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Report Index

Director's Statement 

Summary of Research Highlights 

Other Projects and Activities 


Statistical Summary 

Staff/Advisory Board 

Other Participants 






1. Haitian Religion Project -
The Spirit and The Reality: Vodou and Haiti

This research is part of a larger Indigenous Religions Project that the Center plans to pursue.  Under the auspices of the Center for Black Studies, The Congress of Santa Barbara, and Brooklyn College in New York, two conferences on the theme, "The Spirit and The Reality: Vodou and Haiti," were organized  (see fliers and photos).  The first conference took place at UCSB on April 25 & 26, 1997 and the second at Brooklyn College in New York City on April 3 & 4, 1998.  The presenters were commissioned to write chapters on the different themes presented at the conferences.  A book, The Spirit and The Reality: Vodou and Haiti, is under contract with The University Press of Florida, and will be published under the auspices of the Center for Black Studies and the Congress of Santa Barbara.

This research is of utmost importance.  This is the first time that a group of Haitian scholars -- in fact, the top Haitian researchers in their respective fields -- got together to research and collectively present their views on such an important Haitian phenomenon as the Vodou religion, which sustains other social, political and economic Haitian institutions.  This research is by far the most extensive conducted by contemporary researchers in the area of Haitian Vodou, and the book promises to be "the authority" in the field.  Karen McCarthy Brown, from Drew University, the leading non-Haitian scholar on Vodou, endorses the project and has also joined the group.  Another leading scholar on Haitian religion, and researcher at the CNRS (Centre Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique) in Paris, Professor Laennec Hurbon, has also joined the Congress of Santa Barbara. 

Considering that we have created a permanent scholarly association housed at the Center for Black Studies, we expect that research on the Haitian religion will remain a core research project of the Center.  Researchers from various other institutions are continuing to work on various aspects of the research; we are already preparing the 1999/2000 conference to be held in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. 

2. Disney Project: Culture of Illusion and Illusion of Culture 

The project fits into the Route of the Slaves series and involves the study of historical omissions and misrepresentations of Blacks in the productions of Disney.  It also analyzes the impact of these representations and misrepresentations on diverse populations. A number of UCSB faculty along with graduate students are actively researching various aspects of the Disney phenomenon and its impact on the American and world populations.  Other scholars from off-campus are also participating in the research (see photos).  

UCSB researchers  
Christopher McAuley is studying "Aspects of Disney's Business History, 1937-1955," and is researching the early political and economic aspects of the Disney Empire.
Claudine Michel and Francoise Cromer are researching Disney's far-reaching influence on racial and ethnic identity development and on children's acquisition of values in general. 
Gˇrard Pigeon studies ethnic and racial representation in Disney films.
Douglas Daniels explores the theme of racial colonialism in Disneyland's Frontierland and Adventureland.
Claudine Michel and Crystal Griffith (C. Griffith is no longer at UCSB) are researching the influence that the Disney Theme Parks and their excessive reliance on mechanization and technology have on patrons -- young patrons in particular.  

Non-UCSB scholars  
George Lipsitz, a cultural historian from UC San Diego, has written on the history of the theme parks. 
O'Funmilayo Makarah examines racial stereotypes in one Disney prototype--The Lion King. 

Ioannis Pissimissis is analyzing Walt Disney World as "commodified leisure" and "escapism."
Crystal Griffith, currently at Smith College & U Mass, Amherst (see work with C. Michel)
Michele Webber from Pomona College is writing on the Disney garment workers in Haiti. 

Gerald Horne from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, is at work on an essay, "Re-reading Disney, Race and Class from Mickey Mouse to The Hunchback of Notre-Dame."  

3. Research conducted by Frederick Knight, as part of a pre-doctoral fellowship to complete his Ph.D. in History from at UC Riverside. 

The title of his dissertation is
'The Gift of Labor': West African Contributions to Southern Economic Development, 1750-1850.  The general assumption in the literature is that slaves have contributed nothing to American agriculture since the planters provided training and all the necessary tools.  Fred Knight's dissertation explores the labor traditions of West Africa and the variable experience that slaves had  in rice cultivation to show that the colonial enterprise itself in South Carolina depended on knowledge that the slaves brought with them.   

Since I am not at all versed in this area of research, I have relied on other scholars to mentor to Fred Knight in his dissertation research. In particular, Professor Douglas Daniels, a historian in Black Studies, served as Fred's primary mentor while Fred was in residence here.  Also, Dr. Jacob Olupona, visiting researcher and Guggenheim Fellow at the Center, was also able to assist Fred in the area of West African scholarship. I am glad to report that Fred Knight was able to complete a number of dissertation chapters while in residence at the Center in 1997-1998 (see attached report).  

