Two Major Foundations Invest in Innovative Center of Excellence for Social Justice Programs

By Todd Simmons / 02/16/2024 College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, History and Political Science

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (Feb. 16, 2024) – Less than one year after its official launch, the Center of Excellence for Social Justice at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University is drawing support from major philanthropic organizations interested in the potential of its deep engagement on issues of equity and discrimination.

The Henry Luce Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation each made gifts of $250,000 to the center, director Jelani Favors, Ph.D., announced today. Favors is also the Henry E. Frye Distinguished Professor of History in the College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences.

“We at the Luce Foundation have been inspired by Professor Favors’ vision for the center, which builds upon North Carolina A&T’s long history of community engagement and the pursuit of social justice,” said Sean Buffington, vice president of the foundation. “We are honored to be able to support this storied institution in its newest venture, the Center of Excellence for Social Justice.”

The $500,000 in total funding will support the Power of Four Research Fellows program, which enrolls a cohort of four outstanding first-year students each year who conduct and produce research focused on inclusive community change, rooted in civic engagement that seeks to preserve and expand American democracy.

The program is named for the A&T Four, the freshmen who in 1960 set off the national lunch counter sit-in protest movement that served as a critical precursor to the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964, and seeks to build on their legacy.

The funding will also support the “Truth and Transformation: Rebuilding and Reimagining the Humanities and Social Sciences at HBCUs” conference to be held at A&T this fall. The conference was inspired by the words of the legendary Ruth Simmons, Ph.D., former president of Prairie View A&M as well as Brown University, who in a 2022 speech to the MacArthur HBCU Fellowship Project described how the humanities and social sciences at HBCUs have always led the charge toward “truth and transformation.”

The conference will bring together leading Black intellectuals, artists, scholars and educators for presentations and dialogue aimed at reinvigorating the social sciences on HBCU campuses across the country for the 21st century.

Finally, the funding will support the Building Bridges Initiative, which seeks to convene local leaders, organizers and activists to tackle a plethora of issues plaguing area communities – housing insecurity and homelessness, gun violence, health care, inequities and other forms of racial discrimination. Building Bridges is being developed in collaboration with the center’s Student Advisory Board, building on a roundtable initiative launched at A&T in 1970 that made the university a hub of intellectual activity focused on solving problems generating wide disparities in Greensboro and surrounding communities – problems that persist today.

Building Bridges will give community members a seat at the table as equals and allow them to tap into A&T’s intellectual resources to create a stronger and more inclusive city for all Greensboro residents. Building Bridges will offer at least 12 roundtables each year.

“Our partners at the Luce and MacArthur foundations are as enthusiastic about the promise of these efforts and the Center as we are,” said Favors. “Through their support, the Center has an outstanding opportunity to demonstrate the value and impact of these three initiatives for our students, our university and the surrounding community. By doing so, we can create models of impact relevant to other communities, as well.

“We greatly appreciate the Luce and MacArthur foundations belief in this work and look forward to an ongoing relationship with both.”

Media Contact Information: thsimmons@ncat.edu

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