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© 2004
Center for Black Studies
Annual Report 2006

Dr. Claudine Michel

Director’s Statement

Other Projects and Activities

Advisory Committee
and Staff


Organizational Chart

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kosanba poster
Brassage Cover
Screening Noir
Multiethnic Studies Poster
Katrina report poster
Report Back Poster
Robin Kelley Poster
LeGrace Benson


    Director's Statement

    In 1998, the Center's Advisory Board members drafted a new mission statement which emphasizes their strong support for retaining the Center's public/cultural mission while also re-directing the Center's agenda towards a more systematic effort to engage in research and publications. Though the Center's old mission statement also indicated a commitment to research and public service, documents supporting work done in these areas were lacking. Over the past few years we have systematically engaged in documenting past work and current research done at the Center.

    During the academic year 2005-2006, the Center took one more initiative to further enhance its research visibility in the academic community. After consultation with various academic and administrative entities, and after approval from the Office of Research, the Center for Black Studies was officially renamed the Center for Black Studies Research.

    The Center’s general research agenda is uniquely positioned to provide a critical synthesis of issues of race, social equality and justice; these narratives and approaches are present in all our projects and are a central part of our effort to merge theoretical findings with social change. The name change also reflects the newly recognized positioning of the Center at the national and international levels in terms of three particular areas of research: (1) the Haiti initiative; (2) the race and technology initiative; and (3) the ethnic studies project.

    Through its various projects focusing on either religion and/or social justice in Haiti and via the publications of the highly acclaimed Journal of Haitian Studies, the UCSB Center for Black Studies Research is becoming the number one research center within the Diaspora for projects on Haiti. The Center is also viewed as a major research center for race and technology, in particular, in terms of racialized utilization of technology. Both projects lead to the preparation of a number of volumes published or in production. One of these initiatives was supported by a significant grant from the Ford Foundation. Various video projects also aim at disseminating our ideas, research, and community projects in the academic community and among the general public.

    Furthermore, we are gaining acclaim for our initiative to create a comparative ethnic studies dialogue through conferences and symposia; this project will lead to the creation of the first nation-wide comparative ethnic studies journal in 2007. The journal will be a place to generate ideas on the culture, history, politics, economic factors and educational matters which have affected the course of life for various ethnic studies populations over time. It will also address pressing contemporary issues within aggrieved communities of color as well as their rapport with one another.

    We also note that during the academic year 2005-2006 the Center’s Associate Director launched a significant outreach project, Project Excel, aimed at raising family awareness and community support about matters of education for African American and Native American students. It is a FOG project launched in partnership with the larger Santa Barbara community. This project has the full endorsement of the university as well as that of various community constituencies.

    In years to come we plan to continue focusing on these various projects along with other initiatives related to our core programs. We also plan to work towards maintaining the UCSB Center for Black Studies Research’s stature as one of the finest research and cultural units of its type.


    Haiti Projects

    KOSANBA: The Congress of Santa Barbara (KOSANBA) is a scholarly asociation for the study of Haitian vodou housed at the Center for Black Studies Research. KOSANBA’s seventh international colloquium, “La Fanmi-a sanble/Family Resemblances,” focused on the relationship between Haitian Vodou and African-derived religions. The colloquium was held March 31-April 1, 2006, in Detroit, Michigan at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.  Over two hundred participants were in attendance.

    One of the books deriving from this project, Fragments of Bone, appeared in 2005 with Illinois University Press; two other volumes, Spirit, Myth, Reality and Vodou: Invisible Powers, are scheduled for publication this fall, respectively with Indiana University Press and Palgrave/McMillan. Two more books are in progress, Dr. Gede and God in Every Woman.

    The Center’s visiting researcher in 2005-2006, Dr. LeGrace Benson, completed the first draft of her manuscript on Historical Figures of Merit in Haitian Art while in residence at the Center. The book is a powerful account of works of art, some of them not known at all, which offer a visual narrative about the country’s social and political history (see Visiting Researcher for more details).

    This art project complements the different, but equally significant work of artist Hersza Barjon who has painted 126 paintings depicting an indigenous vision of the Vodou religious pantheon and whose collection the Center is representing. The Center has co-sponsored two art exhibits on her work and continues to apply for grants to help take this magnificent collection to larger art centers and museums. We have also produced two catalogs on her work. Her artwork is featured on the cover of two of the Center’s volumes.

