Kennedy/Graves Award

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The Kennedy/Graves award supports undergraduate and graduate students in any academic discipline who are doing research that pertains to Black Studies. The award also recognizes engaged scholarship that promotes social justice and transformative education. Applications are currently being accepted until FRIDAY, April 6, 2018. Apply here.

A Legacy of Activism 

Shirley Graves Kennedy arrived in Santa Barbara in 1970 where she found a small, marginalized African American community and other people of color who faced job and housing discrimination, exclusion from the arts, and unfair treatment in the school system. Shirley Kennedy became involved in all these issues, as an organizer and spokeswoman and activist. After the age of 40, she completed her degree at UCSB and went on to earn a Ph.D. in Political Science in Government from Claremont University.

dr-shirley-kennedy_filmAs a faculty member in the UCSB Department of Black Studies, Dr. Kennedy was the community liaison for the UCSB Center for Black Studies Research, where she worked to transform the Santa Barbara community with her commitment to social justice, activism, and democracy. 

During those years, she worked to create bridges and collaborations between the University and the community. The Kennedy/Graves endowment was established by Dr. Shirley Kennedy and named in honor of her mother, Ione H. Graves. After her death in 2003, the Center Black Studies research established an annual lecture in her name. The Center has produced a brief documentary of Dr. Kennedy’s life, “It Was All of Us.”

The Kennedy/Graves Award was given for the first time in  Spring 2013 to two UCSB Barbara students Yoel Y. Haile was selected for  the undergraduate award. Shardé M. Davis was selected for the graduate  award.  Both students were selected for their extraordinary academic engagement and activism reflecting the spirit of Dr. Shirley  Kennedy.



