As a first-generation, queer, black male scholar, who stutters I understand the need for diversity. However, as someone that checks all of the minority boxes, I often focus on neglected areas in the academy because I include Queer Theory, Post-colonial, feminism, Critical Theory, and constructivism to complement the prevailing views of the social sciences. Moreover, I have a diverse teaching portfolio that includes classes such as Native American History, Modern Middle East History, Global Political Violence, #Hashtag Global Activism: The Politics and Dynamics of Social Movements, Queer Theory, Beyond the Border: Global Migration, Immigration, and Human Rights, The Art of War: Game Theory, Foreign Policy, and the Struggle for Peace.
In my statement concerning my commitment to diversity and inclusion, I hope to address my personal experience in overcoming adversity and my career experience in diversity issues. I went through a TRIO grant program called the
Upward Bound program as a high school student who helped pay for my college applications and SAT/ACT. The Upward Bound program helps first-generation/low- income students complete high school and enroll in college. I was fortunate through Upward Bound to have toured Georgetown University and travel to Washington, D.C, which I know that my mother would not have been able to afford. I have work for the Upward Bound program for the past six years, and that experience has shown me the resiliency of high school students wanting to attend college from low-income and first-generation backgrounds. I have been honored to help guide these students through the application process because I was once in their shoes. I have also assisted in expanding USF's TRIO grants by writing for the Upward Bound-STEM program.
I stutter, am black, queer, and grow up poor, but I have a voice. So often, when I teach, I find students can relate to me because of my diverse experiences. I teach with the moral mandate that I have something to offer, and I tell my students that your opinion matters. Even if it clashes with mine, their opinion still matters
because civic engagement is what the United States was founded on, and every single class is centered on the "exchange of ideas."
At USF, I have earned a Masters's in Africana Studies. My MA in Africana Studies shows my commitment to the study of underrepresented disciplines such as Africana Studies. My Ph.D. is in Government and International Affairs; my dissertation focuses on U.S. involvement in the genocide in Rwanda and political upheaval in Haiti. I have spent most of my academic career studying issues involving "the other," therefore, I hope that my research on these diverse areas will be of interest to future students.
My Time Teaching At Pasco County Jail: A Case Study on my Commitment to Diversity
I have been an adjunct professor at Saint Leo University since 2017, and I have taught classes such as Building a Multiracial Society Class, Immigration: Face of America, and other numerous classes. I have taught at Pasco County Jail for three years, and it has also been a rewarding experience because I got the honor to teach
diversity-related classes to law enforcement officers. During the first year that I taught at Pasco County Jail, law enforcement told me that he pulled over a young man at two who happened to be wearing sweatpants. The police officer said to me that the young man said to the police officer, "Why are you stereotyping me?" My student, who is a police officer, responded, "Do not be a stereotype." At that moment, the police officer could not understand what he had done by generalizing that the young man is up to no good just because he was wearing sweatpants. I am pleased to say that officer took two more classes with me, and last summer, the law enforcement officer realized what biases he had. The police officer even called me after the death of George Floyd and told me that he finally gets it
Diversity is Beyond Anti-Racism
On June 26, 2015, the United States of America Supreme Court narrowly declared same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states. The court case-Obergefell v Hodges suggested that perhaps the United States has entered a new phase where legal constraints contributing to homophobia were fading. The perceived successful
outcome of the Obergefell v Hodges case should have indicated that the U.S. has finally entered a new paradigm shift that embraced inclusion. Nevertheless, queer studies have not fully penetrated the academy, and it is equally as important as other social cleavages.
Logically, since the Supreme Court declared that same-sex couples are just as normal as everyone else, the "closet" would be an artifact of the past. However, the inconvenient reality is that the "closet" has not been demolished; the fear of coming out and being accepted is still a social problem. Consequently, the barriers that have been broken down have produced a false consciousness that America has entered a "post-Queer era. However, just by my presence as a professor who is gay, I know that students that are gay will see that being queer is as normal as the human condition.
When I started teaching at the University of South Florida's Honors College, I have created three different queer studies courses. I developed the courses hoping to expose students to often understudied areas in queer studies, but I realized that
students took my queer studies classes because they identified as queer, and my classes became a safe space for the students to explore deeper queer issues.
Every start of the semester, I start my class by quoting a line Mona Lisa Smile, "Do me a favor. Do yourselves a favor. You're not even required to like it. You are required..to consider it." I open up each class with the hope that my students will keep an open mind. Teaching about diverse subjects is a strong passion of mine, and I hope to facilitate experiential learning opportunities such as urban research studies, ethnic and queer interest group participation.