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ASU explores 'State of Black Arizona'


December 10, 2009

A community collaborative driven by Arizona higher education and civic and industry leaders has resulted in the second State of Black Arizona, a comprehensive report that explores the status, issues and concerns of African-Americans in Arizona.

The project is led by Arizona State University with support from the Arizona Community Foundation, Arizona Public Service, the Maricopa Community College District, and the Tucson Urban League.  

The report was unveiled Dec. 9 during a celebration at the Arizona Public Service Corporate Headquarters in Phoenix. A launch event and reception also are set to take place Feb. 4, in Tucson. A community event in Sierra Vista will follow in March.

Critical issues regarding education provide the focus for the 2009 report in which four topics are discussed in depth by experts in the fields of law and justice, math and science, sustainability and health. Experts include:

• Penny Willrich, retired superior court commissioner and justice of Arizona, on education and law.

• William Tate, IV, Edward Mallinckrodt Distinguished University Professor in Arts & Sciences and director of the Center for the Study of Regional Competitiveness in Science and Technology at Washington University in St. Louis, on human capital.

• Rufus Glasper, district chancellor of Maricopa Community Colleges District, and Pushpa Ramakrishna, a professor, on sustainability and higher education.

• Wanda Blanchett, dean and Ewing Marion Kauffman/Missouri Endowed Chair in Teacher Education, in the School of Education, University of Missouri-Kansas City, on health education and HIV/AIDS prevention education.

These issues and related topics, including immigration and housing, also are explored through excerpts from additional essays that appear throughout the report. All essays contributed to the 2009 report may be viewed online at http://stateofblackaz.org.

“We wanted this statewide initiative to be accessible, use current research to inform educational policy, and initiate long-term discussions that will encourage positive changes to all of our communities,” said Kimberly A. Scott, an associate professor in ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Institute and Graduate School of Education.

Supported by more than a dozen ASU faculty, staff and students, as well as researchers and advisers from the larger community and across the United States, Scott joined the State of Black Arizona project as the executive editor in 2008 to provide additional direction and leadership to the 2009 initiative.  

Under Scott’s direction, a public forum series launched last year and featured presentations by the State of Black Arizona, Volume II authors, with coordinated participation from invited community responders and noted experts in the selected subject areas.

The State of Black Arizona has deep roots at ASU. The concept for the project emerged from a conversation between George Dean, the president and chief executive officer of the Greater Phoenix Urban League, and Virgil Renzulli, a GPUL board member who also is vice president for public affairs at ASU. The Arizona project was modeled after the National Urban League’s State of Black America initiative.  It also builds upon the Black Town Halls that ASU hosted from the late 1980s to the late 1990s.  

The initial project was coordinated by Kenja Hassan, the assistant director of ASU for Arizona, and Channetta Curtis, a student intern with the office, which works toward developing a meaningful presence for ASU in communities around the state, ranging from service to research, including the first State of Black Arizona publication.  

 “There hadn’t been a coordinated effort in many years to produce a baseline, panoramic view of the status, issues and concerns of African-Americans living in Arizona,” Hassan said.

The State of Black Arizona was designed in part to secure better data on the state of health, education, employment, salaries and other issues facing Arizona’s Black population. The inaugural report sparked new interest in these issues, Hassan said.

“People are hungry for more information” she said. The idea has really taken off.”

Michael Kelly, a member of the State of Black Arizona Advisory Council and Arizona Community Foundation board of directors, agrees.  

“We want the report’s findings to filter down to the community,” he said. “This is not to become an academic work. We are engaging scholars, decision-makers and the community in a concerted effort to deliver practical solutions that improve the lives of all Arizonans.”

The Arizona Community Foundation has supported the State of Black Arizona project with funding for the research and a dedicated intern. ACF  also is exploring a second initiative to build philanthropy within the African-American community.

To learn more about the State of Black Arizona initiative, please visit the project Web site: http://stateofblackaz.org.

 

Joan Sherwood
Mary Lou Fulton Institute and Graduate School of Education