4. Research conducted by Sheila Page-Edwards, Ph.D. candidate in Sociology at the University of Oregon, and pre-doctoral fellow at the Center in 1997-1998.

 Sheila has made considerable progress towards the completion of her dissertation,
The Longitudinal Assessment of Depression and Treatment in African American Maternal Survivors of Late Fetal and Infant Mortality.  The work analyzes the level, rate and treatment of depression among African-American women who have lost children. She uses both qualitative and quantitative methods of analysis to discuss her extensive set of data. The results of her study will make an important contribution to the fields of Sociology, Black Studies and Women's studies (see attached report). 


Michel, Claudine: The Study of Indigenous Religious Traditions: New Paradigms, Alternative Discourse.  With Jacob Olupona and Ines Talamantez as Co-PIs. 

This proposal seeks funding to enable us to carry out a series of planning meetings and research in Indigenous Religious Traditions.  The overarching goal of the project is to develop new paradigms and discourses in the study and teaching of Indigenous Religious Traditions, especially in African Religions, Vodou and Native American Religions.  In the next academic year, the three scholars involved in this project will conduct archival and library research.  We will meet in Davis and Santa Barbara to formulate challenging research areas and to write a grant proposal, which will be submitted for extramural funding.  The result of this preliminary research on new paradigms and discourses in Indigenous Religious Traditions will be published in journals and academic newsletters. 


As mentioned in the Director's statement, in our efforts to bring the Center for Black Studies up to a level comparable with the other organized research units at UCSB, we have developed a comprehensive plan to encourage faculty to secure extramural as well as intramural funding. 

Ultimately, the Center administered seven different grants in 1997/1998.  The Principal Investigators are faculty in the Department of Black Studies and a professor with emeritus status. The funding agencies are: UCSB College of Letters and Science, Undergraduate Mentorship Program; UCSB Office of the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, Project Crossroads; The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation; UC Office of the President, Urban Community-School Collaborative.  

Excerpts from each grant’s abstract follow: 

Akudinobi, Jude: Lecturer, Department of Black Studies: African Cinema and the Question of Meaning -- an interview with Jean-Pierre Bekolo, published by Third Text.  Planting the Trees of Specificity -- an interview with Gaston Kabore, accepted for publication, spring 1999 (NKA: Journal of Contemporary African Arts). An undergraduate student and Black Studies major, Ndidi Oriji, transcribed audio tapes and assisted in collecting data for the project.  

Berry, Faith: Professor, Department of Black Studies:  “From Bondage to Liberation: Writings By and About Afro-Americans 1700 – Present”, Publisher: Continuum Publishing Group.   The Center provided some clerical support toward the completion of the book (Sept/Oct, 1998). 

Daniels, Douglas: Black Los Angeles Historical Research Project  
Although there have been a number of studies of Black Los Angeles in recent years, none have undertaken the kind of basic research which allows a meaningful, detailed analysis of family structure, social life, household composition, residence patterns, migration patterns, schooling, occupations, unemployment, and home-owner or renter’s status using census data.  The published census of 1920 gives the rough contours of the Black population in Los Angeles, which provides a means to locate the population.  This particular project lays the groundwork for analyses that are essential for comprehending family structure, living patterns and the degree of racial integration, all of which are necessary for understanding the changing social and cultural life of Black Los Angeles.  Undergraduate students learned the methods of the urban historian, using the 1920 U.S. Manuscript Census (more recent data is not available) and the Sanborn Fire Insurance maps of the city as the evidential base.  The faculty mentor and the undergraduate students are working on a video production based on their research findings (click here for more details on project). 

Kennedy, Shirley: Jazz Symposium UCSB 1998 Regents’ Lecturer Fan Shengqi -- two-week series of events with Fan Shengqi.  Mr. Fan is an accomplished musician, composer, arranger, conductor, historian, and teacher.  He plays jazz, both western and Chinese classical music, and blends jazz with Chinese folk tunes in his compositions and arrangements.  Fan presented at a one-day symposium and performed with many other distinguished scholars and musicians on campus (see Co-sponsored Activities). Dr. Kennedy has already produced a video on the work of Fan, Jazz Odyssey, and plans to continue her research in the area of jazz in China--an old American art form that has transcended international boundaries.  In this regard, jazz is an ambassador of African-American culture overseas (click here for more details on the one-day symposium during Fan's visit).  

