Race and Social Justice Initiative Welcomes Visiting Scholar

Posted on October 17, 2017

The College of Charleston’s Race and Social Justice Initiative (RSJI) recently welcomed its first visiting scholar, Lisa Brock.

A Cincinnati native, Brock joins the College community from Kalamazoo College, where she is the founding academic director of the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership.
lisa brock

On the heels of her recent welcome reception at the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture, Brock spoke with The College Today about her current scholarship and plans for her stay, which lasts through November 2017.

“Primarily, I am here to do research for my upcoming book on Charleston’s urban black ‘port’ culture during the epoch of enslavement. For enslaved captives disembarking in the U.S., Charleston is the single most important port,” she says, noting that she’s doing much of her research in the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture and Addlestone Library’s Special Collections.

Brock’s visiting position is supported by RSJI, a Google-funded collaboration formed in response to the shooting death of Walter Scott by a police officer in April 2015 and the mass shooting at Emanuel AME Church two months later.

A rebel all her life, Brock’s activism began in her teens, fighting for the rights of young women and African Americans. Throughout her college years in Washington, D.C. and Chicago she battled against police violence and became a national leader in the Anti-Apartheid Movement.

Having cut her teeth as an advocate and activist long before the emergence of Facebook, Brock believes social media has both helped and hindered the pursuit of social justice.

“When I began we had mimeo machines, flyers, and press conferences to get our issues out. Nowadays, the quick pace of news output and consumption is daunting. Frames can change very quickly. Sometimes it feels like the game ‘Telephone’,” she says. “For instance, Colin Kaepernick took a knee like Dr. King and others during the Civil Rights Movement to highlight the high number of police killings of unarmed Black Americans, for which there is no punishment, accountability or conviction of the police who do this. Now everyone is talking about the national anthem, the flag and the NFL.”

At the same time, social media has also served to expand democracy in ways that should be appreciated, she says. “Today, more eyes and voices are heard from and seen. It has captured the imagination of billions all over the world. So, there is both good and bad.”

Brock’s says she is honored to take part in RSJI’s efforts to promote awareness of the history and ongoing struggles of racial injustice in Charleston and throughout the U.S.

“I have always said that what oppressed people expect from those who have benefited from privilege is not ‘politically correct’ perfection but simple honesty,” she says. “Denial and deflection perpetuate the problem and is very frustrating. That is what inspires me, that the College is working for a future where we can all be free from the shackles of the past.”

Feature photo by Reese Moore.
Written By. Vincent Fraley
Article originally posted at

College of Charleston Race and Social Justice Initiative Panel Discussion on “13th”

Posted on September 22, 2017

Thank you to everyone who came out on September 17, 2017, as the College of Charleston’s Race and Social Justice Initiative, the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture, and the South Carolina League of Women Voters presented a free screening of Ava DuVernay’s award-winning documentary 13th.

Following the screening, a panel featuring Dr. Lisa Brock, the Race and Social Justice Initiative Fall 2017 Scholar in Residence and Academic Director of the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership at Kalamazoo College, Dr. Stacey Patton, author of the Charleston County Racial Disparities Report and professor of global journalism and communications at Morgan State University, and Susan K. Dunn, the legal director of the ACLU of South Carolina, discussed the state of social justice, advocacy, and the criminal justice system in the Lowcountry and beyond. Big thanks to David Rothmund, the Race and Social Justice Initiative Graduate Assistant for live streaming the event. Watch, share, and be informed by the great perspectives presented!

