCLA African Studies Center, Professor in the UCLA Department of French and Francophone Studies, and a Bunche Center affiliated faculty member.
Joshua Bloom, a UCLA Doctoral Candidate in Sociology, and a former Bunche Center Visiting Scholar, participates in an Author Meets Critics Panel to discuss his book, Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party (University of California Press, 2013), co-authored with Berkeley history professor, Waldo E. Martin. Bloom and Martin will meet critics, UCLA history professor Robin D.G. Kelley, and Northwestern University sociology professor, Aldon Morris.
The book, Black Against Empire is the first comprehensive overview and analysis of the history and politics of the Black Panther Party. The authors analyze key political questions, such as why so many young black people across the country risked their lives for the revolution, why the Party grew most rapidly during the height of repression, and why allies abandoned the Party at its peak of influence. Bold, engrossing, and richly detailed, this book cuts through the mythology and obfuscation, revealing the political dynamics that drove the explosive growth of this revolutionary movement, and its disastrous unraveling. The Author Meets Critics Panel Discussion will be held on 1/31/13 at 4:00pm in Haines Hall 135. A reception immediately follows at 6:00pm. Join the Bunche Center for a spirited discussion of this important work.
January 28, 2013
150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation
January 1, 2013 not only ushered in the New Year, it also marked the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. Published to coincide with the anniversary, “Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery” (Temple University Press, 2012), showcases more than 150 images that show how slavery, Emancipation and freedom were depicted by photography of the Civil War era and beyond.
In an effort to answer the question, “What does freedom look like?” the book was written by Dr. Deborah Willis, a Professor and the Chairwoman of the Department of Photography and Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, and Dr. Barbara Krauthamer, an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Their goal was to expand the photographic record and stimulate new discussion about race and freedom.
Several projects linked to Emancipation and the Civil War have been produced this year, contributing to a national dialogue about that legacy of slavery and freedom. Steven Spielberg’s Oscar nominated film, “Lincoln,” the exhibition, “The Civil War and American Art,” at the Smithsonian, and “Visualizing Emancipation,” an exhibition (also curated by Dr. Willis) at the Schomburg Center, are a few of the opportunities to explore the nation’s historical record on race. The preliminary Emancipation Proclamation document was also displayed for public viewing this fall.
To read more about the book Click Here.
January 24, 2013
Paul Von Blum, a Senior Lecturer Emeritus in African American Studies and Communication Studies at UCLA, Bunche affiliated faculty member, and longtime Civil Rights and political activist, will spend Black History Month in Germany. Invited by the U.S. State Department, Von Blum will give five lectures on the U.S. Civil Rights Movements and its contemporary implications. He will also discuss his personal involvement in the movement, including participating in the historic March on Washington in 1963, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary this August.
Von Blum’s first presentation will be for the W.E.B. Du Bois Lecture Series at Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität (now Humboldt-Universität) in Berlin. Du Bois was a doctoral student at the university from 1892 to 1894. Paul Robeson also received an honorary degree from the school in 1961. The W. E. B. Du Bois Lecture Series in American Culture Studies offers new contributions to the urgently needed intercultural dialogue and addresses crucial aspects and problems of today’s public culture and the modes of cultural critique.
Von Blum’s most recent book, A Life at the Margins, (New World African Press, 2011), chronicles his teaching and activism. To learn more about the book, Click Here
January 23, 2013
Harryette Mullen Chosen as Mentor for the 2013 PEN Emerging Writers Program
Harryette Mullen, a poet and associate professor of English and African-American studies at UCLA, was recently selected to mentor writers for the PEN Emerging Writers Program. The program, which runs from January to August, is a literary fellowship aimed at providing new writers, who often lack access, with the tools they will need to launch a professional writing career. PEN strives to protect the rights of writers around the world, to stimulate interest in the written word, and to foster a vital literary community among the diverse writers living in the western United States.
Mullen, who will serve as the Visiting Poet at Naropa University in Boulder this February, has numerous activities this winter including: a reading at Otis College of Art & Design, Los Angeles, in January; a reading and workshop at Columbia College in Chicago in February; and a reading a New York’s Whitney Museum in March. Her book, The Cracks Between What We Are and What We Are Supposed to Be: Essays and Interviews, was recently published by University of Alabama Press (2012).
For information about Emerging Voices, Click Here.
January 22, 2013
Bernard and Shirley Kinsey bring you “Our Journey to Freedom” at the Ebony Repertory Theater
The Ebony Repertory Theater celebrates Black History Month with a presentation by Los Angeles philanthropists Bernard and Shirley Kinsey on February 2nd, 2013. Dedicated to exploring the intersection of history and art, the Kinseys, famed collectors of African American art of the 19th and 20th centuries, will present, “Our Journey to Freedom,” a fascinating history of the triumphs and accomplishments of African American people.
