The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University has announced the eight winners of this year’s Windham-Campbell Prizes in the fields of fiction, nonfiction, drama, and poetry. Each winner will receive a $165,000 prize at an international literary festival at Yale in September.
Four of the eight winners of this year Windham-Campbell Prizes are Black. Three have ties to academic institutions in the United States.
Lorna Goodison, a winner of a poetry prize, is a professor emerita at the University of Michigan, where she served as the Lemuel A. Johnson Professor of English and African and Afro-American studies. She currently serves as poet laureate of the nation of Jamaica. Professor Goodison has published 13 collections of poetry including Supplying Salt and Light (McClelland & Stewart, 2013).
John Keene, a professor of English at Rutgers University-Newark is the recipient of a Windham-Campbell Prize in the fiction category. He is the author of the short story collection Counternarratives (New Directions, 2015) and the novel Annotations (New Directions, 1995). Professor Keene received a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and a master of fine arts degree from New York University.
Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, a native of Uganda who now lives in England, won a prize in the fiction category. Her debut novelKintu (Transit Books, 2014) tells the parallel stories of the fall of a cursed bloodline—the titular Kintu clan—and the rise of modern Uganda. Dr. Makumbi earned a Ph.D. in African literature from Lancaster University in England. She has taught creative writing at several universities in the United Kingdom.
Suzan-Lori Parks won an award in the drama category. She is a professor of creative writing at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. Parks is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts. She is a former MacArthur Foundation “Genius Award” winner. Professor Parks was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for her play “Topdog/Underdog.” In addition to her plays, Parks is the author of the novel Getting Mother’s Body(2003).
George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, recently named its North Plaza in honor of Roger Wilkins, a former long-time faculty member who died this past March. Angel Cabrera, president of George Mason University, said at the dedication ceremony, “when Roger came to George Mason, few knew much about this fledgling university in the suburbs of Washington D.C. Roger was one of those intellectual pioneers who helped put this university on the map.”
A native of Kansas City, Missouri, Wilkins moved to Harlem at the age of 9 and later settled in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He earned a bachelor’s degree and a law degree at the University of Michigan.
Wilkins joined the Kennedy administration in 1962 as a special assistant to the director of the Agency for International Development. In 1965, he was appointed an assistant attorney general by President Johnson.
In 1988, Wilkins joined the faculty at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, as the Clarence J. Robinson Professor in History and American Culture. He remained on the faculty for nearly 20 years until his retirement in 2007.
Professor Gallimore joined the faculty at the University of Michigan in 1992 as an assistant professor of aerospace engineering. He was promoted to full professor in 2004. Dr. Gallimore is the founder of the university’s Plasmadynamics and Electric Propulsion Laboratory. Also, he is the director of the Michigan Space Grant Consortium, funded by NASA and the director of the Michigan/Air Force Center of Excellence in Electric Propulsion.
Dreia Davis shouldn’t be alive. Yet she is. Doctors were doubtful Davis would survive after she was shot in the face in a drive-by shooting on Detroit’s east side in August 2009.
But she did.
Although the shooting left Davis in a wheelchair, she has continued to beat the odds, despite setbacks and recurring nightmares of that late summer night, when she nearly lost her life at age 13. Two heart attacks, numerous surgeries and a stroke later, Davis, 19, is determined to reclaim her life and achieve her dream of attending the University of Michigan and becoming a defense attorney.
There’s no denying Davis still has a long road ahead, but she has found unparallelled love and support in the one person who has remained by her side, caring for her and pushing her forward: her father, Curtis White. “It feels great to have him in my life,” she said while gripping his hand. “He’s had me since I was 3 weeks old. I love him.”
White, a single father, has relatively no help in caring for his daughter. Her mother, who still lives in Detroit, is not in the picture, White said, and his own family is unable to help.
But the father and daughter have formed a bond that grows each day.
“She’s my daughter, my best friend,” White, 45, said. “She knows me inside and out. It’s us against them. It’s us against the world. We beat the odds. We can do anything together. Me taking care of her, that’s second nature. I never had my dad, and I went through hell not knowing my dad. … So I have to be there, be here for her. That’s what’s given me the drive to do this for her. Since she’s come this far, the sky’s the limit. I’m never going to give up on her.”
Davis was a lively teen. She was a popular, nearly straight-A student and a head cheerleader at Greenfield Union School, on 7 Mile and Charleston. Before the shooting Aug. 5, 2009, Davis asked her father whether she could go to her friend’s house. He said yes. But later, he discovered she had caught the bus to go to another friend’s home, where he specifically told her not to go.
“Like a typical teen, she was being rebellious,” he said. He called her and told her to come home. “I told her, ‘Don’t make me come over there and get you,’ ” he said. “She promised she would make it home. The last thing I heard from her was, ‘Daddy, I’m on my way home. I love you.’ “
He started pacing when 8 p.m. came. Then 9 p.m. passed. As 10 p.m. neared, a feeling of dread swept across White. “I could feel it in my stomach,” he said. “I couldn’t pinpoint it, but something was not right.”
