Dr. Kali Gross and Dr. Khalil Johnson, Welcome to Wesleyan University, to the Program in African American Studies, and to our multi-faceted and engaged communities of students, alumni, faculty, and staff.
We honor your presence, we celebrate the power of your scholarly work, and we thank you for the ways in which you will further shape and (re)define the histories of individuals and communities most often silenced and understudied.
Your arrival here is a defining moment that was made possible by the visionary, brave, and tireless work of students, staff, faculty, alumni, and members of the Middletown community who came together to stand up for the integrity of the African American Studies program.
African American Studies was and continues to be why we are here and why we are committed to transformative scholarship, engaged activism, and meaningful change in the world.
The Center for African American Studies [CAAS] and its Advisory Board invite members of our Wesleyan communities to join us in celebrating the arrival of two new members of the Wesleyan faculty: Dr. Kali Gross and Dr. Khalil Johnson. These pioneering scholars represent a new era in African American Studies at Wesleyan. The program, established on our campus nearly forty years ago, has had many dedicated and accomplished faculty. This is the first time in its history, however, that faculty members have been appointed solely in the program. This creation of tenured and tenure-track positions in African American Studies signals an institutional commitment to the sustained growth of the program and its long awaited transition to department status.
African American Studies at Wesleyan will be strengthened by the scholarship, research and teaching of Dr. Gross and Dr. Johnson. Professor Gross is a nationally-recognized scholar and public intellectual who concentrates on black women’s historical experiences in the criminal justice system of the United States. Her work provides nuanced perspectives on the intersections of race, gender, and criminal justice. Professor Johnson specializes in the intertwined histories of the African diaspora and Indigenous people in North America, with emphases on U.S. settler colonialism, education, and counter-hegemonic social movements.
We, the members of the CAAS Advisory Board, look forward to supporting Dr. Kali Gross and Dr. Khalil Johnson in the semesters and academic years ahead. We look forward to the continued growth of our community and to the ways in which their work and efforts will strengthen and inspire us..
The AFAMisWhy movement that prompted the administration to commit to two new hires in African American Studies was born out of recurring generational concerns and out of the specific historical, national and political moment of the Black Lives Matter movement. AFAMisWhy asserted that African American Studies in particular, and Ethnic Studies in general, are essential parts of a Wesleyan education. Students met with the president and the provost and stressed how important it was that there be faculty housed within the African American Studies Program, and how critical it is to institutionalize active methods of obtaining and retaining diverse faculty.
CAAS and the Middletown community have long recognized the importance of partnerships and outreach. We have a shared history of activism and collaboration around local and national issues and together, have celebrated Kwanzaa, Black History Month and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The Fisk Hall takeover in 1969 saw Black students, faculty and Middletown residents protesting the administration’s neglect of its black student body. One of the demands made during the takeover was the creation of the African-American Institute–which has become CAAS– and the establishment of Black Studies courses.
The African American Studies Program and the Center for African American Studies recognize that we as a university have made progress and that given the work ahead we must continue to labour tirelessly. Wesleyan must do more than just embrace and celebrate our new faculty. We urge our president, provost, and the board of trustees to demonstrate its full commitment to the sustained growth and resilience of the Center for African American Studies and to the African American Studies Program.
The Center for African American Studies Advisory Board:
Lois Brown, Chair, African American Studies Program
Janel M. Davis ’99, Co-Chair, CAAS Advisory Board
Jalen Alexander, BA ’14, MA ’15, Co-Chair, CAAS Advisory Board
Renee Johnson-Thornton, Dean for the Class of 2018
Teshia Levy-Grant, Interim Dean of Equity & Inclusion
Krystal-Gayle O’Neill, Area Coordinator, Office of Residential Life
Pamela Tatge, Director of Jacob’s Pillow
Grady Faulkner Jr., CFE
Dreisen Heath ’15
Bria Grant, ’17
Yael Horowitz, ’17
Sadasia N McCutchen, ’17
Hailey Broughton-Jones, ’18
Ainsley Eakins, ’18
Victoria King ’18
Taylor McClain ’17
Gregory Ransom ’18