Bernard and Shirley Kinsey are renowned for giving back to the community. Recently, they hosted the 2012 Bunche Center Summer Humanities Institute students at their Los Angeles home for a discussion of history and art. They also have a touring art collection. The Kinsey Collection will be on display through 2013 and into 2014 in San Francisco, Charlotte, Baltimore, Orlando, and other cities nationwide. To learn more about the Kinsey Collection Exhibit Click Here.
The Ebony Repertory Theater is a resident company housed at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center. It is committed to bringing diverse, high standard, professional performing arts to the Mid-City community, as well as the greater Los Angeles area.
January 17, 2013
Culver City 8th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration
Bunche Center Director and sociology professor, Dr. Darnell Hunt will introduce the documentary, “MLK: The Assassination Tapes” on Saturday, January 19th at the Culver City 8th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration, “Realizing the Dream, Living the Legacy.” Reverend James Lawson, a friend and ally of Dr. King, will give the keynote address and cake will be served in honor of Dr. King’s birthday.
January 14, 2013
Soul Food Junkies
Deep fried in oil, cooked in lard, sautéed in butter, bacon, battered foods, fatty meats in abundance – and don’t mention the pecan pies, bread pudding and fruited Jello molds ubiquitous at family dinners and special occasions – soul food is a tradition in African American culture. In his film, Soul Food Junkies, filmmaker Byron Hurt examin es how soul food can lead to obesity and other health issues, as happened to Hurt’s father, who died at the age of 63. Hurt’s film explores the soul food tradition and its relationship to black cultural identity. Soul Food Junkies examines both the positive and negative consequences of the soul food tradition as African Americans seek to address health issues plaguing the African American community.
This important and moving Independent Lens documentary can be seen starting January 14th on various PBS stations. For more information Click Here.
January 7, 2013
Tragic No More: Mixed-Race Women and the Nexus of Sex and Celebrity
Caroline A. Streeter, associate professor of English at UCLA and a Bunche Center affiliated faculty member, celebrates the release of her new book, Tragic No More: Mixed-Race Women and the Nexus of Sex and Celebrity. Focusing on novels, television, music, and film, Streeter’s book examines popular representations of biracial women of black and white descent in the United States from the 1930s to the 1990s.
Tragic No More explores two dominant narratives framing the perception of mixed race in America. The first is based on the long-standing historical experience of white supremacy and black subjugation. The second is more recent and involves the post–Civil Rights expansion of interracial marriage and mixed-race identities. Streeter analyzes the collision of these two narratives, the cultural anxieties they have triggered, and the role of black/white women in the simultaneous creation and undoing of racial categories—a charged, ambiguous cycle. The book is a timely exploration of gender and mixed race in American culture.
As part of the Bunche Center Authors’ Series, Professor Streeter will discuss her book at an event on January 24th, 2013, from noon – 1:00pm, in the Bunche Library Media Center, Haines Hall 135.
December 4, 2012
Follow UCLA Afro-American Studies alumnus Michael Moses (’12) as he teaches English in South Korea between October 2012 and September 2013. You can read his blog HERE.
November 13, 2012
Jeannette Moore, a retired educator, established a scholarship fund for students at the Bunche Center in 2008 to honor her late daughter Roxanne. Ms. Moore’s gift provides much needed financial support to students at a time when college tuition costs are rapidly rising. The gift also shows Ms. Moore’s ongoing commitment to education and increasing diversity at UCLA.
The 2012 Roxanne Chisholm and Jeannette Chisholm Moore Endowed Scholarship recipients are Janae Bell and Jazmine Gordon, both seniors studying political science with minors in African American studies. We had an opportunity to speak with the recipients and learn how the scholarship impacts their studies and their future.
Ed. Janae, why did you decide to come to UCLA?
J.B. I visited during the admit weekend sponsored by the Afrikan Student Union. It really felt like there was a strong sense of community here. When choosing colleges, I didn’t know what I was looking for, but it was the community feeling among the African American students and faculty on campus that separated UCLA from the other schools I looked at like USC or Columbia.
Ed. How did you hear about the Chisholm-Moore scholarship?
J.B. I received an email from the Bunche Center and decided to apply. I was awarded the scholarship in my freshman year and have been given support each year since. One of the things I’ve enjoyed is having the chance to meet with Mrs. Moore. She’s had lunch with the recipients and I’ve spoken with her several times. I’ve also been able to meet the other recipients and become friends with them.
Ed. How has the scholarship helped you?
J.B. The scholarship allows me to supplement my education. I have big expenses that I don’t have to worry about now. I can pay for books and groceries. The scholarship has been really helpful, and I’m very thankful to the Bunche Center and Mrs. Moore. It has allowed me to complete my education and graduate in four years.