David StampsDavid Stamps is a PhD student at University of California, Santa Barbara. He received his Masters Degree in Mass Communication from California State University, Northridge. While in attendance, he was named the Pearl S. Simmons Scholar, Graduate Equity Fellow, and a finalist for the CSU Trustee Award. His research interests include exploring media effects and stereotyping of marginalized groups within mass and entertainment media. David also studies the intersections of class and race with regard to social media and digital activism. He has presented at several conferences including the Broadcast Education Association conference and Mid-Atlantic Popular and American Culture conference. His most recent peer reviewed journal publication, The social construction of the African American family on broadcast television: A comparative content analysis of The Cosby Show and Blackish, is now available in the Howard Journal of Communication. A former film publicist and grant writer, he also holds a B.A. from Columbia College Chicago. You can find him on Twitter at @dlsdanz2.
Michelle OyewoleMichelle Tokunbo Oluwaseyi Oyewole (aka “Toke”) is a doctoral candidate in the UCSB Department of Geography. Her dissertation research examines social and environmental outcomes of school gardening, with a focus on varying effects in neighborhoods of different racial, ethnic and socioeconomic composition. During her time at UCSB, she has been a member of the UCSB Black Resources Committee, the UCSB Graduate Student Association, the UC Student Association, and she was a finalist in the 2014 UCSB Grad Slam. She was the 2016-2017 chair of the UC Student Association (UCSA) Graduate and Professional Student Committee. In this position she advocated for equity and affordability for UC graduate students. She served as editor-in-chief of the 2016 UC Graduate Policy Journal. She organized the first UC system-wide Graduate Day of Action (focusing on faculty diversity, initiating cultural competency trainings, faculty mentorship practices, and disparities in standard of living among graduate students of different identities). She has conducted research on and advocated for reform in graduate education in meetings with the UC Office of the President, federal and state legislators, and student leaders from all UC campuses.
Saxon CropperSaxon Cropper-Sykes (Sociology, Feminist Studies) His research project was on "High Impact Practices on Black American Success in Higher Education." He was an active member of
the Black Resource Committee and he initiated and coordinated the Black Student Engagement Program in his senior year. He is currently attending UC Berkeley School of Law.​
Erin AdamsonErin Adamson is a PhD student in the Linguistics department. She attended Spelman College as an undergrad before receiving her Masters from North Carolina State University. Before coming to UCSB, she completed a Fulbright ETA in Colombia and taught community college in her hometown of Charlotte, NC. She has served as the Linguistics department representative for the Graduate Student Association and Vice President of the Black Graduate Student Association. For the 2017-2018 academic year, she will be serving as Vice President of External Affairs for the Graduate Student Association. Her research interests include African American Women's Language and Spanish-English bilingualism.
Kendra CalhounKendra Calhoun's research is based in linguistics and draws heavily on research and theories from Black Studies, Communication, and Media Studies, in addition to other disciplines. Her interdisciplinary research centers around language and race and language on social media, with a focus on humor and other discursive forms of social activism on different social media platforms. Her M.A. thesis analyzed racial humor on Vine as a genre of sociopolitical critique, and my current research analyzes "everyday activism" and the construction of Black identity and Black womanhood on Tumblr. She completed her B.A. in English Language & Literature and Psychology at the University of South Carolina, and she is a Ph.D student in the department of Linguistics., where she completed my M.A. in Fall 2016.
Michelle GrueMichelle Grue’s interdisciplinary research in Education and Writing draws on Black Feminist, Rhetorical, and Education Studies to investigate how Black women survive and thrive in academia. Her current project specifically looks at how Black female faculty utilize the digital environment to mitigate isolation, to share their research, cultivate a national and international reputation, and often engage in activist work. Michelle attended Pepperdine University, Seaver College in Malibu, California for her undergraduate studies, earning a Bachelors of Arts in Creative Writing. After which, she worked as an academic advisor while completing her teaching credentials in English and History there as well. She has completed 2 years of her MA/PhD program in the University of California, Santa Barbara Education Department and looks forward to continuing her studies here in the fall.
Amoni ThompsonAmoni Thompson is a PhD student in the Feminist Studies program at UC Santa Barbara. As a UNCF/Mellon-Mays Fellow, she graduated Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Spelman College with a BA in Comparative Women's Studies and a minor in Creative Writing. Upon graduating from Spelman College, she worked as the Women and Human Rights Intern for a nonprofit organization in Atlanta, GA called Women Engaged. She assisted the executive director with research, writing, publishing, and editing articles based on current women’s/human rights issues. She also worked part time as an afterschool educator in the West End Neighborhood of Atlanta, GA serving primarily elementary-aged youth. Amoni currently works as a graduate mentor with the Black Student Engagement Program as part of the Black Resource Committee at UCSB. She also serves as the Vice President of the Black Graduate Students Association. Her research examines the cultural representations of Black girl artists in the U.S. South to understand how Black girls create geographies of pleasure and joy. It examines the ways spatial politics impact how Black girls in the South use expressive culture as a tool to enact their own visions of freedom and pleasure. Her work is interested how we can further understand what it means to be Black and southern in this post-civil rights era through the experience of Black girls.



  • Jamelia Harris
  • Rachel Scarlett


  • Kezia Gopaul-Knights received her Ph.D. from the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education in Counseling, Clinical and School Psychology. Her dissertation research examined the association between corporal punishment and outcomes in Trinidadian youth. Specifically, her study investigated the relation between corporal punishment and subjective well-being and externalizing behaviors (bullying and delinquency). Additionally, it explored whether this relation was influenced by parental warmth or rejection and youth's cultural beliefs about corporal punishment and revealed that there was a direct link between corporal punishment and youth subjective well-being.


YoelYoel Y. Haile, a native of Eritrea, was recognized for his extensive involvement with  student organizations as well as his research, including his recent  paper “Eritrean Youth: Histories of Student Activism, State Repression  and Resistance.” Haile also received the UCSB Center for Black Studies  Research Anita J. Mackey Award, along with Taisonya Tidwell and George  Jefferson. 
ShardeShardé Davis’s interdisciplinary research uses theories and approaches from  Communication, Feminist Studies and Ethnic Studies to investigate how  ethnicity and gender shape relational dynamics and communication  processes. Shardé attended the University of California, Santa Barbara  for her undergraduate and graduate studies, completing a Bachelors of  Arts in Communication and Feminist Studies (high honors) and a Masters  of Arts in Communication. She will be continuing her studies in the  Communication Studies Department at the University of Iowa this fall.