Combating anti-Black racism through education, conversation, and scholarship aid

As part of the BrownTogether campaign, the University community is supporting a range of diversity and inclusion initiatives that further Brown's long-standing leadership in confronting widespread racial injustice.

When protests sprung up around the world after the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Rayshard Brooks, people were looking for answers. Why do these injustices continue to happen? What can we do to eliminate the deep-rooted prejudices that underlie these tragedies?

Thanks to a strong emphasis on scholarship, programming, and fundraising related to diversity and inclusion over the past 15 years, Brown is well prepared to step forward and lead these conversations.

“Universities like Brown have a role to play in dismantling systemic racism by providing pathways for equity and access, advancing knowledge, and enacting change locally and globally through teaching, research and public engagement,” wrote President Christina Paxson in her June 15 letter to the community. 

Below, we highlight some of the activities and opportunities Brown is able to offer as a result of expanded support for aspects of the 2016 Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan (DIAP) through the BrownTogether campaign.

The impact of racial slavery on today’s world

Throughout the summer and early fall, the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice (CSSJ) hosted a virtual discussion series, This is America, featuring experts from within and beyond Brown. The series, which drew thousands of viewers from all over the globe, illuminated the influence of racial slavery and the resulting anti-Black racism on governing, economic development, educational access, mass incarceration, and medicine.

In addition, the CSSJ, with generous alumni support and collaboration from the Choices Program in Brown’s History Department, created and shared with educators a digital high school curriculum called Racial Slavery in the Americas: Resistance, Freedom & Legacies—at no cost through September 2021. The curriculum includes readings and lessons on the transatlantic slave trade, data with primary sources and analysis of art works, and sections discussing Juneteenth, reparative justice, public memorials, and the Black Lives Matter movement.    

Donor support also allowed students and faculty from the CSSJ to work with Firelight Media to create a multi-part documentary series titled Creating a New World: The Transatlantic Slave Trade. 

How race and ethnicity affect American life

Women seated during a CSSJ seminarWhereas the CSSJ is focused on the contemporary impact of racial slavery on a global level, Brown’s Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America (CSREA) is a hub for integrative research about the impact of race and ethnicity on life in the United States. In particular, Director Tricia Rose’s research on systemic racism is highly influential, both in the Brown community and with Fortune 500 companies. The CSREA is supported, in part, by a Mellon Foundation grant and a variety of donor-designated funds.

In response to the particularly difficult convergence of the coronavirus pandemic and demonstrations against anti-Black racism across the country, the CSREA developed a virtual conversation series called Underlying Conditions, where experts explore the impact of COVID-19 on already-vulnerable communities of color. Episodes have focused on race and health, Black-run businesses, immigration and detention, and incarceration. 

In concert with the Office of the Provost, the CSREA is also curating the ‘Race &’ discussion series. This series will examine the origins, history, and enduring contemporary effects of racism in America from a range of fields and scholarly perspectives. Upcoming installments will look at race and public health, race and social movements, and race and democracy.

Expansion of access to financial aid for Black students

In June of 2018, the Inman Page Black Alumni Council (IPC) established a Brown Annual Fund (BAF) Scholarship to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Black Student Walkout. The initial fundraising push exceeded its goal of $100,000 and supported two Black students during the 2019-20 academic year.

One year later, amidst the backdrop of the pandemic, increased economic hardship, and protests against anti-Black racism, members of the Brown Class of 1995 stepped forward to substantially increase financial assistance through this fund.

Over the shoulder view of someone holding the Brown Slavery and Justice Report
The Slavery and Justice Committee Report (2006) contributed to Brown's leadership in exploring the roots of racial injustice

Led by 25th Reunion Honorary Co-Chair Hermann Bruhn ’95—who funded a $250,000 2:1 Challenge—181 members of the Class of 1995 donated $429,505 to the scholarship, bringing the fund’s total raised in fiscal year 2020 to $624,718, an increase of 378% over the previous fiscal year. 

As a result, the IPC BAF Scholarship will support seven students during the 2020-21 academic year. The Inman Page Black Alumni Council and the Brown Annual Fund will continue to expand upon this current-use scholarship as a way to increase Brown’s capacity to attract Black students to campus.

These initiatives take Brown’s diversity and inclusion work to the public, add important perspectives to the conversation, and ensure that the University can build a truly diverse community. As the 2020-21 academic year progresses, addressing anti-Black racism will be a significant focus of this work, and the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity will continue to support undergraduates, graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and faculty in a way that makes all feel welcome and respected at Brown.

Create a culture of belonging.

Diversity and inclusion initiatives at Brown are building a more equitable community.

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