Ed. What are your goals?
J.B. I’m studying political science and African American studies. After college, I want to take a year off and intern with the Congressional Black Caucus. After that, I’d like to go to law school.
Ed. Jazmine, what made you decide to come to UCLA?
J.G. UCLA was always my dream school ever since high school. I’m from Rialto, California, and I visited UCLA when I was in high school. I toured the campus and said, “Yes, this is where I want to go.” It was the only school wanted to attend.
Ed. What are you studying?
J.G. I became a political science major because I want to go to law school. But I started to notice that my classes didn’t have anything to do with African American life. I got involved with the Afrikan Student Union, and then added African American studies as my minor.
Ed. How did you hear about the Chisholm-Moore scholarship opportunity and how has it helped you?
J.G. I first received the scholarship four years ago. I have received it every year since then. Being a middle class student can be difficult, and the scholarship has helped supplement the tuition my family pays for my education. The scholarship is $1500 per year and has helped with all the tuition hikes. I really appreciate Jeannette Moore. She’s a nice woman. She’s met with us and talked with us about our goals. I don’t know what I would have done without this scholarship.
Ed. What are your long-range plans?
J.G. I want to get into public interest law or perhaps run for political office. I will be doing an internship next quarter in Washington, D.C. Being there will give me more exposure to political life and help me decide which direction to follow.
October 24, 2012
The Institute of American Cultures (IAC) was founded in 1969 as a collaborative initiative to foster and advance ethnic studies scholarship at UCLA and to build connections among the four ethnic studies centers. The IAC works to advance understanding of the new social and cultural realities in America defined by population shifts, as well as increased fluidity with regard to race, ethnicity, identity, and culture. Each year the IAC sponsors a competitive fellowship to support research by faculty and graduate students. Jordan T. Camp, a lecturer for the UCLA Afro-American Studies Interdepartmental Program, has been selected as the 2012-2013 IAC Visiting Scholar at the Bunche Center.
Dr. Camp’s manuscript entitled, Incarcerating the Crisis: Race, Security, Prisons, and the Second Reconstruction, has emerged from his engagement with social movements. Whether it was interviewing activists as a radio journalist at KCSB in Santa Barbara; examining social movements in post-Katrina New Orleans; or coediting Freedom Now! Struggles for the Human Right to Housing in Los Angeles and Beyond, (Freedom Now Books, 2012); he has pursued research projects that link his scholarship to its public uses.
Incarcerating the Crisis traces the origin and development of mass incarceration through several key historical events including: the early Cold War (1948-1965), the Watts insurrection (1965), the Detroit rebellion (1967), the Attica uprising (1971), the lockdown of Marion prison (1983), the Los Angeles revolt (1992), post-Katrina New Orleans (2005), and the housing crisis in Los Angeles (post-2008). Camp argues that these events were critical moments in the rise of the carceral state. While Camp deals with dominant representations, he also examines how African American activists, artists, and social theorists have produced alternative visions and perspectives.
Dr. Camp’s interest in his project emerged while pursuing his doctorate at the University of California, Santa Barbara, when he developed new methods to understand the relationships between racialization, criminalization, and incarceration. Prisons in the United States, he points out, “include more Black people than South Africa did under apartheid, with the fastest growing population composed of immigrants.” Through his research, Camp hopes to show that neoliberal globalization and incarceration have disproportionately impacted poor communities of color. He argues, “incarceration is not an inevitable solution to social crisis” and hopes his research will help people understand that “alternative outcomes are possible.”
For Camp, one of the major benefits of coming to UCLA and the Bunche Center has been the opportunity to work with Robin D. G. Kelley, the Gary B. Nash Professor of American History, and a well-known scholar in the areas of labor and radical movements in the U.S.; intellectual and cultural history; and urban studies. Camp explains, “I was very excited to have the chance to work with Robin Kelley. He has been a huge influence on my own thinking and scholarship.”
In addition to completing his manuscript this year, Camp will be teaching a class on Race and Labor in the spring. He is grateful that this fellowship will also provide the opportunity “to work with the outstanding students at UCLA.” For Camp, the IAC fellowship has “allowed me to join a community of scholars. I am grateful to be in a place that foregrounds African American freedom struggles, and shows us how these struggles can help us understand the roots of social problems today.”
Throughout his year as the IAC Visiting Scholar at the Bunche Center, Dr. Camp will make presentations in his research area. Please visit this website’s calendar section regularly to find the dates and times of upcoming lectures and events.