    Brassage, An Anthology of Haitian Poetry was published by the Center with Muticultural Women’s Presence, Inc. This is the first published anthology of contemporary poetry by Haitian Women. This is an important project depicting personal, social and political concerns facing Haitian women living both in Haiti and in the Diaspora.

    Poto Mitan: The Center for Black Studies is currently working with filmmakers Renée Bergan and Mark Schuller to produce Poto Mitan: Haitian Women Confronting Globalization and the Third Occupation.

    The image of Haiti that comes out of both mainstream and alternative media is almost entirely negative: a seemingly endless stream of dire poverty, protracted violence, and extreme fallout from natural disasters. While it is true that Haiti is a society that is poor and divided, there are important structural causes of this poverty and division. Poto Mitan steps forward where the press has left off, providing context and understanding for the people who are confronting these structural imbalances.

    The film is a story of struggle, resistance, solidarity, democracy and global justice. Through gripping images of injustice and the powerful, compelling stories/lives of five courageous Haitian women, Poto Mitan will inspire women around the world. Our approach is to depict how inequalities based on globalization and gender roles intersect and are experienced on the ground. It is a tool to educate and empower solidarity activists globally.

    Journal of Haitian Studies: JOHS continues to be well received in the academic community in the U.S. and abroad and produced its eleven and twelve issues this year. Papers are primarily generated from within the US and from Haiti; we also received submissions from places as far away as Belgium, Finland or Greece. We noted an increase in our subscription-generated income (almost $ 5,000 over the last year instead of the projected $3,000) which may be linked with the production of our two [strong] bicentennial issues (one of them with color photographs) guest-edited by two formidable teams Fatton/Bellegarde-Smith and Danticat/Benson. In particular, institutional subscriptions from Europe have increased. The number of subscribers remains fairly stable, combining internationally approximately 200 individual and institutional subscriptions. An outreach mailing to U.S. libraries is planned for Fall 2006. We also continue to send 30 complimentary copies of each issue of JOHS to Haiti. One board member has assisted us with distributing these issues to other board members, libraries and targeted social organizations.

    Race and Technology Initiative

    AfroGEEKS Anthology and DVD: Following the two successful AfroGEEKS conferences organized by the Center and held at UCSB, AfroGEEKS: From Technophobia to Technophilia and AfroGEEKS: Global Blackness and the Digital Public Sphere, the Center is currently compiling a collection highlighting the important work presented at these two international conferences. The anthology includes seventeen essays from participants from both conferences, highlighting various topics including the digital divide, the importance of the internet and virtual communities, technology and art, connectivity and the diaspora, representation in computer and other technology related sciences, and globalization and modernization.  The anthology will also incorporate a DVD highlighting both conferences, with special emphasis on the larger second [international] conference funded by the Ford Foundation. The interactive DVD will feature clips from speakers, presentation information, links to the internet and embedded documents. Both the anthology and DVD will be widely distributed by the Center.

    Screening Noir: Last year the Center launched the new journal Screening Noir:  A Journal of Black Film, Television and New Media Culture. Edited by former Center director, Professor Anna Everett, released its inaugural issue entitled “Blaxploitation Revisited,” and has sought to distribute this issue to various university scholars and libraries in the United States.  The journal is currently accepting submissions after releasing an open-call, and is poised to release its next issue.  This important marketing and distribution time has allowed the journal to begin to establish a strong name in the field, and will allow us to place the journal on a twice-yearly publishing basis.

    Ethnic Studies Project

    On May 12 – 13, the Center for Black Studies Research and the Department of Black Studies hosted a two-day symposium to discuss the future of ethnic studies on the 21st century university campus. The event was co-hosted by Asian American Studies, the Department of Chicana/o Studies, and the Center for Chicano Studies. The Multi-Ethnic Alliance symposium brought together an enthusiastic group of scholars from various ethnic studies programs to focus on new scholarly paradigms which acknowledge the inextricability of ethnicity from issues of (im)migration, class, health, education, and gender studies. The event was designed so participants would have the opportunity to present new research and experiences during a series of panel discussions, and to encourage the exchange of ideas by creating ample opportunities for response and conversation. The event offered new opportunities for interdisciplinary, intercampus collaborations. All the panels and discussions during this free event were open to the public. The event was filmed for distribution by UCTV.