13th Screening Panelist

Posted on September 14, 2017

Dr. Stacey Patton

Dr. Stacey Patton is an adoptee, child abuse survivor, and former foster youth turned award-winning author, journalist and child advocate. Her reporting on issues of child welfare, race relations, and higher education has appeared in The New York TimesThe Washington Post, The Baltimore Sun, Al Jazeera, BBC News,, The Chronicle of Higher Education,, and Dame Magazine. She has made appearances on CNN, MSNBC, Al Jazeera, FOX News, CBS, and Democracy Now. As a nationally-recognized child advocate, Dr. Patton travels the country delivering keynotes and professional trainings focused on combating racial disparities in child abuse cases, criminal prosecutions for child abuse, foster care placements, the over prescribing of psychotropic medications to children of color in foster care, the school- and foster care-to-prison pipelines, corporal punishment in public schools, diversion and restorative justice programs. She works as an intermediary between social service and law enforcement agencies seeking to improve services to communities of color. Dr. Patton attended Johns Hopkins University and New York University where she received her bachelor’s degree in journalism. She earned her Ph.D. in African American history from Rutgers University.

13th Screening Panelist


Susan K. Dunn, a member of the SC Bar since 1977, has been the legal director for the ACLU of South Carolina since 2009.  Prior to joining the ACLU, Dunn was in private practice in Charleston with extensive practice in both the family court and the court of common pleas. She graduated from Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill, School of Law.  Dunn litigated Ferguson v. City of Charleston, a ground-breaking 4th amendment case that was argued successfully before the U. S. Supreme Court and the 4th Circuit. Dunn was also counsel in Anderson v. Chesterfield County School District, a case which resulted in a consent order which assures separation of church and state in public schools.  On behalf of the ACLU of SC, Dunn appeared as an amicus in the Turner case which raised the issue of right to counsel in child support contempt actions.  In 1997, SC Women Lawyers Association awarded her the Bissell Award, given annually to recognize a person who paved the way to success for women attorneys in South Carolina.  Dunn is the proud mother of Anna Hoffius, a pediatrician in North Charleston, and Jacob Hoffius, a teacher at an international school in San Jose, Costa Rica.

13th Screening Panelists

SUNDAY! The College of Charleston’s Race and Social Justice Initiative, the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture, and the South Carolina League of Women Voters are pleased to present a free screening of Ava DuVernay’s award winning documentary 13th. We are honored to host panelists Lisa Brock, Susan Dunn and Stacey Patton, who will participate in a panel discussion following the film.

Lisa Brock

Lisa Brock (aka Doc Brock) is the Academic Director of the Arcus Center of Social Justice Leadership at Kalamazoo College, where she has worked to infuse social justice into Liberal Arts Education. Her writings on Africa and the African Diaspora have appeared in dozens of academic journals, political outlets, book chapters and the groundbreaking book, Between Race and Empire: African-Americans and Cubans Before the Cuban Revolution.  Lisa is currently Co-Chair of the Board Trustees of the Davis Putter Scholarship Fund and senior editor of Praxis Center, an online blog and resource center for scholars, activists and artists. A rebel all her life, Lisa fought for girls’ rights and Black rights while growing up in her native Cincinnati, Ohio area and against police violence and judicial misconduct in Washington D.C. while an undergraduate. She became a leader in the anti-apartheid movement while in graduate school in Chicago and lived in Mozambique as a Fulbright Scholar where she critically merged her academic interest with southern African liberation struggles. She worked to found the Chicago Anti-Apartheid Movement Collection at Columbia College Chicago (CCC) and to endow an international travel scholarship for students involved in African-American Studies. She has also led study abroad programs for faculty, students and activist to South Africa and Cuba. As an historian and justice leader, Lisa is an internationalist who views history as a way to enter contemporary discussions about race, class, gender, and global inequalities. Lisa attended Oberlin College and earned her B.A. from Howard University and her M.A. and Ph.D. in African History from Northwestern University.

Past the Bricks

Posted on September 6, 2017


The herringbone brick walkways that pave the College of Charleston’s campus make walking nearly impossible without falling victim to the Charleston shuffle.Sadly, the bricks that pave Downtown Charleston are the only part of the city that most students at College of Charleston will ever see. Students comfortability and willful ignorance allow them to serve as tourists of The College because many of them will never get out and explore life just beyond these bricks.