October 10, 2012
In the academic year 1991-92, John Densmore, former drummer for the musical group The Doors, established an endowment to support UCLA undergraduate majors or minors in Afro-American Studies. The scholarship is awarded to students demonstrating outstanding academic success and other achievements. Mr. Densmore cites his early musical influence by great jazz musicians, many of whom were African American, as the reason he wanted to give back to the community who inspired him.
Jonathan Zielke and Taylor Mason are the 2012 Densmore Scholarship recipients. Center Talk! recently caught up with Jonathan Zielke.
Ed. How did you hear about the award?
J.Z. Honestly, I’d never heard about the award or about The Doors before I received the email from the Bunche Center encouraging students to apply for the scholarship. I looked up Mr. Densmore after I applied.
Ed. You’d never heard of The Doors?
J.Z. I was born in Central Africa, in the Republic of the Congo. That is where my mom is from. My father is from California, but was working overseas for the U.S. Agency for International Development. We were evacuated from Congo when I was young.
Ed. What was it like coming from that background?
J.Z. Growing up, it was hard to establish identity. I never thought my family was distinctive until I had an experience in 2nd grade, when my teacher gave a history lesson on slavery. As the teacher explained how black people were forced to leave their country and come to America, all of the other students’ eyes were on me because I was the only black kid in the class. It was a tough burden for someone seven years old to carry. I began to feel like I didn’t have a sense of belonging. I didn’t fit in [with white kids] and I felt like I was an outcast among the black kids for getting good grades and doing well in school.
Ed. How did you deal with those feelings?
J.Z. After high school, I traveled to Africa and went to work alongside people from Europe tutoring math and English. I also organized an afterschool swim program.
Ed. What was that like?
J.Z. For many of the [African] kids, it was their first time seeing a pool! It made me realize how one person can have impact.
Ed. What else did you learn from the experience?
J.Z. I also realized that there [The Congo], blacks take their opportunity to get an education very seriously. It wasn’t like what I experienced in high school. The people of the Congo were very warm and intelligent and made me feel like I belonged and knew who I was. On the flight home, I made a promise that I would work hard and get an education. That is what motivated me to transfer from Sacramento City College to UCLA.
Ed. What are you studying here?
J.Z. I am an African American studies major with a political science minor. I also hope to be involved in promoting service activities at UCLA.
Ed. What are your goals?
J.Z. In the long term, my mission is to stress the importance of education to others. And I want to help those who are underrepresented get into top schools. I want to stress the idea that diversity in the classroom enhances learning for everyone enrolled. In the short term, I need to focus on getting the grades I need to go to law school. Someday, I’d like to go into civil rights law.
Ed. How does this scholarship help you accomplish those goals?
J.Z. I use the scholarship to help with tuition costs.
August 14, 2012
Terrell Winder just completed his first year in UCLA’s PhD program in sociology and has been working with the Bunche Center on its Race & Hollywood Project. He was recently interviewed for Center Talk!
Ed. What is your background?
T.W. I’m from Baltimore, Maryland, and earned my undergraduate degree in comparative ethnic studies and elementary education. I earned a teaching certification in NYC and taught at the Manhattan School for Children.
Ed. What made you decide to come to UCLA?
T.W. The sociology program is a big department with lots of options. That was really the draw. Dr. Hunt is a helpful mentor, offering suggestions and pointers in what direction to go. I am in the MA part of the program, which is a two-year program. Then I’ll have the PhD phase which is ideally three years. As I continue my studies, the biggest challenges for me are the writing but also the discipline shift. I have to think about a project in sociology, whereas I tend to think in an interdisciplinary way. I have to work to make my ideas meet with what is acceptable and considered legitimate in sociology.
Ed. How have your interests change since you’ve been here?
T.W. Well, I started in education, but now my research is on sexuality, specifically looking at gay youth in organizations that target those populations, and in youth of color. I want to look at questions such as, “How do gay youth of color use those organizations?” “How do they fit in?” “Do they behave differently in other spaces?” I want to look at the reasons why some participate in those organizations and others don’t.
Ed. How does this tie in with the Race & Hollywood Project?
T.W. Perception about what gay culture is about often comes from media. And since my project also looks at race as well as sexuality, it seemed to be a perfect fit. By working on Race & Hollywood, I can look at the scholarly interpretation of what these things mean to people. How does media influence with images? How are gay youth of color making choices off of that? Looking at it from this angle, I can see connections in a different way.
Ed. What are your long term goals?
T.W. Ideally, I want to do expansion of my project. I want to focus on Los Angeles and do similar studies on an East Coast city like New York, looking at different organizations that serve gay youth of color. These cities are demographically and geographically different. I want to see if there are similarities and/or differences between the organizations based on locale. Eventually, I’m not sure, but I want to teach, perhaps at the university level or go back to the elementary level.