    Toni Cade Bambara has written: “One’s got to see what the factory worker sees, what the prisoner sees, what the welfare children see, what the scholar sees, got to see what the ruling class mythmakers see as well, in order to tell the truth and not get trapped.” Our opportunity is to represent and document these multiple—frequently overlapping and conflicting—perspectives. As the communities we represent experience complex ethnic and cultural re-shifting, growing struggles for recognition and social justice, and challenges to established identities, our role as scholars must reflect new responsibilities and levels of engagement. Ethnic studies scholars have made a commitment to serve as a bridge between these historically marginalized communities.

    Journal of Comparative Ethnic and Relational Studies

    In 2007, the Center will launch the Journal of Comparative Ethnic and Relational Studies. Interstices will focus on social movements, social institutions and social relations. We aim to build links between intellectuals, artists and activists, to promote the development of ethnic studies scholarship, and to disseminate the specialized knowledge produced in the university to a broader public, and in particular, to aggrieved communities of color with the goal of effecting changes in the realms of public policy and social justice. 

    Katrina Events     

    The government response, or lack of response, to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita left many residents of New Orleans and surrounding communities without homes, electricity, clean water, or access to basic services. Communities of color have been disproportionately impacted, raising questions of institutional racism. Some people see lethal incompetence; some see an agenda of ethnic cleansing. On October 19, 2005, the Center for Black Studies Research and the Department of Black Studies hosted an interdisciplinary panel to discuss these issues.

    The Center for Black Studies was the first campus unit to respond to the Hurricane Katrina disaster by hosting such a panel. The event opened with a slide presentation by Nathan Bassiouni, who took his own boat into flooded areas to rescue people stranded by the storm, and was deputized by the National Guard for New Orleans for rescue work. His narrative set the tone for the event. The discussion was filmed and broadcast nationally on UCTV. In addition to hosting this important discussion, the Center also helped support the Associated Students Katrina Relief Group as well as their “Report Back” to the UCSB community event held on February 28 in Corwin Pavilion.


    Fourth Annual Shirley Kennedy Memorial Lecture

    The Center welcomed award-winning author and leading United States African-American studies scholar Robin D.G. Kelley for the 4th Annual Shirley Kennedy Memorial Lecture, created to help the UCSB community celebrate the memory and work of community activist and Black Studies Professor Shirley Kennedy. The event opened with a nine-minute video presentation on Dr. Kennedy’s achievements. Dr. Kelley’s lecture, entitled “Africa Speaks, America Answers: The Drum Wars of Guy Warren,” was well attended by an enthusiastic audience of both campus and community members at Campbell Hall.  Kelley discussed the cultural influence of jazz in the 1950s and Ghanaian drummer Guy Warren, considered by many critics to be the inventor of Afro-jazz, providing sound samplings of the drummer’s work and placing it in a larger historical context.

    The Center is currently working on expanding the video introduction about the life of Dr. Shirley Kennedy into a longer film about the life of this important local activist. The Fund for Santa Barbara has awarded the Center $3,000 toward this project, which will allow us to begin interviews and other research.  We are currently seeking additional funding for the project, which we know is an important educational tool for which many members of the UCSB and broader community have expressed great support.


    Visiting Researcher

    This year the Center welcomed Dr. LeGrace Benson as Visiting Researcher in residence.  Dr. Benson holds an M.F.A. from the University of Georgia and a PhD from Cornell University. Currently she is Director of the Arts of Haiti Research Project and an Associate Editor of the Journal of Haitian Studies. As author of a number of articles concerning Haitian art, she has also contributed chapters to books concerning educational, environmental and arts issues in Haiti and the wider Caribbean. She has taught studies in the history of art at Cornell University and Wells College. Her forthcoming book, Figures of Merit in Haitian Art, will be published under the auspices of the Center for Black Studies Research.

    Community Outreach

    Project Excel

    Project Excel, a new initiative based at the Center for Black Studies Research, is an outreach and early preparation program that seeks to increase the number of academically better prepared African American and American Indian students in Santa Barbara and Goleta Middle and High Schools (6 -12) for possible eligibility and enrollment at UCSB and other colleges and universities. This first year of the project was a clear success with a number of significant steps having been achieved. (see Public Service Activities)

    Other Programming Activities

    One role of our community outreach effort is to encourage and facilitate community attendance at campus events and participation in campus programs. Another goal is the joint sponsorship of events and activities. In 2005-2006, we have continued our program of collaboration with various community groups to maintain a Center presence in the Community. (see Public Service Activities)




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