Summary of Research
Projects and Activities
June 1998 marked the end of my second year as Acting
Director in the Center for Black Studies. Though the Center remains affiliated with
the Office of Research (OR), it is no longer an ORU (Organized Research Unit). Over the
past couple years, it was important to spend time re-thinking new directions for the
unit. I have worked with the Advisory Board members to develop a new agenda for the
Center in accordance with its recently re-defined academic and public missions. A
number of research and community oriented projects are currently being developed at the
Center for Black Studies.
Over the past two years, the Center has been quite
productive, contributing in a variety of ways to the intellectual and cultural life of the
university: sponsoring conferences, debates, and colloquia during which faculty presented
their latest research to the campus community; supporting faculty's research projects; and
engaging in a number of publication ventures. Thanks to the efforts of our Cultural
and Community Affairs Coordinator, we have also begun to establish a strong presence in
the Santa Barbara community. Furthermore, the Center now serves as
headquarters for a new international scholarly organization, The Congress of Santa
Barbara, and will be publishing a scholarly journal, The Journal of Haitian Studies,
starting in Winter 1999. Also noteworthy is the fact that we were able to attract
Dr. Jacob Olupona, a distinguished professor from UC Davis who stayed in residence at the
Center during his tenure as a Guggenheim Fellow.
The Center's pre-doctoral fellowship program continues to
be successful as demonstrated by the very large number of first-rate candidates who apply
for our pre-doc positions. The candidates chosen by the Center are often offered
other nationally competitive fellowships. This year's fellows were able to make
considerable progress towards the completion of their dissertations. Former fellows
nationwide were asked to contribute to an anthology that the Center is publishing.
We all view the Center as a viable and valuable unit on
campus. However, it is also clear that it will take a lot of effort and commitment
over the next few years to bring it to the next level of excellence.
2. Structural Concerns
The 1997-1998 year was again a year of transition,
planning, and re-organization for the Center for Black Studies. During the year, we
have been able to solve a number of structural and administrative problems, including two
major ones --getting new staff and finally getting the Center equipped with adequate
computers, printers and internet connections. The hiring of two new staff members
(AA III and AA I) took place respectively in October and December 97. Unfortunately,
the half-time position filled in December did not work out and we had to start the process
again, which resulted in the hiring of our current AA I last February. The hiring
process itself, the adjustment of the staff to one another, the amount of back log work
accumulated for at least two years, my having to constantly rely for advice during this
period of transition on L. Moore and N. Doner from OR, were taxing for all. Although
this whole process (from the time the positions were requested from the administration)
took two long years, I am glad to report that we are now fully staffed with efficient
personnel and that we are ready to move forward.
Another major set back was the serious computer problems we
encountered (old machines, inadequate software and internet connections, and maintenance
personnel). Not having, at times, one single working computer or printer to be
used by the staff, the ABD fellows or myself constituted a serious hardship for the Center
and a major impediment to production. Although the Office of Research showed
continued support during times of crisis, the problems were not satisfactorily solved
until the end of May 98 -- the end of the academic year and the end of my second year as
Acting Director in the Center.
I have to state that these two major problems made the
past two years quite difficult and the transition slower than I had expected. Hopefully,
all this is now behind us.
Selected members of the Advisory Board and I met with Dr. France
Cordova, Vice-Chancellor for Research, in early June 98 to discuss the future of the
Center for Black Studies, and, in particular, the need for an external search for a new
director. The meeting was productive in that a lot of information was exchanged and
passed on to Dr. Cordova. However, the issue of the director's search remains
unsolved. Dr. Cordova was to consult with other administrators from the College, but
so far no decision seems to have been reached by the administration. At that
meeting, I also indicated my unwillingness to continue to serve as "acting"
director past this current year. This would not be desirable for the unit, which
needs to have a permanent director on board for obvious reasons. There is only so
much an "acting" person can do. We hope that some resolution will be
reached within the next few months. (see my statement about Director's
Search in the 1996-1997 annual report).
On a more positive note, the Office of Research was able to offer a
modest stipend for an Associate Director, effective Oct. 1st, 1998. This will be of
great help to the Center.
3. Mission and Direction
The Center for Black Studies at the University of
California, Santa Barbara, the only research center in the UC system devoted primarily to
the study of people of African descent, appears uniquely qualified to enter current
intellectual debates about the position and the experience of Blacks in Africa and in the
Americas. The Center's research agenda should aim at unearthing the truths of life
as experienced by millions of African, African-Americans and Caribbean Islanders, a
reality which remains buried under the misconceptions of public opinion and slanted
Among other concerns, the Center for Black Studies must fulfill two
(1) First, through its research and its public fora for
colloquia, the Center must be a place to generate ideas on the culture, history, politics,
economic factors, and educational matters that have affected the course of life for
various Black populations over time. In addition, it must address pressing
contemporary issues for Africans, African-Americans, and other diasporatic communities and
people of color. It is also important to study the rapport between people of African
descent, people of color, and other groups.
(2) Furthermore, the Center must possess more efficient
tools to disseminate its research and the vigorous debates in which it engages. It
is precisely with the aim of filling this startling void that a new publishing venture has
been proposed by UCSB' s Center for Black Studies (see Publications
Over the past two years, the Center's Advisory Board
members have 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 statements also indicated a commitment to research and
public service, documents supporting work done in these areas are lacking. We are
now in the process of more systematically documenting past work done at the
Furthermore, the dissertation fellowship program has always been a
central and successful part of the Center's agenda and the Advisory Board wishes to keep
it as such. The pre-doctoral program in the area of African/African-American scholarship
has always been successful, with at least 80% of the fellows having finished their
dissertations and committed themselves to careers in research and teaching at various
institutions throughout the country. Many of the Center's former fellows are
now tenured professors at major research institutions. This is another area we feel
requires additional documentation (see Publications section).