Ed. What have you gained from working on the Race & Hollywood project?
T.W. This project has shown me the importance of seeing things and synthesizing that information in a way that can be talked about. No one has a central database about race and Hollywood and because of that, no one can talk about it. Working on the project has helped me look at the areas and groups that are overlooked or categorized in different ways and explore how we see and understand them.
Ed. What is your background?
A.A. I’m from Bakersfield, California, and went to Chapman College in Orange County for my undergraduate degree. I majored in sociology, with a minor in university honors.
Ed. University honors? Tell us a bit about that program.
A.A. It is a program constructed with separate courses created for honors students, really an interdisciplinary honors program.
Ed. What did you do after you finished Chapman?
A.A. I did an internship in Washington, D.C. with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and the U.S. Senate. Then I went to Cal State Northridge where I received my masters in interdisciplinary studies.
Ed. Tell us a little bit about your research interests.
A.A. I study race and gender. Currently, I’m working on a project about women and wedding culture. I decided to get involved with the Race & Hollywood Project because it’s similar to my own project in terms of looking at representation. Also, it was really important to me to work with the Bunche Center and to keep an interdisciplinary focus.
Ed. What are your long term goals?
A.A. After I complete my PhD, I want to teach and continue to produce scholarly work in the area of race, gender and sociology.
Ed. You are GSRs on the Race & Hollywood Project. Tell us what do you on it?
A.A. Right now, I’m conducting a literature review on all relevant data on race in entertainment. We are collecting the data to try to create a comprehensive data base of information. We’ve been working on this since April of 2012.
Ed. How does the project tie in with your research interests?
A.A. Well, I am looking at the representation of race and wedding culture in film and television and how that has real consequences. I am asking questions such as, “How are people of color perceived [in wedding culture]?” “How do black women construct their ceremonies in relation to what is depicted by the bridal industry?” Generally, I’m interested in how weddings are constructed in popular culture and what the consequences are for real brides. The Race & Hollywood Project looks at the similar issues around diversity and representation.”
Ed. What do you think is the importance of this project?
A.A. I think Race & Hollywood is important because no one else is doing it and it needs to be done. I think it is important to have a site where academics and industry members can go and find info that is relevant to them. I think that’s what this project will provide.
July 16, 2012
The Bunche Center is embarking on a major research initiative, the Race & Hollywood Project. Race & Hollywood seeks to generate an annual analysis of the inclusion of underrepresented groups in film and television, identify and disseminate best practices for increasing diversity in the entertainment industry, and foster dialogue to bring about change. In the next few weeks, we will feature the three graduate student researchers working on Race & Hollywood, learning their motivation for participating and what they bring to the research.
Ed. What is your background?
M.M. I’m from Marietta, Georgia, and I received my undergraduate in English at Georgia Southwestern State University. At first, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go to graduate school. But then I realized I wanted to be a professor of media studies, looking at media representations. UCLA was my number one choice because of the Afro American Studies department.
Ed. Could you tell us about your research interests?
M.M. I am looking at media representations of black people, right now focusing on a critical review of Tyler Perry’s work, his portrayal of African Americans. I want to study how he is changing as an artist and if he can and will help other blacks into the industry.
Ed. You mentioned that you have plans before you go to graduate school. What are they?
M.M. I’m going to take a year off and teach English in Korea, then go to graduate school after that.
Ed. Why Korea?
M.M. I have student loans and Asian countries pay a great deal for teaching experiences. It is also an opportunity to travel. It will be my first extended amount of time away from the United States. I’m also excited about the opportunity to look at black representation in the foreign media. I want to look at how they present our media culture but also explore K-Pop, which is the culture of black face that is often seen there. I am also interested to see how basketball and Obama are presented, received, and interpreted.
Ed. What are your long term goals?
M.M. I ultimately want to get my PhD in education at UCLA.
Ed. You are a graduate student researcher (GSR) on the Race & Hollywood Project. Tell us about the project.
M.M. I wanted to work with the project director, Dr. Hunt, and was offered a work study position. I have been collecting articles to support assertions for the pilot study. I’ve also been looking into websites of major studios to learn about their diversity initiatives. It’s been great working with Dr. Hunt as our research interests are very similar and I’m excited about the Race and Hollywood Project. I’m sorry to be leaving.
Ed. What have you gained from working on the project?
M.M. It’s really helped me understand the beginning of a research project. It has also given me a deeper media background and helped me in thinking about my own project and how Race & Hollywood mirrors it – they have the same theoretical framework. It’s really helped me to further understand how to look at race in media culture.
Ed. What do you see as the importance of this project?
