Racial Justice Grant recipients share their vision, motivation behind projects

By Ashley A. Williams

Racial Justice Grant recipients share their vision, motivation behind projects

By Ashley A. Williams
During the final Courageous Conversations dialogue of the semester, members of the campus community reflected on the progress made to advance Black lives at the University and in the community.

There is no doubt that climate change is affecting everyone, everywhere—no matter where you live. But that does not mean the impacts and mitigation efforts are felt equally.

Nkosi Muse, an environmental science and policy doctoral student at the University of Miami, is leading a project entitled “Defeat the Heat: Mapping extreme heat exposure in Miami’s Black neighborhoods” to explore what heat exposure looks like in Miami’s Black neighborhoods.

Muse’s work is one of 13 projects funded by the inaugural Racial Justice Grant program, aimed at supporting research initiatives, service projects, and programmatic activities that focus on race, racial justice, and racial equity at the University and throughout the greater Miami community. 

On Monday evening, President Julio Frenk, with Student Government, hosted the final Courageous Conversations event of the semester. During the webinar, he focused his discussion on the progress that has been made during the past academic year to lift racial justice efforts at the University. This includes the number of Black tenure-track faculty members added to the University’s roster, more partnerships with minority-owned businesses as University vendors, and the establishment and support of the Center for Global Black Studies.

“As we prepare for the close of this historic year, it is fitting to reflect on the progress made—to reflect on what we have learned and what we still hope to accomplish,” said Frenk, who outlined the 15-point plan to support racial equality, inclusion, and justice across the University and in the greater South Florida community announced last year. The Racial Justice Grant program is a collaborative effort led by the Office of Civic and Community Engagement, Multicultural Student Affairs, and the Butler Center for Service and Leadership. 

The event was moderated by Landon Coles, the newly inaugurated Student Government president. His administration ran on the promise to continue pursuing justice for marginalized groups and creating a more unified campus. 

Also featured on the panel was undergraduate student Taylor Washington, an industrial engineering major and president of the University’s National Society of Black Engineers student organization. She has taken the reins from graduating senior Tiffany Demps to lead a project called “STEAM-D,” which will assist local Black high school students to gain a better understanding of skills necessary to go into a variety of science, technology, engineering, art, and math disciplines. 

Laura Kohn-Wood, dean of the School of Education and Human Development who serves as the adviser to the team working on the project, “The Role of CBOs in Mitigating COVID-19: Educational Disparities During Remote Learning for Black Middle School Students,” shared her team’s research vision during the event. 

The project will collaborate with Breakthrough Miami, a community-based organization that will specifically engage with economically disadvantaged, gifted Black students in Miami-Dade County. Kohn-Wood, a community psychologist, said that researchers should not just focus on gathering information, but should be prepared to provide resources to those communities in which they are working.

In closing the event, Coles thanked the participants for an “amazing conversation,” and urged everyone to stay safe from the COVID-19 pandemic. “As a University community, we must stay committed to asking tough questions, doing the research, diving deep beneath the surface in order to get those answers, and embracing the uncomfortable in order to grow,” he said.

Courageous Conversations will resume in the fall. Suggestions for future conversations can be sent to President Julio Frenk at president@miami.edu.