Political Science Professor Terri Jett said she created the Hub for Black Affairs and Community Engagement “to elevate the collective Black voice and experience at Butler University,” and in the eight months since it opened its doors in Jordan Hall 171, the organization has already made significant strides toward that goal.
The Hub has created an organizational structure with a staff that includes Project Specialist Alexis Newell, a recent Brown University graduate and Gary-area native, and Butler student apprentices Paul Ford and Michaela Ivory.
“I admire the way we’ve brought Butler’s Black population a little closer together,” said Ivory, a senior Anthropology major from Indianapolis. “Each team member had their personal campus and community connections before, so it’s beautiful to see our connections form a greater, more unified network that extends beyond Butler.”
Ford and Ivory also are part of the Hub’s Engagement Advisory Group. Other members are:
- Dr. Amia Foston, Director, Office of Institutional Research and Assessment
- Mrs. Bobbie Gibson, Associate Director, International Student Services
- Dr. India Johnson, Associate Professor, Psychology Department
- Mr. Michael Lofton, Development Officer, University Advancement
- Dr. Warren Morgan ’06, Chief Academic Officer, Indianapolis Public Schools
- Mr. Anthony Murdock II ’17, Powerpreneur/Law Student, McKinney School of Law
- Dr. Obonnaya Omenka, Assistant Professor, College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
- Dr. Derek Reid ’87, Professor, Dance
- Dr. River Sturdivant, Senior Director of Special Initiatives and Research, Central Indiana Community Foundation
- Deputy Mayor Judith Thomas ’90, Office of Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett
- Dr. Robin Turner, Chair/Associate Professor, Political Science and Peace and Conflict Studies
- Dr. Alana Washington ’01 and ’20, Pharm D and MBA, Pharmacist and Entrepreneur
The Hub partnered with the Black Alumni Association to establish a mentoring project, which is being coordinated by Dr. Nick Mmbaga, Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship in the Lacy School of Business. Faculty, staff, and alumni mentors are paired with students after going through an application process and there are specific guidelines provided to make the connections successful and sustainable. “We expect this program to aid in both recruitment and retention efforts and in our ability to thrive at Butler,” Jett said.
They have also established the Visiting Black Intellectual Series. Poet Ian Manuel, the first speaker, met with classes, community groups and did a public presentation to over 300 people, and three more visitors have been scheduled for 2022:
- Dr. Tina Harris, February 22-24, internationally renowned interracial communication scholar with particular interests in race, media representations, and racial social justice.
- Dr. A. Breeze Harper, April 13-15, in partnership with Indy Women in Food as part of a conference. Harper, a novelist, speaker, and thought leader, has written extensively about Black Feminism, critical studies of race, racial justice, and ethical consumption.
- Rosa Clemente, September 20-22. Clemente is an organizer, producer, independent journalist, and scholar-activist who ran for Vice President on the Green Party ticket in 2008 and was an Associate Producer on the film “Judas and the Black Messiah.” The film will possibly be shown at Kan-Kan Cinema and the Hub hopes to have a discussion including Clemente following. In addition, the Hub, along with other partners, will sponsor a “community read” of the Black Panther graphic novel.
Jett said the Hub is planning to start a partnership with Indianapolis Public Schools to re-launch an MLK oratorical contest for IPS students in grades 7-12 with an accompanying essay contest for younger students. Jett will look to a diverse group of Butler students to help prepare IPS students to deliver their speeches, the final event will hopefully be hosted on Butler’s campus. The plan is to model this MLK Oratorical Contest after the Oakland MLK Oratorical Fest, and it’s intended to both connect IPS students in a meaningful way with Butler and inspire them to consider Butler for their collegiate experience.
Jett hopes for additional partners to join, such as the Center for Black Literature and Culture, the MLK Community Center, and the Desmond Tutu Peace Lab Think Tank.
The Hub for Black Affairs and Community Engagement was established in 2020 (and operated virtually until August 2021) in response to the killing of George Floyd, Jr. to address systemic and institutionalized racism from the vantage point of the Black intellectual tradition.
“The HUB is focused on creating an almost village-like atmosphere where there’s ongoing connections and support amongst in particular the Black faculty, staff and alum,” said Jett, Butler’s first (and, so far, only) Black female full professor, who also serves as Senior Advisor to Butler President Jim Danko.