M.M. The Race & Hollywood Project is important to help dispel the notion that we are living in a post racial society. This project helps to break down this idea which I didn’t even really understand at first. I grew up in white suburb and didn’t get race culture. But these [racial images in the media] are constructed and they continue to oppress brown and black, men and women of all colors. This project helps to push forward ideas that need to be addressed. If Race & Hollywood does get funding to do annual reports on race and media, I think it will be great for the industry because there is nothing out there doing it. There’s not one single detailed annual report on race in front of and behind the camera. It’s an interesting project and I’m excited to see where it goes.
June 29, 2012
The Bunche Center’s Library and Media Center (LMC) hosted a booth at the Leimert Park Village Book Fair, Saturday, June 30th from 10:00am to 5:00p.m. We spoke with Bunche Center librarian, Dalena Hunter, to learn more about the book fair and the Center’s participation.
The Leimert Park Village Book Fair was established to bring attention to area authors. “I got involved in 2009, because I thought it was important to showcase the Bunche Center’s research, and the departments on campus,” says Hunter. “I thought it particularly important in light of Prop 209 [which prohibits affirmative action in education] and the admissions debacle [when UCLA admitted under 100 African American students to their freshman class in 2006.]” Hunter wanted people to see that there were people of color at UCLA doing research that was relevant to the community.
In order to draw people in and to show that African American studies could be of interest to the general public, Hunter made a game of it. “I developed a black Jeopardy-type game,” she explains. Some of categories include history, pop culture, ancient history, African, and Caribbean history. Hunter uses the game to challenge people’s knowledge of our history and culture and to encourage them to look for additional resources. “It’s very important for our community to educate ourselves. We can’t always count on intuitions to tell the real story,” she says. “We have to make it [African American studies] fun and relevant to our youth.”
- This man, a famous civil rights activist, was originally named Michael until his parents visited Germany and saw the sculpture of a famous protestant leader. Who is the civil rights activist?
- This black owned restaurant, known for its unique food pairing, opened their first restaurant in Hollywood. What is the name of the eatery?
- As part of a U.S. government experiment from the early 1930s to the 1970s, over four hundred African American men were allowed to suffer from the symptoms of untreated syphilis, long after a cure had been found, solely to determine the long term effects of the disease. True or False.
For more information about the fair, please visit: http://www.leimertparkbookfair.com/
June 1, 2012
As part of the Center Talk! series, we will periodically profile former participants of the Bunche Center’s Summer Humanities Institute (SHI). Funded through a generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and by the University of California Office of the President, SHI is a highly successful program providing rigorous academic training to high-potential undergraduate students primarily from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
Since 2001, SHI has successfully prepared students from HBCUs to flourish in graduate school and in the workforce as they pursue humanities or humanistic social science careers – vital areas of study in which minority scholars are woefully underrepresented. SHI alumni have received advanced degrees or are enrolled in Masters and Ph.D. programs at a wide range of prestigious institutions, including Yale, Brown, Cornell, Auburn, Harvard, Penn State, Duke, and UCLA. They also have been recipients of prestigious Fulbright Fellowships and gone on to pursue careers in academia. We recently had a chance to talk to Selah Johnson about her experiences in the program:
Ed. Tell us about your SHI experience.
S.J. I attended in 2008. My research project was a comparative study of the 1959 Cuban revolution to the Black Power and Civil Rights Movement in United States. I compared and contrasted health care, poor housing conditions, and jobs as factors triggering revolt.
S.J. I got exposure not only to what would be expected once [I] got into grad school, but to research training at that level. That was definitely a plus. And I think the experience of the seminars really prepared me for the heavy reading and what was to be expected. I’m glad I got that exposure early. There is a lot of reading in grad school – I have roughly 500 pages during the next week. At SHI, I learned the art of skimming!
Ed. What are you doing today?
S.J. I am finishing the course work for the second year of my PhD History program, with a focus on American history. It is the last quarter before moving into my thesis prospectus (proposal). My thesis will be about the impact of residential segregation in Washington, D.C. and how it impacted civil rights in that region.
Ed. Is your thesis an extension of what you were researching while you were in SHI?
S.J. Civil rights is an extension of what I was doing in SHI. The summer before grad school, while I was doing an internship at the Smithsonian, I found an interesting case study while working there and that inspired my thesis.
Ed. Do you stay in touch with your SHI mentors, and what do you think the importance is of mentorship in the program?
S.J. First year I was better about staying in touch with my faculty mentor, Paul Von Blum. He wrote my recommendation to get into graduate school. The only reason I applied to UCLA is because of my mentor’s suggestion. I did continue staying in touch with the GSR mentor, Cory, and it was good because when I arrived at UCLA I saw him and had someone whose face was familiar when I got here.
Ed. Do you stay in touch with other cohort members?
S.J. Stayed in touch with one, who’s at Yale. He’s a couple of years older than me, so it is helpful to know someone who has already gone through the process I’m going through now.