“Charleston shuffle” (v). the art of tripping over old bricks and cobblestone.


I have lived in Charleston for the past three years and I can’t say that I’ve seen much of the city. It wasn’t until my internship supervisor, Daron, asked if I have ever been to the “East Side” of the city that realized how detached I was from the broader Charleston community. Throughout these three years, I have remained in the downtown area without really exploring anywhere past the Battery or the Waterfront.

“East Side” please view map of Charleston communities here.

Quite like students, Charleston’s tourists only see one part of the city. They only see where the money is spent, and they don’t tend to steer away from the cobblestone and bricks located near Chalmers Street, and in the French Quarter. Once upon a time much of Charleston was paved dirt roads that became very muddy when it rained or the tides were high.  Cobblestones first came into Charleston during the 17th century because ships used them as ballast. Soon after the colonists realized that they could use these cobblestones for much more than ballast. They then used cobblestone to pave some of the first hard-surfaced streets.

Many students and tourists will never realize that there is so much more to Charleston if they just travel past the bricks. Beyond the bricks people are experiencing the negative side of racial inequalities regarding employment, housing, and education.

The launching of the Race and Social Justice Initiative Charleston County Racial Disparity Report will bring light to the inequalities that plague communities of color. Hopefully, this will force lawmakers to do something about these racial inequalities.

In the upcoming week, I’m excited to travel to the places highlighted within the Disparities Report that way, I can grasp a better understanding on the vast difference of Downtown Charleston and the communities that are hardest hit by inequalities.

Who Am I: Introducing RSJI’s Newest Intern

Posted on August 24, 2017


My name is Lanasa Clarkson and I am the Race and Social Justice Initiative (RSJI) intern for the Fall 2017 semester. I am currently a junior at College of Charleston double majoring in Political Science and African American Studies.

After undergrad, I plan on enrolling into law school and becoming a civil rights attorney. For as long as I could remember, I’ve wanted to be a lawyer, however, it wasn’t until after coming to college that I realized how often the rights of individuals were blatantly ignored. This disregard of civil rights is what sparked my interest in civil rights law.

Lecia Brooks from the Southern Poverty Law Center played a significant role in my decision to practice civil rights law. During my freshman year, I had the opportunity to attend a luncheon with Ms. Brooks that focused on mass incarceration, economic justice, and immigrant justice. After leaving this event, I realized fighting for the civil rights of others was something that I would like to do in the long term.

I am excited to be working as the intern with the RSJI this semester because I am passionate about assisting in the education of race and social justice. I’m looking forward to closely working with the RSJI staff in the launching of the Charleston County Racial Disparities Report because the data results will show that structural racism, poverty, and residential segregation exist within the Charleston community. I am also looking forward to the learning and growing opportunities that this internship will provide.


Burke High School Culinary Students Meet Professionals from Starbucks Coffee Company for Mock Interviews and More

Posted on January 26, 2017




Students in Chef Ira Hill’s and Chef April Mazyck’s Culinary Arts program at Burke High School recently enjoyed a very special visit from senior leaders within the Starbucks Coffee organization.

After completing regional meetings with store managers from North and South Carolina, over a dozen professionals generously gave their time and talents building important relationships with high school students studying to prepare for the ever growing hospitality & tourism workforce needs of our region.

Students enjoyed hearing the varied background of each of the professionals, including their educational and career pathways. Then, one by one, the students shared their plans for career and college.

Students then led tours of the new culinary arts space at Burke HS, and the visiting professionals were amazed at the resources available for instruction.

To wrap up the visit, students were paired with Starbucks professionals for mock interviews and one on one discussion.

The relationship was sparked after a fortuitous meeting between Mr. Daron Calhoun from College of Charleston’s Race and Social Justice Initiative at the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture and Robert Fleming, District Manager with Starbucks Coffee Company.

Thanks to all that made this experience possible for Burke High School students.

