Roundtable on Black joy and transformative scholarship highlights new recruits

Jennifer Leach
February 22, 2023

On Monday, February 20, the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement hosted a fireside chat with newly-appointed faculty in the fields of social work and sociology. The event, entitled “Engaging Our Communities: Transformative Scholarship for Dismantling Anti-Black Racism and Fostering Black Joy,” was moderated by Associate Professor of Social Work and Associate Director of DEI in the Data Science Institute Courtney Cogburn. Nkemka Anyiwo, Natasha Johnson, and Charles Lea, assistant professors of social work hired through the Race and Racism Scholarship Cluster Hire initiative, were on the panel with Marissa Thompson, assistant professor of sociology, whose research is on causes and consequences of educational inequality.  

Photo of the moderator and four panelists smiling at the camera: Courtney Cogburn, Natasha Johnson, Melissa Thompson, Charles Lea, and Nkemka Anyiwo

Of the 50 attendees, 9 were students or prospective students, 12 were members of Columbia’s staff, 12 were on the faculty, and 17 were community members. During the wide-ranging conversation, the panelists shared their reasons for doing this work, the University’s Fourth Purpose and the responsibility of researchers to make their work accessible to communities beyond the academy; the challenges of aligning their work with the requirements of the tenure process; and how they replenish themselves in their lives beyond work.

The conversation closed with each panelist sharing their own vision of Black Joy. This was followed by a lively question and answer session and a lunch reception. 

This conversation is the first in a series designed by faculty in collaboration with the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement.

When I think about joy, I think about it being rooted somewhat in hope. Happiness can be fleeting, but joy is an intentional state, to an extent. It’s spiritually guided. Finding hope in possibilities of the future…finding hope and happiness in the accomplishments of the past. Tapping into ancestors, tapping into future lineages. That’s a more existential answer. In a more tangible way, it’s a collective. It’s this. It’s building with your people despite the systems that contribute to distress