May 25, 2012
We recently caught up with Kelvin White, who participated in the Summer Humanities Institute program in its first year and is now an Assistant Professor in the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Oklahoma, Norman.
K.W. I think SHI basically opened the doors for the career I have today. When I was an undergrad, I had no idea that I was going to pursue a graduate degree or a career in academia. SHI introduced me to the world of research and that’s where I really fell in love with it. SHI at UCLA was a wonderful start and the reason I am where I am at now.
Ed. What specifically do you do today?
K.W. As an assistant professor in the school of library and info studies, I was hired to build an archives program. My current research is to determine the information needs of historians of women’s history.
Ed. How are the information needs of people doing that type of research different from the needs of other researchers?
K.W. When it comes to history and what is remembered, archives capture their version of the elite, basically, white men. So, when we talk to researchers of women’s history, they say that they can’t find women in the archives. In my research, I’m trying to find out why that is and I’m looking at what is happening in terms of these historians – what new methods have they come up with to find the information they need if the information is not in the archives.
Ed. What do you feel you got from participating in SHI?
K.W. Definitely an introduction to graduate school, in terms of this is the way it is, like it or not. For people who are experimenting, it was a good way to discover if it was for you.
Ed. Mentoring has always been a large component of the SHI program. Do you stay in touch your mentor?
K.W. Yes, mine was Paul von Blum (Senior Lecturer, UCLA Department of Communications Studies/African American Studies). Paul and I are in contact on occasion. He just let me know about the book he had come out last year.
Ed. Do you stay in touch with members of your SHI cohort?
K.W. Yes, yes, yes, just for fun, not professionally really. But I like to see where everyone went and what they did with their studies. One is practicing psychology; another is a musician with a CD.
Ed. How else has SHI influenced you?
K.W. Right now with a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, I’m involved in a program which helps develop emerging archival scholars. It’s not an immersion program like SHI, but the goal is similar – to try to encourage diverse young scholars into information studies. Do you know that I’m the only African American archival studies professor with a PhD in the nation? That’s why we’re trying to diversify the field. We’re holding an Archival Education Researcher Institute at UCLA, bringing in 6 scholars for one week to have them learn what information studies is about and what research you can do, with the hope that they will decide to get a PhD in it.
May 1, 2012
The Adderley Scholarship fund was established in 1976 to honor the memory of the late, internationally renowned jazz musician Julian “Cannonball” Adderley. The purpose of the fund is to represent an effort on the part of UCLA and the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies to foster greater appreciation for the African American musical heritage. Awards are made on a competitive basis to undergraduate students specializing in Afro-American Studies, music, the arts or other related areas. In 1991-1992, John Densmore (former drummer for the musical group The Doors), established an endowment fund to support UCLA undergraduate majors or minors in Afro-American Studies who have demonstrated outstanding academic achievement. (Click HERE for more on Bunche Center scholarships.)
Marcus Roberts and Jordon Norris, both of whom are transfer students from Northern California, are the recipients of the Adderley and Desnmore Scholarships for the 2011-12 academic year. After the recent awards luncheon on April 10th, we had an opportunity to speak with Marcus and Jordon about the impact of the scholarships and their future plans.
Ed. Why did you transfer to UCLA?
M.R . I’m from San Francisco and I transferred here from Foothill College in Los Altos, California. I was in the honors program there and wanted to study African American studies, but they didn’t really have that at my school. They only had one English class that focused on African American writers. I came to UCLA for a Student Transfer Opportunity Mentorship Program (STOMP) conference and fell in love with the campus. Once I came to STOMP, I saw myself as a Bruin and wanted to be a part of it.
Ed. How did you learn about the Adderley Scholarship?
M.R. It was kind of crazy how that happened. I wasn’t really familiar with Adderley before. I like jazz, but more contemporary jazz. I was in the Bunche Center Library one day working on a paper when Alex (Tucker, Bunche Center Special Projects coordinator) told me about the scholarship and suggested I apply. He said that in the entire history of the scholarship, not one male had ever been selected as a scholarship recipient for Adderley. I gave it a shot and got the $5,000 scholarship.
Ed. Congratulations! How have the funds from the scholarship helped you over the last year?
M.R. The scholarship paid for books, a computer, and it made it so I didn’t have to take out as much in student loans. I’m very appreciative of the scholarship.
Ed. What influenced you to major in African American studies?
M.R. My research interest is in the mass incarceration of African American males. I grew up in an environment where African American males don’t survive very long. They are men who are capable of doing a lot of things, but they don’t have the opportunities, so instead they get in trouble and end up incarcerated.
