CIC, Member Institutions Join Partnership to Address Racial Inequity

CIC has joined a new initiative that will bring together colleges and communities to develop plans to address local racial inequities. Spanning three years, the project will create and leverage a national network of college and university-based humanities scholars working in partnership with community-based organizations to develop proposals for research-informed reparation plans for each location.

The initiative, “Crafting Democratic Futures: Situating Colleges and Universities in Community-based Reparations Solutions,” is based at the University of Michigan’s Center for Social Solutions (CSS). Four member institutions—Concordia College (MN), Connecticut College, Wesleyan College (GA), and Wofford College (SC)—will participate in the project through CIC. Other partners are Carnegie Mellon, Emory, and Rutgers Universities; Spelman College (GA), participating independently of CIC’s cohort; and WQED, a public broadcast television station in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

In announcing CIC’s involvement in the initiative, President Richard Ekman said, “This project will lead from understanding the deep roots of the country’s major social and political issues to solutions that utilize the expertise of faculty members and the often close, even symbiotic relations between independent colleges and universities and the communities where they are located.”

Each institution’s project team will be led by a faculty researcher and will include a community fellow representing local organizations in collaborative public humanities projects designed to produce tangible recommendations for community-based racial reparations solutions. The project leaders in CIC’s group are Concordia College’s James Postema, professor of English; Connecticut College’s Nakia M. Hamlett, assistant professor of psychology, and Jefferson Singer, dean of the college and Faulk Foundation professor of psychology; Wesleyan College’s Melanie Doherty, professor of English; and Wofford College’s Kim Rostan, associate professor of English, co-coordinator of African and African American studies, and Teach Equity Now fellow.

The Crafting Democratic Futures initiative is funded by a $5 million grant to the Center for Social Solutions from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation as part of the foundation’s “Just Futures: Advancing a More Democratic Society” program. The Just Futures program awards grants through a competitive process to multidisciplinary, university-based teams across the U.S. that are committed to racial justice and social equality.
The Crafting Democratic Futures initiative emerges from the Center for Social Solutions’s focus on slavery and its aftermath and is informed by three generations of humanistic scholarship and what that scholarship suggests for all seeking just futures. It is led by Earl Lewis, founding director of CSS and Thomas C. Holt Distinguished University Professor of History, Afroamerican and African Studies, and Public Policy at the University of Michigan. CIC honored Lewis, who is president emeritus of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with the 2021 Allen P. Splete Award for Outstanding Service during CIC’s Presidents Institute this January. The award recognized Lewis’s extraordinary efforts to address critical questions for American society, including the role of race in American history; diversity, equity, and inclusion in higher education; and the essential value of scholarship in the humanities.

When describing the project, Lewis explained that “reparations refers to compensation, which may include a national apology, educational, housing, and health care programs, and financial redress from the U.S. government to Native Americans for genocide and African Americans for the detrimental effects of slavery and beyond. The question of reparations for the descendants of enslaved African peoples in the Americas, and especially the United States, had—until recently—been part of a smaller effort seeking a broader audience, lingering on the other side of what is possible until the late 20th century.” The effort and activities of this project will include institutions in northern and southern regions of the East, as well as the Midwest and North Central regions. Lewis added, “The success of this pilot will create scalable models for university-community partnerships which focus on social justice, specifically addressing local nuanced reparations solutions.”