Initiative Connects Graduate Students to Black Archives Through Racial Equity Grants

EVANSTON, IL – Northwestern University graduate students are invited to apply through April 16 for a new assistantship program created to preserve and amplify black voices in partnership with the Black Metropolis Research Consortium (BMRC), an association libraries, universities, museums and community arts organizations.

With support from Northwestern’s Racial Equity and Community Partnerships Grants Program and the Graduate School (TGS), the University’s Center for Civic Engagement and BMRC will integrate the Ph.D. students at Chicagoland cultural organizations to support projects that preserve and amplify Black histories through the Black Metropolis Graduate Assistantships initiative.

The Racial Equity and Community Partnerships Grants Program will provide each host organization with a $5,000 grant to support project implementation and administrative costs, while TGS funding will support a small cohort of doctoral students. students as they tackle projects that expand access to black historical collections and develop new skills and professional competencies. Graduate assistants will also be supported with training by BMRC and Northwestern faculty.

“Connecting graduate students with supportive communities and opportunities for engagement is
part of our mission,” said Kelly Mayo, Dean of the Graduate School and Vice Provost for Higher Education. “These new assistantships strengthen our efforts to champion a diverse and inclusive community of scholars and facilitate impactful scholarship and dialogues that drive meaningful change.”

The Shorefront Legacy Center served as the host organization during the 2021-2022 pilot year. Third year
Ph.D. student Alexandra Gonzalez led an oral history project pairing Northwestern students with black Evanstonians and processed and transcribed archival material.

“My job at the Shorefront Legacy Center allows me to use the skills I developed at Northwestern to serve the Evanston community,” Gonzalez said. “In addition to supporting a community archive and preserving black history on Chicago’s North Side, I’m gaining invaluable experience in community work and project management. Most importantly, I’m helping students — and I -even – to build meaningful relationships with long-time residents of Evanston.

Community Partners 2022-23

Through a competitive application process, two BMRC organizations were selected to host
2022-23 School Year Graduate Assistants: South Side Community Art Center and
Newberry Library in collaboration with the Chicago Black Dance Legacy Project. During
of nine months, Black Metropolis graduate assistants will support projects designed by their
host organizations, which include:
• Research, preservation, cataloging and support for the preparation of exhibitions for
unprocessed archival material, including papers and artwork from the Margaret
Burroughs Estate, at the South Side Community Art Center.
• Support eight Chicagoland black dance companies in compiling their archives and
preserve the city’s black dance history, in a collaboration between
Newberry Library and the Chicago Black Dance Legacy Project.

Ten of BMRC’s 21 member organizations have applied to host a Graduate Assistant in 2022-2023
school year.

“The request illustrates the importance of intentionally developing and supporting opportunities to document, share, understand and preserve Black experiences,” said Marcia Walker-McWilliams, executive director of the Black Metropolis Research Consortium. “We are thrilled to support a program that elevates black historical collections and centers equity in institutional practices through engaged professional development for Northwest graduate students.”

The Black Metropolis Graduate Assistantship program is an extension of the Center for Civic Engagement’s mission to provide students in the Northwest with high-impact, experiential learning through mutually beneficial partnerships with public benefit organizations. One of the goals of the BMGA initiative is to create a lasting and ongoing connection between the University and community partners working on important issues of racial justice and equity in and around Chicago.

Students interested in a graduate assistant position at Black Metropolis 2022-23 can find out more at Applications will remain open until April 16.