UC Berkeley’s African American Studies Department awarded $2.8 million for community project

The Andrew W. Mellon foundation has awarded 16 grants totaling $72 million so far

UC Berkeley’s African American Studies Department has received a $2.8 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to expand its community impact.

“Black Studies Collaboratory,” a three-year project that is overseen by the department, is set to expand Black studies outside of the classroom to educate the community and general public. The project is led by professors Leigh Raiford and Tianna S. Paschel.

According to Berkeley News, the project will consist of of academic think tanks, summer labs for graduate students, and award research grants for African American faculty and students.

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The project aims to explore topics including prison abolition and global Black feminism that will ultimately translate into a course that’ll be open to the public in spring 2023.

Ula Taylor, UC Berkeley professor and H. Michael and Jeanne Williams Chair of African American Studies, said the vision of the department was to expand outside of the classrooms in order to educate people on the nuances of the Black experience.

The U.C. Berkeley campus sits empty on July 22, 2020 in Berkeley, California. U.C. Berkeley announced plans on Tuesday to move to online education for the start of the school’s fall semester due to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

“Our department has always had large scholarly visions that stretch beyond the formal academy to embrace artists and organic intellectuals whose work is equally significant to the mission of Black studies,” Taylor said.

“Among our goals for the Black Studies Collaboratory is to provide space for critical engagement and collaborative dreaming, and to create opportunities for joyful and generative engagement among Black faculty, students, staff, the surrounding community and around the country,” Raiford said.

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According to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, they’ve awarded 16 grants totaling $72 million so far in its commitment to award more than $200 million to arts and humanities nonprofits that were negatively impacted from COVID-19.

Mellon’s Higher Learning program’s initiative is currently “inviting scholars from a select group of colleges and universities to propose ambitious humanities-based projects that would address racial inequality in bold and imaginative ways,” according to their website. 

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