This week I began a new position as an Assistant Professor in the School for Social Transformation at Arizona State University. I come to this position after working for five years as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Criminology at Howard University in Washington DC.
My time at Howard went quickly. When I drove cross-country to DC with my luggage and my cat in May of 2015, I was excited about many things: having a job with benefits, a new role as a faculty member after many years as a graduate student, new opportunities for learning at Historically Black University, and starting a new life in Washington DC. The transition from Santa Cruz to Washington DC went smoothly. Even though I’d never lived anywhere more than an hour away from the San Francisco Bay area for more than five months, life in Washington DC wasn’t hard to adapt to. People are people, after all. I (mostly) got used to the fact that it rains in the summer, gloried in the fireflies, tried to adopt the more formal dress-code and mode of address (“hello, Dr. so-and-so”), and then settled into a middle ground between Santa Cruz and DC professional standards. I met wonderful new friends and quirky, smart colleagues, got to know dedicated students, and developed what I believe will be a lasting interest in Black Studies.
I drove back across the country to Arizona this spring a little older and a little wiser. A few things were different this time. My cat and I were accompanied by my partner, I was six months pregnant, and we drove a rented RV to minimize our exposure to the coronavirus pandemic that had exploded in the US a short time before. The pandemic restrictions got looser and looser as we traveled west from DC. When we arrived in Arizona hardly anyone was wearing masks, and the host of our RV campground referred to the virus making scare quotes around the term with her hands as she talked (“virus”). Soon after, George Floyd was murdered. Protests across the nation, including here in Pheonix, have brought longstanding anti-black police violence more forcefully into the national eye. The resulting conversations led to working with my partner Vernon Morris, my tech mentor Allen Gunn and several of Vernon’s colleagues on a public letter to address systemic racism in the academy. It was one of many such letters, the results of which are still unspooling.
I miss my friends at Howard and in Washington DC, but I’m looking forward to new adventures here in Arizona. My position in the School for Social Transformation promises many new and interesting colleagues, even if it will be a while before I meet them anywhere other than on Zoom. The coronavirus pandemic, soaring temperatures in Tempe and a newborn at home mean I have rarely left the house since arriving. But the weather will cool off eventually, and I look forward to exploring the desert and the mountains that surround Phoenix when that happens. I’m grateful to have stable employment and health care in these troubled times – so far, ASU has not announced any layoffs or furloughs.
Going forward, please contact me at my new ASU e-mail address.