The Anti-Racism Collaborative, administered by the National Center for Institutional Diversity (NCID), has awarded summer research grants to 21 University of Michigan (U-M) graduate students. The Rackham Graduate School is co-sponsoring the awards, which amount to $99,825.

The grants aim to support engagement in research projects focused on racial inequality, racial equity, and racial justice while advancing graduate student progress toward degree.

"We received 70 outstanding proposals for rigorous, creative research and scholarship focused on topics central to anti-racism, from a variety of disciplinary and methodological approaches," says Tabbye Chavous, director of the NCID, U-M associate vice president for research, and professor of education and psychology. “A key goal is to support and engage a community of next-generation scholars committed to the production and use of innovative research and scholarship in informing and advancing anti-racist action. We look forward to connecting these outstanding scholars, and sharing and disseminating their important work.”

“I believe the volume of applications we received in our first year of offering these grants speaks to the strong interest that our students have in undertaking this work,” says Rackham Dean Mike Solomon. “These grants represent another critical way that graduate students may pursue scholarship that is foundational to positive change in our society and its institutions.”

NCID and Rackham will host opportunities for the campus and broader communities to engage with the award recipients and learn more about their research during the 2021-2022 academic year.

2021 Projects

Unification through Vibration and Reconnecting Our Collective Ancestral Memory
Imani Ma'At AnkhmenRa Amen Taylor (MFA Student in Dance)
Instagram: @_imanimaat

The inclusive West African Djembe music and dance culture at U-M — vibrationally facilitated by the ancient “unity drum” — is dramatically enhancing the social education offered at the university. Students of all backgrounds are consistently reporting unparalleled feelings of community, inclusion, comfortable vulnerability, and overall well-being after experiencing the vibrational displacement of fear, racial tension, and ignorance upon which racism, racial inequity, and racial injustice thrive and currently undermine DEI. In these spaces, my graduate work specifically empowers students in a refreshing way that reminds us that we together are the change we wish to see in the world.

Through our class outreach, we have been able to connect with one another regardless of our identity, race, gender, disability, social class, religion, or any other label. Together, we have created a safe space for a diverse community to emerge and to connect with one another in new ways while discovering the multiplicity of the forms and functions of frequency and vibration associated with African Diasporic cultural art forms. We cannot simply do this work alone and it has truly been a team effort.

An Embodied Exploration of Mathematical Teaching, Learning, & Doing for Social Justice
Gabrielle Bernal (PhD Candidate in Educational Studies)

This multimodal, multisite study centering Indigenous mathematics builds on community and familial connections, which inform my dissertation. I am studying the performance and discourse of mathematical learning and doing in the context of three specific communities — two in California and one in Mexico — because I want to find out how Indigenous Peoples teach, learn, and embody mathematics through joy. This work will help pedagogs and academic audiences in the US and Mexico understand how learning mathematics that centers Indigenous People surfaces nuances of pedagogy, knowledge, learning, and doing mathematics within and across math settings; settings, such as school (classrooms), home, and communities. Within the Indigenous community setting, this work will support the social justice work already initiated by the Indigenous communities and uplift their knowledge systems.

Toward a Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy for Engineering Design Education: Exploring Cultural Assets in Engineering Undergraduate Students
Kaylla Cantilina (PhD Student in Design Science)

Engineering design perpetuates inequities and injustices by not considering the social implications of design processes and outcomes. Existing research to combat this in engineering education employs both research and pedagogical deficit-based approaches that center Whiteness and marginalize students of color. To integrate effective design engineering education towards cultivating equity-centered engineers, it is necessary to utilize asset-based teaching approaches, specifically Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy (CSP), and asset-based research approaches that decenter Whiteness and utilize students’ culture and social identities as valuable learning assets. This study seeks to use asset-based research methods to investigate the viability of CSP and explore assets instructors might anticipate within an engineering design education context.

Ancestors and Algorithms: African and Black Diasporic Knowledge Systems for Ethnocomputing
Imani Cooper Mkandawire (PhD Student in Comparative Literature)
Email:, website:

Ancestors and Algorithms: AI & Ethnocomputing Design with African and Black Diasporic Heritage is a multidisciplinary project at the confluence of Western computing, STEAM education (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics), and indigenous African and black diaspora knowledge practices. Aimed at energizing the intersections of socially engaged art, inclusive design, and publicly oriented scholarship, Ancestors and Algorithms reimagines what technological innovation can look like when grounded in African and black diasporic perspectives and culture. Culminating in an experimental design of a machine readable mathematical library dedicated to African and black diasporic knowledge, this project contributes to a growing interdisciplinary canon of science and mathematics.

Policing the Color Line: The Bridging Racial Violence Dataset
Kiela Crabtree (PhD Student in Political Science)

Research on racial violence in the US concentrates on the legacies of lynchings against Black Americans, overlooking that similar violence continues into the present-day. A lack of data bridging the past and the present inhibits comprehensive study of racial violence. This project’s original dataset, Bridging Racial Violence, contains information on violence targeting African-Americans between 1960–2000. Hand-coded and sourced from Black media, it allows scholars to understand the implications that racial violence has for political outcomes. Additionally, when used to bridge lynching and hate crime data, this dataset creates a holistic picture of violence against African-American communities throughout the 20th and 21st centuries.

