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 will be accepted until Tuesday, April 16, 2021. 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.



Asia Cureton

Comparative Literature 

Faculty mentors: Leah Norris

Asia's research draws upon Comparative Literature, Sociolinguistics, and Translation Studies to analyze the translation of African American English in Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye into German. Specifically, she is interested in how language functions as a marker of social status within the Black community in which the text takes place, and thus, how the language of intraracial politics is translated across linguistic boundaries.

Isabelle Fleury

Counseling, Clinical, and School Psychology

Faculty mentors: Dr. Erin Dowdy

Isabelle's research explores how the well-being of Black students can be influenced by culturally-specific strategies used to cope with the stressful impacts of racism. She is also using Rasch methodology to investigate how certain racism-related coping skills are used among Black students in relation to variouspersonal characteristics (e.g., sub-ethnic group identification, gender identity). The ultimate goal of this research project is to inform service delivery to Black student populations at university student health and counseling centers.

Tameisha Hinton

Counseling, Clinical, and School Psychology
Faculty mentor: Dr. Erin Dowdy

In the field of school psychology, there is a longstanding and critical need to diversify the profession. Tameisha’s research specifically aims to enhance recruitment strategies for and to increase representation of Black school psychologists through exploring psychosocial factors impacting current Black graduate student’s academic pursuits in their respective school psychology programs.
Taylor Jordan Holmes
Faculty mentor: Dr. Swati Rana

With an emphasis in cultural studies, gender and queer theory, and theories of subjectivity and affect, my research aims to investigate literary constructions of diasporic blackness and to unveil the communion between Black social life and death from the eighteenth century on. My current project conceives of judicial contempt power and colonial racist contempt of Black Americans as concomitant historical developments that continue to generate evolving 

Alexander Proksch

Philosophy and Sociology

Faculty mentor: Dr. Mark Juergensmeyer

My research is grounded in analysis of BLM as a historical and contemporary struggle for human rights and the dynamics between this struggle and recent corporate endorsements. My current guiding ideology leading this project is shaped by Antonio Gramsci's concept of hegemony, and Noam Chomsky's work on manufacturing consent. Specifically, how does the capital provided to BLM by corporations square with the ultimate goal of liberation? My methods of research include but are not limited to historical analysis and interviews.