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Shaw University In First Research Cohort of $500K Mellon Grant to Humanities Action Lab at Rutgers

Three-year grant will support study of disproportionate impact of climate change on people of color

Raleigh, NC – (July 7, 2020) – Shaw University will join other major universities in the first research cohort o to participate in a $500,000 grant made to the Humanities Action Lab (HAL) at Rutgers by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The grant will be made over three years to establish and support Climates of Inequality and the COVID Crisis: Building Leadership at Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). A statement issued by HAL stated that the “national initiative comprises a cohort of minority-serving colleges and universities charged with confronting COVID, and its racially disproportionate impacts, through public humanities and public engagement.”

The initiative will focus on the interrelated environmental inequalities of COVID-19 and the climate crisis, and will provide fellowships to students, faculty, and community organizations designed to:

  • Foster community youth leaders to use public humanities to address the severe inequalities resulting from the COVID pandemic,
  • Reimagine public humanities practice by incorporating the experience and assets of MSI students,
  • Collect and share stories that illustrate the layered effect of environmental racism and climate injustice, and that celebrate traditions of resistance and resilience,
  • Develop new multi-media exhibitions, web-based platforms, and humanities-based public events to cultivate community engagement

Dr. Valerie Johnson, Shaw’s dean of the School of Arts, Sciences and Humanities, said, “This work dovetails perfectly with two of the focal points of the Center for Racial and Social Justice (CRSJ) at Shaw. The effects of the concurrent crises of COVID-19 and climate change are greatly amplified in communities of color and other communities that are under-resourced, underserved, and under-represented in the seats of power. Through the CRSJ we already are engaged in work that meets the criteria of engagement for this important study.”

 The first cohort of MSIs, led by HAL, is truly diverse and national in scope, and includes:

  • Rutgers University-Newark, partnering with Ironbound Community Corporation
  • Shaw University, partnering with North Carolina Environmental Justice Network
  • University of California-Santa Barbara/Cal State University Northridge/University of California-Riverside, partnering with Padres Pioneros
  • University of Illinois at Chicago, partnering with Alianza Americas & Little Village Environmental Organization (LVEJO), and
  • University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez, partnering with FundaciÓn Surfrider RincÓn.

For more information about the Climates of Inequality and the COVID Crisisinitiative, visit
For more information about the Humanities Action Lab (HAL), visit