Matthews, Pamela, PI; Cedric Robinson, Mentor: Cultural Representations of African Americans in Special Network Programs.
The focus of this research is on the pre-production process of cultural representations of African Americans in “special” programming across the four major networks – NBC, ABC, CBS and FOX.  To understand why and how these decisions are made, the student investigated two periods: the 1990, 1991,1992 and 1993 seasons (Set A) and the 1994, 1995, 1996 and 1997 seasons (Set B).  She will determine if there is any permanent relief in the demeaning characterization of Blacks in “special” programming  (for more details on the project 

Robinson, Cedric: Black Filmmakers.  Professor Robinson conducted research on early Black filmmakers, focusing primarily on those screenwriters, directors, and performers who produced movies from 1912 (Bill Foster’s Pullman Porter) to the end of their silent movie era in 1931 (due to production costs, Black filmmakers worked without sound for several years beyond the introduction of talkies in 1927 by big studios).  Since the earliest surviving Black film (Oscar Micheaux’s Within Our Gates) only dates back to 1919, and nearly all the black films between 1912 and 1931 have been lost, the study of these films and filmmakers requires reclamation from secondary sources.  These sources are: newspaper advertisements, notices and reviews (particularly Black newspapers like New York Age and New York’s Amsterdam News, Pittsburgh Courier, Chicago Defender, California Eagle, Seattle’s Republican and Cayton’s Weekly, the District of Columbia’s Washington Bee, the Boston Guardian, Atlanta’s Daily World) entertainment (Billboard, Variety) and movie periodicals (Moving Picture World, Moving Picture News and Moving Picture Magazine); special museum and library collections (George Eastman House in Buffalo, UCLA’s George P. Johnson collection); and documents housed at the American Film Institute in Washington D.C. and New York.  (For more details on the project)

Smith, James: The Extent to Which a Community Learning Center Affects Positive Results in the Academic Performance of Students in Urban Community Schools. 
For the past several years, the UC Urban Community-School Collaborative has increased the visibility of the University by combining forces with the community and with local schools.  This alliance will promote the work that has already been started by a small volunteer group of lay people and a professional educator.
 The proposal was designed to provide support services through Lucy’s Learning Center to enhance the academic performance of underachieving urban students, Pre-K through 8, from the Santa Barbara area. While the center currently provides a comprehensive list of services to its attendees, the main focus of this project is on assisting students with homework, hands-on activities in mathematics and science, and parenting sessions for adults (especially teenage parents). Emphasis is given to strengthening and reinforcing students’ understanding of fundamental concepts and approaches to problem solving in mathematics and science.  Enrichment lessons are incorporated to stimulate quality thinking and reasoning.  Where appropriate, cooperative learning strategies are employed (for more details on project). 

Note:  this project was recently awarded another year of funding.   


Jones, Aaron: Alumni, Former UCSB AS President: Scholarship to participate as a first-hand observer/researcher in a research project on the current state of affairs in Haiti: Witness for Peace Delegation to Haiti January 8-22, 1998. The Center provided a modest contribution to complement Mr. Jones' grant from Witness for Peace.  Mr. Jones went to Haiti with the delegation as a researcher examining the current political state of Haiti.  Haiti is currently “at a crossroads between real democracy or domination by US policies, US corporate interests and their wealthy Haitian allies.” The individuals participating had the opportunity to: “observe first-hand the Afro-Caribbean culture and religion; talk with peasant farmers, peasant women’s groups, local community workers, urban factory workers, clergy and politicians; learn the history of Haiti and that of US involvement; investigate land reform and what it may mean for the people of Haiti and their future; see and hear about the alternatives which will help the people achieve true national sovereignty; learn how to be an advocate in the US for the Haitian people.” (“Witness for Peace: A Delegation to Haiti” brochure, 1997.) 

Tettegah, Sharon: Doctoral Candidate in Graduate School of Education, Educational Psychology, UC Santa Barbara: This mini-grant was used by Ms. Tettegah to offset the costs of completing her dissertation, Impact of Teachers' Racial Identity Development on their Perception of Students' Academic Potential.  Ms. Tettegah’s groundbreaking research systematically brings cross-cultural and multicultural perspectives to the core of traditional psychological research.  The larger implication of the study, in addition to its obvious contributions to teaching and learning in the classroom, is a clear analysis of the impact of systematic oppression and racism on the cognitive and mental well being of school children and of the American population in general.