Minutes later, his daughter’s aunt called. In a trembling voice, she told him to come to the hospital immediately. “I couldn’t even comprehend what she was telling me,” he said. ” ‘Shot in the head?’ ‘What do you mean?’ As soon as I got there, they met me with the chaplains in the emergency room and I was already thinking it was over.”
Davis, an innocent bystander, was shot at the corner of Emery and Eureka, near 7 Mile on the city’s east side, while she talked to some friends. She was the only one injured.
“All it took was one unfortunate night of her not listening for a tragedy to occur,” White said.
After she was shot, Davis was rushed to the hospital and taken into the ICU, where doctors used an automatic external defibrillator to shock her heart back into rhythm after she suffered a heart attack on the operating table.
Doctors told White that his daughter had a 7% chance of making it. “I just lost my mind. That’s my only child,” he said. “From there, it was a whole lot of hoping, praying and being at the hospital 24/7. When I saw her in the emergency recovery room, I was shocked. Her head had swelled up to the size of a pumpkin.”
After several months on life support, doctors told White it was likely his daughter wouldn’t recover, and that he might have to consider removing the support.
“Doctors were telling me she was going to be a vegetable,” he said. “After the second heart attack and stroke, I started considering it. But I had a good cousin that came down from Battle Creek. She said: ‘God can do anything. Put your faith in God.’ And I swear on my life, that as soon as I did that, she made a drastic turnaround.”
Emory University has announced that Erika Hayes James will be the next dean of the Goizueta Business School, making her the first African-American female dean in the school’s history. She’s also the first among top business school programs. James will assume her role on July 15.
James is a former senior associate dean for executive education at the Darden Graduate School for Business at the University of Virginia. She earned her PhD. in organizational psychology from the University of Michigan, and her expertise is intersecting that knowledge with executive leadership. She has consulted numerous Fortune 500 companies and typically focuses on three key areas: crisis leadership, women in leadership, and commuter relationships. MBA students at Darden and Harvard Business School, where James taught as a visiting professor, gave her high praise, according to the Emory announcement.
Although there are three other minority women who are deans at American colleges of business, James will be the first at the helm of a full-time MBA program at a top-25 business school. Claire Sterk, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at Emory, insisted that James’ race and gender did not impact their decision to hire her, although it is certainly an added bonus to make history. “Erika James has all of the qualities that we want for a leader at Goizueta,” says Sterk, who led the international search. “She brings a background of impressive scholarship and strong skills in academic administration, and she will work collaboratively with faculty, students, staff, alumni and supporters to take the school to the next level—all the while honoring the principled leadership of Mr. Goizueta’s legacy.”
James hopes to strengthen the connection between Goizueta and Atlanta’s business community, as well as, make use of Emory’s expertise in health care to create business solutions for the national challenge of health care delivery systems. “I believe that the Goizueta Business School is a world-renowned school that is on the verge of greatness,” she said. “And I want to be a part of helping the school reach that greatness.”
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Julius Chambers, a Charlotte attorney whose practice was in the forefront of the civil rights movement in North Carolina, has died, his law firm said Saturday. He was 76.
A statement issued by his law firm, Ferguson Chambers & Sumter, said Chambers died Friday after months of declining health. A specific cause of death wasn’t given.
“Mr. Chambers was not the first lawyer of color to try to address the issues of equality,” firm partner Geraldine Sumter said Saturday. “He would tell you he had people like Buddy Malone of Durham that he looked to, the Kennedys out of Winston-Salem. The thing that Mr. Chambers brought to that struggle was a very focused, determined attitude that things were going to change.”
The N.C. chapter of the NAACP called Chambers “a man of tremendous courage.”
“His home and his car were firebombed on separate occasions in 1965, and his office was burned to the ground in 1971, during the height of some of his most contentious civil rights litigation in North Carolina,” the NAACP said in a statement. “When he spoke of these events, Mr. Chambers was typically matter-of-fact, insisting always that you ‘just keep fighting.'”
N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper called Chambers “a friend who set a courageous example of doing what is right regardless of the cost.” In 1964, Chambers opened a law practice that became the state’s first integrated law firm. He and his partners won cases that shaped civil rights law, including Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education regarding school busing.
The University of Michigan has announced a four-month initiative called the Understanding Race Project. From January through April, the university will feature public exhibits, lectures, performances, symposia, and other events examining the role of race in American society. Among the lecturers who will be visiting campus to participate in the project are Angela Davis, Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center, and Newark Mayor Cory Booker. During the spring semester, 130 courses dealing with racial issues will be offered students in a wide variety of disciplines.
“The Understanding Race Project is as broad and varied as the cultural and ethnic groups that constitute and sometimes divide the human family here and around the globe,” explains Amy Harris, co-chair of the project and director of the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History. She states that the goal of the project is “to learn more about how social constructs like race have defined substantial portions of our history and continue to impact our lives today.”