Emory Report
January 29, 2007
Volume 59, Number 17


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January 29 , 2007
Race and difference

BY beverly clark

After a year of research and reflection, the Understanding Race and Difference Strategic Initiative is moving forward to put proposals into action while supporting ongoing efforts to address one of society’s most challenging issues.

“This is an exciting time to do this work, especially here in Atlanta as the home of the King papers and future site of a Center for Human and Civil Rights. There is continuing contention around issues of diversity throughout society, and theoretical attention, practical action and moral leadership are needed,” said Robert Franklin, Presidential Distinguished Professor of Social Ethics at the Candler School of Theology, who has led the Race and Difference initiative this past year.

Two programs tied to the initiative are well under way.

The Transforming Community Project, a five-year program to document the University’s past and confront current challenges around the issue of race, is in its second year. One of the most comprehensive initiatives ever undertaken by a major university, TCP has engaged faculty, staff and students from across the University in candid and difficult “community dialogues.” Other TCP groups are researching various aspects of Emory’s history.

The James Weldon Johnson Institute for Interdisciplinary Study and Social Advocacy, led by African American Studies Associate Professor Rudolph Byrd, has received funding from the Mellon Foundation. The institute will play a vital role in generating new knowledge and research by bringing significant and influential thought leaders to campus who will deliver public lectures, hold classes and do research.

The first-ever map of existing activities related to race and difference also has been completed. “To our credit, we have a huge number of existing practices and programs. Now the challenge is to make them known and integrated across the University,” Franklin said.

A meeting of stakeholders in February will lead to working groups that, Franklin said, “will move the work forward to establish Emory as one of the premier sites in the world for the study of race and difference.”