CONFERENCE ANNOUNCEMENT: “Transforming Public History from Charleston to the Atlantic Word”

Conference website:

“Transforming Public History from Charleston to the Atlantic World” will be hosted by the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture, the Carolina Lowcountry and Atlantic World Program, and the Addlestone Library at the College of Charleston on June 14-17, 2017. Conference planners are seeking proposals for workshops, roundtable discussions, panels, and individual papers from public history professionals, scholars, educators, librarians, archivists, and artists that address issues surrounding the interpretation, preservation, memorialization, commemoration, and public application of major themes in local, regional, and Atlantic World history.

In partnership with various local, national, and international cultural heritage organizations, academic institutions, and historic sites, the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture, the Carolina Lowcountry and the Atlantic World Program (CLAW), and the Addlestone Library are hosting a conference on transforming public history practices from Charleston to the Atlantic World to be held at the College of Charleston and other partner sites in Charleston, South Carolina.

Based on the United Nation’s declaration of 2015-2024 as the International Decade for People of African Descent, and the conference location in Charleston, South Carolina, on the second anniversary of the tragic shooting at the Mother Emanuel Church, the conference will particularly highlight speakers and topics relevant to transforming practices of interpreting the history of slavery and its race and class legacies in Charleston and historically interconnected local, regional, and international sites.

Starting in the fifteenth century, the Atlantic Ocean became a corridor of trade and migration—both voluntary and coerced—between Africa, Europe, and the Americas. In the centuries that followed, the violent encounters, power struggles, cultural exchanges, labor systems, and economic ties surrounding these trans-Atlantic connections became ever more complex and globally intertwined, producing distinctive race, class, and gender experiences and hierarchies throughout the Atlantic World and beyond. How have cultural heritage institutions, public historians, scholars, artists, activists, filmmakers, and educators in various international regions engaged with and depicted the diverse histories of the Atlantic World? How have these representations changed over time, and how will they continue to change in the twenty-first century?


Race and Social Justice Initiative Statement of Solidarity

In April 2015, the Lowcountry found itself the focal point of the media as the world seen an unarmed man retreating and being killed by a North Charleston police officer. Direct action protest across the region ignited calling for justice to be served as national and international media came to the Lowcountry to cover yet another life taken by someone paid to protect and serve.

Two months after the killing of Walter Scott by NCPD officer Michael Slager, Charleston experienced yet another unimaginable tragedy as Mother Emmanuel A.M.E. Church became the site of a domestic terrorist attack. On Wednesday, June 17, 2015, terrorist and white supremacist, Dylann Roof, opened fire on parishioners gathered for bible study seeking to be the catalyst of a race war. The nation stood at a standstill as people tried to wrap their minds around how such an act of hate could happen in the 21st century. The nation mourned with the Lowcountry and many used the tragedy as an opportunity for unity and understanding.

It is through these events that the Race and Social Justice Initiative (RSJI) was conceived. As many sought to gain understanding of how blatant acts of malice were occurring in a “post-racial society”, others viewed the events as the offspring of festering white supremacy and racism that institutions neglectfully allowed to go unchecked. The RSJI was formed to open the streams of dialogue regarding issues that affect the community with the hopes of moving toward proactive change as opposed to reactive. Through public programming, community outreach, and research we at the Race and Social Justice Initiative will do our part to “right the ship.”

Therefore, the Race and Social Justice Initiative at the College of Charleston is committed to the fight for justice. We are committed to the struggle for equality and fair treatment of all people in the Lowcountry and beyond. We will advocate for the voiceless and seek to empower the powerless. We openly stand against the institution of white supremacy and all the privileges pertaining thereto.  With this charge, the Race and Social Justice Initiative at the College of Charleston will actively seek longstanding systemic change to a system that has much too often proven that it works against minorities and the lower class. As the trial of Dylan Roof and the retrial of Michael Slager travel the long round of the justice system, we at the Race and Social Justice Initiative will do our part in educating, facilitating, and promoting the dialogue of race and social justice and will support all who believe in positive and productive change.