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Howard University Receives $5 Million for Just Futures Initiative from Mellon Foundation Grant

WASHINGTON – The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded Howard University $5 million for its Just Futures Initiative. Howard was one of 38 universities invited by the foundation to submit proposals for “visionary, unconventional, experimental and groundbreaking projects in order to address the long-existing fault lines of racism, inequality and injustice that tear at the fabric of democracy and civil society.” Sixteen proposals were selected out of 165 submissions.

“The Mellon Foundation’s Just Futures Initiative will provide continuous support to our objective to address injustice, racism, inequality and more,” said President Wayne A. I. Frederick. “I’d like to thank our incredible faculty who helped bring this award to Howard. As we continue to confront the core challenges that threaten our pursuit of a society that works, not against, but on behalf of the Black community, it is vital that we find organizational partners who share our vision and values. We look forward to a fruitful collaboration with the Mellon Foundation.”

Howard’s team is led by Nikki Taylor, Ph.D., who is also the principal investigator of another $480,000 Mellon Foundation grant – the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Grant, which was awarded in 2017 to groom humanities and humanistic social science majors to pursue doctoral degrees and become professors. Howard University is the first and only HBCU to host its own Mellon Mays program and to be awarded the Just Futures Initiative grant.

The team also consists of co-principal investigators Bahiyyah Muhammad, Ph.D., associate professor of criminology, and Rubin Patterson, Ph.D., dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Other team members include Kolapo Abimbola, Ph.D., professor of philosophy; Amy Yeboah, Ph.D., professor of Africana studies; and Jacqueline Carmichael, assistant professor of art.  

Howard University’s proposal was to create a Social Justice Consortium (SJC) that will increase the critical consciousness people need to analyze injustice in their own communities and develop innovative and collaborative action-oriented remedies. The SJC increases community knowledge on social justice, including supporting social justice research, art and activism; but its most significant effort is to democratize access to knowledge through its innovative social justice certificate, which will be offered to Howard students and more, including Title I high school students, teachers, community activists, continuing education students, retirees and incarcerated populations. The certificate courses will not only deepen community social justice knowledge, but position the field of humanities as the means to solve social problems.

“This is an incredible honor. Howard University’s humanities programs have never received a grant of this magnitude. We are very fortunate that the foundation believed in our vision to increase social justice consciousness and remedies,” said Taylor, who is also chair of the Department of History. “Our social justice certificate disrupts the idea of the academy by expanding notions of who can produce, have access to and teach social justice knowledge. It will be transformative on so many levels – for Howard and the community. The most important feature of this certificate is that it will be free and open to everyone in the community.” 

The SJC, comprised of faculty at Howard University and other historically Black colleges and universities, will partner with the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), the National Education Equity Lab (NEEL) and JAMII (Swahili for Community) to facilitate the recruitment of various target groups to pursue the certificate.

“I am excited about the opportunity to work closely with Dr. Nikki Taylor on this innovative community-engaged research project to help advance much-needed social justice in America,”  said Patterson. “The generously funded project by the Mellon Foundation will enable us to be transformative with some of our courses of study in the College of Arts and Sciences as well as more impactful in the community.” 

Howard University Vice President for Research Bruce Jones, Ph.D. noted that the grant will help many. “The Mellon Foundation award program is extraordinary in its focus and national scope given the time we live in. The research and scholarship by the Social Justice Consortium is destined to transform the lives of generations of students and faculty.”


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About Howard University

Founded in 1867, Howard University is a private, research university that is comprised of 13 schools and colleges. Students pursue studies in more than 120 areas leading to undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. The University operates with a commitment to Excellence in Truth and Service and has produced one Schwarzman Scholar, three Marshall Scholars, four Rhodes Scholars, 11 Truman Scholars, 25 Pickering Fellows and more than 165 Fulbright Scholars. Howard also produces more on-campus African-American Ph.D. recipients than any other university in the United States. For more information on Howard University, visit www.howard.edu

Media Contact: Imani Pope-Johns, Public Relations Manager, Imani.popejohns@howard.edu