SUNY Black Faculty and Staff Collective Receives $50,000 Spencer Foundation Grant to Fund Black Critical Studies Research, Conference

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY – MARCH 30, 2022 – The SUNY Black Faculty and Staff Collective (BFSC), a nonprofit organization led by two founding members who are among the DCC faculty, has been chosen to receive a $50,000 grant from the Spencer Foundation to fund research and a conference dedicated to exploring the concept of Black Critical Studies.

Recently, there has been a heightened focus in educational research on the concepts of anti-Blackness, Afro-pessimism and Black Critical Studies, or “BlackCrit” as it is commonly known among academics. Afro-pessimism is a theoretical framework suggesting that, due to institutionalized white supremacy, racial equity can never be achieved as long as the construct of Blackness exists. BlackCrit is a fledgling and undertheorized theory that marks a current turn in anti-Blackness research. Most of this scholarship is discussed within disciplinary and subjectivity frameworks with Eurocentric epistemological origins; there is a dearth of interdisciplinary exploration of pro-Black fugitives from Afrocentric frameworks. This deficiency has specifically harmed and contributed to the dominant misperceptions of Black students.

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The conference will contribute to education research by prompting engagement to deepen and broaden the possibilities of how BlackCrit can serve academia and beyond, furthering the material, social, theoretical, psychological, historical and practical implications of anti-Blackness. It aims to challenge the problematic ways stakeholders address and attend to the diverse and nuanced experiences, educational needs, psychic/prophetic imaginations, robust knowledge and future possibilities for countless Black scholars and students who are perpetually exposed to anti-Blackness.

“This is an extremely positive example of SUNY cross-campus collaboration, linking community college, comprehensive college and university center faculty research efforts,” said SUNY BFSC co-founder Willie Morris, a DCC English instructor. “It’s also an example of faculty engagement with Diversity, Equity and Inclusion efforts through their research and service in academia.”

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Morris, along with fellow DCC English faculty member Jordan Bell, will serve as co-principal investigators in this initiative, working with faculty and staff colleagues from across SUNY and at the University of Minnesota, Rutgers University, Oakland University, Fordham University and Columbia College. Work started at this conference of established and emerging BlackCrit scholars will be featured in a special edition publication in the Journal of Equity and Excellence in Education.

The BFSC was founded as a “bottom-up” effort by Black and Brown faculty, staff and students across the system in response to the death of DCC student Maurice Gordon at the hands of a New Jersey state trooper in 2020. His death came during a national pandemic and outcry to see justice and equity for Black people in their relationships with many parts of society.

The BFSC promotes educational advocacy, research and scholarship, and collaboration and community-facing action. It recognizes Blackness as uniquely diverse in its representation and expression, multinational in its experiences and contexts, and expansive in its presence and presentation in social identities. It centers the needs and experiences of Black peoples wherever they are and however they are. It strives to be a space that repudiates racism, misogynoir, xenophobia, colorism, homophobia and transphobia, and dedicated to advancing policies that support Black peoples. It challenges its members through scholarship, teaching and advocacy to demand a just and equitable space for Black students, staff and faculty within SUNY, the state and the nation.

The Spencer Foundation has been a leading funder of education research since 1971 and is the only national foundation focused exclusively on supporting education research. It believes education research is integral to improving education, making education systems more equitable, and increasing opportunities to learn across the lifespan. This grant is designed to support rigorous, intellectually ambitious and technically sound research that is relevant to the most pressing questions and compelling opportunities in education.

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