Home Virginia Tech faculty receive summer funding for research to fight racism, inequality

Virginia Tech faculty receive summer funding for research to fight racism, inequality

Crystal Graham

juneteenth scholars virginia tech From traveling internationally to delving into historical archives or interviewing people across the United States, nine faculty members at Virginia Tech aim is to produce research that will fight racism, expose structural inequality and support vulnerable communities this summer.

These faculty have received summer funding as part of the college’s Juneteenth Scholars program.

Founded in 2020 in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, the program supports research aligned with the themes of the Juneteenth holiday, such as activism, emancipatory movements and the need for systemic change.

The award supports faculty with a $5,000 summer salary and funding to hire an undergraduate research assistant.

2023-24 Juneteenth scholars

  • Dennis Halpin, associate professor and associate chair for the Department of History, will be conducting archival research for his book, “Bloodstained Rocks: The Life of Henry Jones.” Jones was a Black laborer in the late 19th century on the island of Navassa, where he participated in a rebellion against the violent abuse of power by white supervisors and was subsequently incarcerated in federal prison. By examining Jones’s life story and his efforts to exonerate himself, Halpin’s book will shed new light on the early history of the American prison system and African American activism.
  • As part of his first book project, “The Burning Question of Labor,” Geovani Ramírez, assistant professor of Latinx studies and literature in the Department of English, will conduct interviews with Latina gallineras or poultry workers. Themes of his research include the connections between labor and Latinx people’s relationship to their environment as well as how working conditions affect their physical and mental health.
  • Marcus Johnson, professor in the educational psychology and educational research and evaluation programs in the School of Education, will use the funding toward a digital humanities project entitled “The Longevity of Historical Racial Traumas: Teaching Their Histories.” The project will include a book and a series of interviews. It will explore how the effects of traumatic historical events, such as the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre or the 1940s incarceration of Japanese Americans, are still contributing to oppression in the modern day as well as how to address misconceptions about these events in education.
  • Priya Dixit, associate professor in the Department of Political Science, is doing research on private armed militias in Southwest Virginia and their impacts on historically marginalized people. Dixit is most interested in how communities respond to these armed groups, especially when a militia takeover of local government occurs. During the summer, she will use the funding to interview local activists who oppose armed groups and use the results in a journal article about tactics of resistance.
  • his spring, Laura Zanotti, professor of political science, traveled to Charleston, S.C., to document how slavery is memorialized in public spaces. Over the summer, she will complete a critical analysis of how stories of enslaved people are told at various tourist sites in the city. She also plans to create an annotated exhibition of photographs from the trip.
  • Claire Cahen, assistant professor of urban affairs and planning, is researching the relationship between race and financial debt in U.S. school districts. According to Cahen, financial crises and budget cuts in urban school districts disproportionately affect people of color. She will create fiscal profiles of two majority-of-color school districts, Los Angeles and Newark. Cahen will review their financial histories to test her hypothesis that the current debt in these districts has been compounded by racialized lobbying in previous decades.
  • Catalina Andrango-Walker, associate professor of Spanish, is completing a translation and introductory study of “True Description of the Esmerelda Province,” an account of Spanish missionary Miguel Cabello Balboa’s travels through the Andean region of South America in the 16th century. This writing, which has not received an English translation up to this point, is unique in documenting Europeans’ interactions with the Indigenous and African populations who were living in the region at the time.
  • Desirée Poets, assistant professor of postcolonial theory in the Department of Political Science and core faculty in the ASPECT program, will use the funding to travel to the Complexo da Maré favela in Rio de Janeiro. Favelas are low-income, majority-Black and Indigenous neighborhoods often beset by military, police, and criminal violence. Poets plans to write two articles exploring community-led violence prevention efforts in Complexo da Maré.
  • Philip Yaure, assistant professor of philosophy, is writing a book called “Confrontational Comrades: Interracial Solidarity in the American Labor Movement.” He will use the funding to conduct archival research into 20th century labor unions and the political thought of African American labor organizers. Yaure’s book will examine how interracial comradeship can form in workplaces fractured by racial oppression, where people in different groups may not have pre-existing shared interests.

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Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.