New Mission Statement
The Center's current mission is two-fold:
To organize, promote and administer interdisciplinary research among
faculty and students on the social, political, historical, cultural, and economic
experiences of people of African descent. The Center is also committed to
facilitating rapport between people of African descent and other people of color as well
as with the US population in general.
To disseminate the research products and the ideas generated therein
through a variety of mechanisms including, but not limited to working papers, edited
volumes, special editions of journals, conferences and colloquia.
To provide training in interdisciplinary scholarship for faculty,
graduate students, and undergraduates.
To house, support, and mentor dissertation fellows.
One goal of the Center's research agenda is active engagement in
shaping and implementing public policy. Therefore, the academic mission is
complemented by a public mission. The Center's research agenda uniquely positions us
to provide a critical synthesis of issues of race, social equality and justice.
Furthermore, the broader public mission embraces a commitment to
community collaboration. This collaboration can take on many forms, including:
enhancing communication between the university and the community on issues of mutual
concern; facilitating access for the community to university resources; participating in
the development and implementation of community based educational and social initiatives;
providing co-sponsorship for cultural activities on campus and in the community.
4. Goals and Objectives:
Response to the University Academic Mission and the Needs of the Community
Research Agenda -- Research is
central to the Center's newly established mission statement. In the future, we
envision that research will be conducted at the Center at two levels: (1) research
originating from various faculty and graduate students who wish to have their grants
administered by the Center. (2) research originated by the Center. Different faculty
will be encouraged to participate both at the planning stage and at the level of
At the first level, we are glad to report that the Center was able
to administer a few small grants during this academic year (see
section on Research Highlights). The Center offered administrative and
secretarial support for these grants. We plan to encourage and support our
affiliated faculty to seek more extramural funding in the years to come. Starting in
1998-1999, efforts will be generated to ensure that faculty systematically seek external
funding. In addition to the generous help she already offers, Dr. Barbara Harthorn,
Research Specialist for the Social Sciences, will hold office hours at the Center to
assist the faculty in both Black Studies and Chicano Studies in their efforts to pursue
extramural funding. Sylvia Curtis, Librarian, will also hold office hours at the
Center over the next year to assist faculty with searches related to grant applications
and other research projects.
At the level of Center-generated research, the Advisory Boards
research/publications sub-committee and the acting director are still defining the
specific areas of research. (Here we are trying to be careful since we would not
want our ideas to be in conflict with the vision of an incoming director).
We have agreed to pursue a project originally proposed by Dr.
Charles Long, the former director. This project --Route of the Salves-- is
interdisciplinary in nature and offers great potential for collaborative research both on
campus and in the larger community. It ties in well with a worldwide project
sponsored by UNESCO in a number of countries.
The second major research project is on African Indigenous
Religions, currently with a focus on Haitian Vodou. The project on Haitian Vodou is
continuing to develop. Various scholars are at work researching different aspects of
Haitian Vodou for the Congress of Santa Barbara, the newly created association for the
study of Haitian Vodou, housed at the Center. Furthermore, Drs. Jacob Olupona, Ines
Talamantez and I have submitted a proposal focusing on the larger African Indigenous
Religion Project with additional components on Yoruba and Native American religions.
Among other projects housed at the Center is some collaborative
research on Disney, which should be completed by the end of the next academic year. We
have also discussed other potential projects, such as a proposal to work in the local high
schools as part of a larger project on the Education of African-Americans in
California. Another possible option currently under discussion is to research Black
representation in the media, possibly using some of the data-base already established
through the campus violence project lead by Dr. Edward Donnerstein from the Department of
Communication. Dr. Jacqueline Bobos expertise in films, communication and
gender studies will be a tremendous asset for this project if we decide to pursue
it. Dr. Bobo has accepted the position of Associate Director, effective Oct. 1st,
1998. Dr. Bobo is already participating in another project, listed in the
Publications section, and we believe that her presence and contributions will greatly
enhance the Center's research mission.
I have discussed these projects and plans with a number of Board
members and with others who run research units on campus. I found it important to
connect with other researchers who can support our interdisciplinary research agenda (this
will be reflected in the Colloquium series for the current academic year). We also
plan to collaborate with the other Ethnic Studies units on both research and public
events. In particular, we are planning a major inter-campus conference on Ethnic
Studies to celebrate the 30-year anniversary of the creation of Black Studies and Chicano
Studies at UCSB.
The goal for the coming years will be to actively develop proposals
(1998-1999) and to seek funding (1999-2000) in order to pursue our research
and public agendas. We expect that the Center will be running a number of
large-scale research projects by 2000/2001.
Publication -- It has been determined
that not only should we work on publishing new research findings, but that we should also
actively document research which has already been conducted in the Center over the
years. With this in mind, I have developed a statement to explain our publication
goals and objectives, which appears in the section on Publications.
Cultural Activities/Public Service --
The Center has a long, successful history of organizing cultural activities both on campus
and in collaboration with community organizations. I see a need to do even more in
the years to come, especially ensuring more student participation at both the planning
stage and the execution phase of those community activities (for example, a project with
the students from NAACP is being developed). The Center will thus continue to
sponsor its colloquium series and workshops and advertise in local newspapers to ensure
wider community participation at its events.
In 1996-1997, we were able to extend the scope of our presence in
the community and greatly expand the community/cultural agenda of the Center. This
is due to the relentless efforts and strong organizing skills of Dr. Shirley Kennedy, who
was appointed as Coordinator of Cultural and Community Affairs for the Center, effective
September 1st, 1997 (See Report of Cultural and Community
Affairs, Coordinator, Dr. Shirley Kennedy).
We also plan to establish a presence at the K-12 level in the local
schools in the near future.