As a first-generation, queer, black male scholar who stutters, I have personally experienced the urgent need for diversity. Not only do I identify with numerous minority groups, but I have also devoted my academic pursuits to the exploration of often neglected areas within the academy, enriching it with perspectives from Queer Theory, Post-colonialism, Feminism, Critical Theory, and Constructivism. These disciplines are integral to a complete understanding of social sciences and form a complement to more traditional views.
Over the years, I have developed a diverse teaching portfolio. I've taught classes on topics as varied as Native American History, Modern Middle East History, Global Political Violence, Queer Theory, and The Art of War, amongst others. This broad spectrum of subjects reflects my unwavering commitment to diversity, as I believe in equipping my students with a comprehensive understanding of the world.
My journey began with the TRIO grant program, Upward Bound, during high school. This program, aimed at assisting first-generation and low-income students to complete high school and enroll in college, supported me financially, enabling me to apply to colleges and take the SAT/ACT. The program also offered the opportunity to tour Georgetown University and visit Washington D.C., experiences that were beyond my financial reach at the time. Having been through the process myself, I have spent the past six years working with the Upward Bound program, guiding students from similar backgrounds through their college applications. This experience has been both humbling and rewarding, as I see the resilience of these students mirrored in my own journey.
Despite the stuttering, being black, queer, and having grown up in a low-income household, I am vocal and assertive. My diverse experiences resonate with my students and help create a relatable learning environment. Every time I teach, I do so with the belief that I have valuable insights to share and that every opinion, including those of my students, matter. This belief reflects my commitment to fostering an environment where divergent ideas can be explored, debated, and respected. Each of my classes centers around this "exchange of ideas," which, in my view, lies at the heart of civic engagement and the founding principles of the United States.
Further, my academic qualifications reflect this commitment to diversity. I hold a Master's degree in Africana Studies from USF, a testament to my dedication to studying underrepresented disciplines. My Ph.D. in Government and International Affairs, with a dissertation on U.S. involvement in the genocide in Rwanda and political upheaval in Haiti, highlights my focus on the study of marginalized and disenfranchised groups.
This dedication extends to my time teaching at the Pasco County Jail, where I had the privilege of imparting classes on diversity to law enforcement officers. Here, I witnessed firsthand the transformative power of education, as my students began to recognize and challenge their inherent biases.
However, diversity is not limited to race or socio-economic status. After the U.S. Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states in 2015, there was a sense of achievement. Yet, the field of queer studies still struggles to find a foothold in the academy. Through my queer studies courses at the University of South Florida's Honors College, I strive to provide a safe space for queer students to delve into the complexities of queer issues.
In all my classes, I urge my students to approach each topic with an open mind. I echo the sentiment expressed in Mona Lisa Smile, urging them not to merely like or dislike a topic but to consider it. I have a profound passion for teaching about diverse subjects and fostering experiential learning opportunities. It is my firm belief that our classrooms should be a rich tapestry of diverse perspectives, mirroring the complexity of the world we live in.