A Treatise on Cross-Racial Accountability, Allyship, and Solidarity
Jeremy Glover and Surabhi Balachander (PhD Students in English Language & Literature)
Emails: and

This project takes the form of a collaboratively written treatise on cross-racial accountability, allyship, and solidarity. First, we trace the history of “antiracism” and “allyship” as terms and concepts as a foundation for our own reframing of them, suggesting that allyship is best considered on a long-term scale, and as a responsive practice rather than a practiced response. Then, we offer several key words and phrases for allyship studies, all focused on the core principle of accountability. Finally, we apply our theory in a chapter presenting the academy as a case study, exploring allyship and accountability as they relate to pedagogy, research, and collegial relationships at universities. Throughout the project, we aim to decenter whiteness in discussion of allyship, instead prioritizing solidarity between people of color.

What Could Be: A Phenomenological Examination of Leader Identity Development Among Faculty of Color
Jeffrey Grim (PhD Candidate in Higher Education)

Racial diversity in higher education leadership has diversified extremely slow. While most research on leadership diversity examines the experiences of current or former leaders, we know less about the experiences of prospective leaders of Color. This study examines how 31 newly-tenured faculty of Color from multiple academic disciplines within three research-intensive universities in the Midwest navigate racialized organizations and develop a leader identity. Using a multi-level leader identity theory, themes will be discussed at the intrapersonal, interpersonal, and collective levels of analysis along with implications for practice and theory.

The Impacts of Race and Equity on Participation in Local Food Systems
Carissa Knox (PhD Student in Resource Policy and Behavior)

The food system is heavily influenced by systemic racism and the disparate outcomes of food system processes maintain inequities. I propose a participatory modeling study using Fuzzy Cognitive Maps (FCMs) to further the understanding of the impacts of race and equity on participation in local food systems. Semi-structured FCM interviews will be conducted with BIPOC participants who are producers, processors, or retailers in Flint and Detroit, MI, as well as national experts. This study will be used to inform food system interventions in Flint, MI and contribute to academic and local knowledge through journal articles and community products.

Detroit Deadly Force
Nicole Navarro (PhD Candidate in History)

The Detroit Deadly Force collaborative project is the first effort to historically disclose and analyze research on police homicides of civilians in Detroit from 1957–1993. With a public-facing website (forthcoming), the project creates an accessible archive of civilians killed by the Detroit Police Department and other local law enforcement agencies, highlighting the pervasive nature and patterns of racialized violence and its effects on marginalized communities. The project provides evidence for the need for more transparency in tracking police homicides to better understand how use of force is deployed by police in this country and the nature of racialized violence.

Prosocial Politics: Investigating Anti Racism Among White Youth
Eugenia Quintanilla (PhD Student in Political Science)

I present a novel experimental design intended to increase our understanding of how secondary exposure to racism corresponds with political preference development and related political behavior in adolescence (13-17 year-olds). In particular, I propose exploring how various degrees of separation affect the extent to which adolescents believe it is important to reorient their political preferences for the benefit of individuals who are racially marginalized. The current proposal tests assumptions of Perry & Shotwell’s theory of relational understanding and white antiracist praxis, and bridges these insights with novel scholarly work on critical consciousness and youth behavior. Implications and potential contributions are also discussed.

Where are Mi Gente? Codeswitching our Blackness and Latinidad in the Music Classroom
Marjoris Regus (PhD Student in Music Education)
Email:, Twitter: @marjoris_r 

Currently one in four students in the US public school system is Latina/o/x. However, secondary school students of Latina/o/x origin are disproportionately underrepresented in the band, orchestra, or choir participation. Subgroups of Latina/o/x, such as native Spanish speakers or AfroLatinx, are even more likely to be underrepresented in the music classroom. No study to date has specifically focused on the population of AfroLatina/o/x music students. The lack of scholarly inquiry on the experiences of AfroLatinx students further neglects this identity and reinforces the notion that they are virtually invisible. Thus, the purpose of my dissertation is to examine the racial, ethnic, linguistic, and musical codeswitching experiences among AfroLatina/o/x collegiate students in music education degree programs. Such thick descriptions will shed light on daily practices, negotiations, and the lack of representation of bilingual and bicultural collegiate students.

Emergency Management: Race and Democracy in Post-industrial Urban Governance
Reuben Riggs-Bookman (PhD Student in Anthropology and History)

Since 1986, under a policy known as Emergency Management, Michigan has taken control of over a dozen elected municipal governments deemed to be in "fiscal emergencies." The use of this policy has been highly racially unequal. At its height, this unrepresentative governance covered 51% of Black Michiganders but only 3% of white residents. This research asks: how does deliberately unrepresentative government affect local governance, if at all? How is racialized difference entangled in the forms of governance that emerge? Twenty months of ethnographic and historical fieldwork will explore how municipal employees, residents’ associations, and activists navigate post-management governance.

