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Academicians Celebrated in ‘Black Scholars Matter’ Series, part 2

This is the second in a three-part series during Black History Month celebrating Black academicians and their work.

Shaun R. Harper, University of Southern California

Dr. Shaun HarperDr. Shaun Harper

At the annual meeting of the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE) last November, Dr. Shaun R. Harper argued that higher education needed a major makeover. “It remains an overwhelmingly White profession,” said Harper, who is president of ASHE. “It is White people who determine the metrics of deservingness to have a seat at the table.”

Harper’s blunt comments got picked up by several media outlets, but his critiques were hardly new. For years, he has been on a mission to advance equity within higher education and beyond, both in his role as director for the Center for Race and Equity in Education at the University of Pennsylvania and now as executive director of the Race and Equity Center at the University of Southern California, where he also holds the Clifford and Betty Allen Chair in Urban Leadership in the Rossier School of Education.

Harper, who has published more than a dozen books and more than 100 peer-reviewed journal articles, earned a Ph.D. in higher education from Indiana University in 2003. Over the years, Harper and his colleagues have interviewed more than 10,000 students, faculty members and staff about race at institutions of higher education across the country.

That work continues with the implementation of the National Assessment of Collegiate Campus Climates (NACCC), a quantitative survey that will be annually administered at hundreds of colleges and universities across the country. The survey will give institutions the data that they need about students’ feelings of belongingness and cross-racial interactions that will allow them to benchmark themselves against their peer institutions.

Marc Lamont Hill, Temple University

Dr. Marc Lamont HillDr. Marc Lamont Hill

Besides being an author, television commentator and well-known academician, add bookstore owner to Dr. Marc Lamont Hill’s growing profile.

Hill, who holds the Steve Charles Chair in Media, Cities and Solutions at Temple University, opened Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books in his beloved hometown of Philadelphia last year.

“The tradition of Black bookstores and Black publishing is the thing that helped me to develop an identity and my sense of critical analysis and helped me to understand Blackness in a different and more nuanced way,” says Hill, who has taught at Columbia University and Morehouse College. “Black bookstores helped me to develop a love of self and a knowledge of self. They showed me what was possible.”

Hill is the author of numerous books, including Nobody: Casualties of America’s War on the Vulnerable, from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond and The Classroom and the Cell: Conversations on Black Life in America, which he authored with Mumia Abu-Jamal.

A protégé of Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, who served on his dissertation committee while he was pursuing his Ph.D. in education at the University of Pennsylvania, Hill is an activist who has been a vocal critic of mass incarceration and a strong champion of various causes, including gay and transgender rights.

“Marc has added his name to the luminaries who have enlivened the national conversation on race, culture, education and politics,” says Dyson, who teaches at Georgetown University.

Ibram X. Kendi, American University

Dr. Ibram X. KendiDr. Ibram X. Kendi

Over the past few years, Dr. Ibram X. Kendi has become a rising star in the academy. The winner of the 2016 National Book Award for Nonfiction for his book Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, he is now the founding director of the Anti-Racist Research and Policy Center at American University, where he teaches history and international relations.

Kendi, who earned his Ph.D. in African American studies from Temple University, has taught at the State University of New York at Albany and the University of Florida. He has written for numerous publications and has been a longtime contributor to Diverse.

Mark Anthony Neal, Duke University

During the debate over the removal of Confederate statues across the United States, Dr. Mark Anthony Neal weighed in, describing the monuments as “low-hanging fruit.”

“There are a fair amount of folks defending those statutes who knew very little about those individuals,” Neal told Diverse in an interview. “It was literally symbolic.”

Dr. Mark Anthony NealDr. Mark Anthony Neal

A professor of Black Popular Culture in the Department of African and African-American Studies at Duke University, Neal is also the founding director of the Center for Arts, Digital Culture and Entrepreneurship, where he teaches courses on a wide range of subjects, including Black masculinity, popular culture and digital humanities. For years, he has co-taught a class with Grammy Award-winning producer 9th Wonder.

Neal, who earned his Ph.D. from State University of New York at Buffalo, is the author of several books, including What the Music Said: Black Popular Music and Black Public Culture, and Looking for Leroy: Illegible Black Masculinities.

An expert on hip-hop, he is the co-editor of That’s the Joint: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader, which is now in its second edition. He is also founder and editor of the NewBlackMan blog and is a frequent contributor to various media outlets.

Pamela Newkirk, New York University

An award-winning journalist and media studies scholar, Dr. Pamela Newkirk began her career writing for Black newspapers in the 1980s. Eventually, she was hired as a Capitol Hill correspondent for Gannett News Service in Washington, D.C. and covered the 1988 Democratic National Convention. Two years later, she was among the group of reporters who traveled to South Africa with the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson to witness the release of Nelson Mandela from prison.

Dr. Pamela NewkirkDr. Pamela Newkirk

A native New Yorker, Newkirk earned a master’s degree in journalism and a Ph.D. in comparative and international education from Columbia University. In 1993, she joined the journalism faculty at New York University and later became director of undergraduate studies.

An expert on diversity in the media, her 2000 book Within the Veil: Black Journalists, White Media won the National Press Club Award for Media Criticism.


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