An interdisciplinary center at the University of Memphis (UofM) that lectured on the importance of critical race theory received a $40,000 donation last Thursday.
The donor, Truist Financial Corporation, gave the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change grant money to further their Hooks African American Male Initiative (HAAMI). Within the initiative, the money will go toward advancing the Hooks Institute Career-Readiness Success Initiative, which offers workforce development and financial literacy. The grant will also assist the institute’s women’s enrichment pilot program called A Seat at the Table (ASATT).
HAAMI and ASATT are both initiatives designed for undergraduate students. Their purpose is to facilitate economic mobility.
The interdisciplinary center’s executive director, Daphene McFerren, explained that this funding will benefit participating students’ soft skills. She noted that the financial corporation has offered continued support to their center’s initiatives, and that the center would work with Truist’s Operation HOPE to teach students about personal financial management.
“This current grant will enable us to put a special emphasis on soft skills to complement knowledge gained in the classroom and efforts to prepare students for the workforce,” explained McFerren.
In the UofM lecture on the importance of critical race theory, the four guest speakers offered a collective defense that critical race theory is vital to education because it offers the true history and understanding of this country. They also agreed that the United States was founded on the oppression of racial minorities, and that systemic racism and oppression continue to this day.
In the first few weeks of riots that occurred following George Floyd’s death last year, McFerren called students and supporters of the center to action. She encouraged others to have elected leaders address the existence of “systemic racial bias” and police reform. McFerren named the chief instigator behind the riots, Black Lives Matter (BLM), as one means of perfecting this country.
“[T]he #BlackLivesMatter movement, among others, have been efforts to perfect America’s political, legal and social system from the vestiges of slavery and continued racism,” wrote McFerren.
McFerren also said that all four police officers killed Floyd, attributing their actions to a larger systemic narrative of racial injustice.
“[T]he officers’ conduct is connected to an historical backdrop of customs and practices that have injured and suppressed advancement of Black people for centuries. This backdrop makes it a Herculean task to accomplish systemic changes,” wrote McFerren.
The interdisciplinary center’s express purpose is to teach, study, and promote civil rights and social justice. Their latest research focused on claims of racial discrimination in current voting laws, like those in Tennessee.
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