The Asianness of Algorithms: Racial Triangulation and White Supremacy in Tech
Megan Rim (PhD Student in American Culture)

“The Asianness of Algorithms: Racial Triangulation and White Supremacy in Tech,” interrogates how Asianness is discursively constructed by tech companies as productive and transducible-able to be assumed by corporate entities and algorithms to dismiss claims of structural racism. The project examines the ways that Asian and Asian Americans have been utilized to dually code algorithms and racially encode algorithms. Ultimately, it aims to explore how the discursive construction and strategic deployment of Asianness in tech operates in support of rather than as remedy to the industry’s racial bias and white supremacist structures and how that is materially built into the architecture of algorithms.

Puerto Rican Farm Labor Migration, Settlement and Community Development in Hartford, CT from 1947-1973
Elena Rosario (PhD Student in History)

My dissertation documents the history of Puerto Ricans in Hartford, Connecticut, from 1947 to the mid-1970s. I center public history to highlight the stories of Puerto Ricans in the state by emphasizing the production of knowledge as a collaborative project. My research intervenes in historical interpretations of Connecticut and American history by exploring and curating material for public use. I use oral interviews, archival research, and public projects to uncover historical material and report it through public lectures, high school lesson plans, and community-driven projects.

Care in Crisis: Black Women and the Politics of Labor in Atlanta, 1965-1995
Eshe Sherley (PhD Student in History)

My dissertation project, Care in Crisis: black women and the politics of labor in Atlanta, 1965-1995, focuses on black women’s labor organizing in the fields of domestic work, welfare rights, penal labor, and antiviolence. While these organizing campaigns might seem disparate, they were connected by a community of women organizing in their Atlanta neighborhoods and the centrality of care work to their lives. Viewed together, from the 1960s–1990s, Atlanta’s working-class and poor black women mounted a labor movement that crossed industries and transformed local, state, and federal policies around women, race, and work.

48208 Lives Community Based Research Project
Stacey Stevens (MSW Student)

Once called Northwest Goldberg, a 1950’s Jewish neighborhood, Zone8, became a predominantly Black neighborhood following white flight. Many of the inequalities ravaging all of Detroit — unemployment, addiction, persistent poverty, lack of affordable housing — Zone8 experiences in hyper-focused ways. This study will work collaboratively with residents to create a human asset map of the diversity of skills, histories and interconnected capacities by cataloging the assets of residents of the Zone8 neighborhood, collecting oral histories of residents in Zone8, developing a timeline of the neighborhood’s evolution rooted in lived histories, and identifying existing skills for a broader community change effort.

“I didn’t want it to be a sob story”: Black Student Identity Narration in College Personal Statements
Aya Waller-Bey (PhD Student in Sociology)

Using semi-structured interviews with 30 undergraduate students attending a predominantly white institution (PWI) and historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU) in the mid-Atlantic region, this study investigates the research questions: (1) How do Black students decide what kinds of stories to tell in their college personal statements? (2) How do they respond to racialized expectations to narrate trauma or struggle in their college personal statements? Preliminary findings from 19 semi- structured interviews show that Black undergraduate students with varying pre-college experiences navigate the tensions between struggle and trauma narratives and authenticity and legibility in their college personal statements.

An Exploration of Antiracism Education in Social Work
Amber Williams (PhD Student in Higher Education)

In recent times, social work practitioners and scholars have called for the field’s recognition of structural racism and development of an explicit antiracist agenda in educational training and practice. The following proposal requests funding to support three ongoing projects in collaboration with faculty that advance empirical and conceptual scholarship on antiracism pedagogies in social work education. These studies include (a) an exploration of microaffirmations in a social justice program, (b) a case study analysis of antiracist pedagogy in a social work and community change course, and (c) a scoping review of antiracism pedagogy and curriculum in education and social work.

American Patriots
Samantha Williams (Specialist of Music Student in Voice)
Email:, Instagram: @heysamantharose 

American Patriots is a theatrical song-cycle production that examines patriotism from three different American perspectives. Translating the verbatim theatre methodology into a musical language, American Patriots consists of eighteen newly commissioned songs set to the text of unaltered interview transcripts conducted with sixteen Americans who identify as African-American, Indigenous American, and White Working-Class American. A composer from each background was commissioned to write six songs for the show with the texts from that perspective. The composer Gala Flagello was also commissioned to write two different settings of the New Colossus by Emma Lazarus, the poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, that will open and close the performance.

By putting diverse perspectives in dialogue with one another, intentionally manipulating performative aspects of race and identity in the performance, and creating an interactive performance experience for the audience, this project seeks to create productive discomfort and dialogue about how seemingly disparate groups of Americans wrestle with the ways we relate to patriotism, what it means to be American, and the access or lack thereof to the American Dream. In our increasingly polarized society, American Patriots asks audiences to entertain perspectives other than their own and to practice the crucial skill of listening across difference.

American Patriots will be performed live on April 10, 2022 at 8:00 p.m. in Stamps Auditorium and recorded over the summer for a visual album that explores the intersection of race, class, and patriotism.