I wanted to understand why my choice was different from others I grew up with in the same area. I realized that I was lucky because I had both parents who both care about me, had a family involved in the church, and didn’t have to deal with drug and alcohol issues at home. Some of my other friends and family who didn’t have those opportunities, they looked toward other areas and got into trouble.
When I was 9, my uncle went to prison for stealing food from the grocery store. It had great impact on me. I didn’t understand why someone would go to jail for something so petty – 30 dollars worth of food to feed himself and his family. Once you get into the system, you’re stuck. Can’t get a job because you’re a felon, can’t earn money to eat, have to steal to eat, end up back in jail. Half of the people in jail are not incarcerated for serious crimes. I saw a continuous string of men going to jail — friends, family, people I knew. I kept asking, “Why are these people going to jail for such a long time for something that was just so crazy?” The history of mass incarceration of African American males is the new Jim Crow. Don’t think Jim Crow went anywhere. It’s still here, it’s just institutionalized through policy…through the enforcement of petty crimes. With the research I am doing now, it will help me understand why the (incarceration) epidemic is so big.
Ed. How do you intend to use your degree? What are your future plans?
M.R. I want to become an attorney, doing criminal law. I want the law to be an even playing ground for everyone. The justice system (as it is now) is just not fair.
Ed. What are your long term goals?
M.R. Initially, I want to practice law, eventually starting my own multiracial law firm. I like the idea of that and of offering regular Saturday pro bono work. I would like to help people by providing very good legal care from people who really care. I just want to serve my community, where people are at a disadvantage.
I also have a goal of opening a community center in my old neighborhood, primarily focused on helping both children and adults manage life skills. I think that might help funnel them into the education pipeline, not the prison pipeline. I want to give kids from my neighborhood an opportunity to see what is out there and what is available in life.
Ed. Tell us about yourself.
J.N. I’m from Oakland, California, and I transferred to UCLA after attending two years at Laney College. I played football there and was going to pursue a football scholarship at a 4-year university when I realized I wanted to focus more on my academic career. I came to UCLA as a philosophy major and changed my major to African American studies after my first quarter.
Ed. What motivated the change?
J.N. I felt isolated in the philosophy courses. There were very few people of color and fewer males of color. Once I changed my major, I was less isolated. I was able to get the answers to questions I had and better able to understand why there are so few African American men in the philosophy department and at UCLA in general.
Ed. What is your research interest?
J.N. I am interested in the K-12 education pipeline, the track to incarceration, and the commonalities between the two. I want to look at how the education system contributes to some people of color ending up on the incarceration track.
Ed. How have the scholarship funds helped you with your education?
J.N. The $5,000 scholarship has helped a lot. I was trying to figure out ways to make sure I had my college career paid for — so I wouldn’t have lots of debt. I have been working as a resident assistant and was doing other things on the side to cover the cost of living, campus fees. The scholarship helps me so I don’t have to work as much at my other job, which is working at a retail store at the West Side Pavilion. I don’t have to work there as much and can really focus on my studies.
Ed. One of the things highlighted at the luncheon was your music video (see below). Tell us about your interest in music.
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J.N. I was writing poetry at first, from a young age. My brother, who was a student at UCLA at the time, encouraged me to experiment with my poetry. I was hanging out with some friends one night, playing around with the words, and it sort of evolved into rapping.
My plan is to make music a profession. I’m focusing on taking the steps to make that possible. I’m dedicating my time to my education, but the music video and other things I’m doing with my music, those are the building blocks. I am building up a following, networking, capitalizing on all the musical resources and contacts I have.
Ed. How do you see your musical aspirations and your academic interests coming together?
I can really see my education working together with my music. There are only a few times in a student’s life when they feel they have a professor who can culturally bridge the gap. I think music is capable of doing that. I can do that by making the music informative, educational, and inspiring. I think music can do the same as teachers, maybe even reach them more because people are more receptive to music. While my career goal is to be a professor, I want to do it after I pursue the music.
Ed. Were you aware of John Densmore and his music before you applied for the scholarship?
J.N. I was vaguely aware of him — my father, he is a big fan of The Doors. But I didn’t know about Densmore to any great degree. When I got this scholarship and I was able to meet Densmore, my father was very excited. Densmore, anyone involved in music, has common understanding. He’s a great person and a great resource.
Ed. A lyric in your music video is, “Your alarm is my music.” What do you want people to take away from your work?
J.N. I want them to be thoughtful about the video content, listen to the lyrics. A lot in the videos can be explained by really studying the lyrics.
Ed. What has been the response to your videos?
J.N. They’ve been well received and people have been extremely supportive. For most part, people are able to see what I’m trying to do with the music. That’s what I’ve been most excited about. Threading the needle with music – doing something contemporary, yet timeless – cool, but educational.