'First Fridays' series connects Emory community by highlighting faculty research on race

By April Hunt | Emory Report | March 2, 2021

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Dianne M. Stewart, associate professor of religion and African American studies (left), and Tayari Jones, the Charles Howard Candler Professor of English and Creative Writing, will discuss their research into the Black family and how their work overlaps during the inaugural “First Fridays at 4 p.m.” on March 5.

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Emory College of Arts and Sciences and the James Weldon Johnson Institute (JWJI) will launch a new lecture series Friday, March 5, to showcase groundbreaking faculty scholarship on a wide variety of topics related to race, ethnicity and social justice.

The “First Fridays at 4 p.m.” series is designed to build both community and conversation informed by new Emory College faculty research across disciplines, including the work of several recent hires. The March 5 kickoff “Price of Progress” event features Tayari Jones, Charles Howard Candler Professor of English and Creative Writing, and Dianne M. Stewart, associate professor of religion and African American studies, discussing their research into the Black family and how their work overlaps.

The event is free, but registration is required.

“In the past few years we have welcomed to the College an extraordinary group of new faculty, many of whom are experts and creative voices on race and social justice issues,” says Carla Freeman, executive associate dean of Emory College.  “We are thrilled to welcome to campus leading scholars with exceptional research and teaching portfolios as well as proven track records of mentoring a diverse student body, including first-generation and underrepresented minority students.”

“This is an occasion both to feature their important work and to introduce them to the wider Emory community beyond their own departments,” Freeman adds. “In these times of social distancing and remote work, we are eager to convene as an academic community, and to provide occasions to get to know one another. We have new faculty who do not yet know the campus and some who have not yet moved to Atlanta. This collaboration between JWJI and the College feels like an exciting new ritual for Emory.”

Last year’s murder of George Floyd and the national reckoning with police violence, voter suppression and the racism embedded in American institutions and culture prompted faculty, staff and students to engage in various discussions of the issues and how to learn more, Freeman says.

The First Friday series is an opportunity for the Emory community to have the tools needed for serious discussion of those issues, says Andra Gillespie, director of the James Weldon Johnson Institute at Emory, which is sponsoring the series.

“Emory has a longstanding tradition of supporting serious scholarship on race and difference, and I am excited to showcase how deep our bench really is,” says Gillespie, who also is an associate professor of political science.

“This series lifts the burden of understanding from individual faculty, so that we all share in this knowledge to inform thinking, scholarship and teaching,” Gillespie adds.

The series continues virtually this spring, with Rocío Zambrana, associate professor of philosophy, on April 2 and Bernard L. Fraga, associate professor of political science, on May 7.

With a return to campus planned for the fall, the organizers look forward to gathering in person for these presentations, to be followed by receptions, dialogue and social interchange.