Scholars of Color Working in Isolation

Maurice Green talks to The Root about building a network to support and celebrate academic success.

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TR: Two hundred thousand? That's a surprisingly large number.

MG: When we started the group, I didn't know there were 50 of us! But when we studied the census reports and other statistics, we were astounded. But what's even more astounding than the sheer numbers is that we're so disconnected from each other.

TR: Why do you think people aren't aware of how much success blacks are having in academia?

MG: All too often, we operate from a deficit model. For example, we might report that the dropout rate is XYZ, but we won't report that the graduation rate is whatever it is. I think we have to change the paradigm so that we start looking at statistics about black people in a different, more balanced way that stresses our successes as well as our problems. If Pookey shoots Tyrone, it's in the news, but if Pookey gets an A in organic chemistry nobody knows about it. We need to re-examine how we talk about our people.

TR: Where did you find financial support for your effort to organize the network?

MG: (chuckling) To be frank, student loans. We've gotten support for the conference from foundations, but the development of our website, the organization, the network -- that was me taking my student loan money and reallocating it to something I really believed in.

TR: How much money are we talking about?

MG: Maybe $30,000 or $40,000.

TR: Really?

MG: Yeah, and it's not just my money. I convinced other people, family members to chip in. We now have support from the Knight Foundation to support the conference and from the BMe organization, which is interested in improving the opportunities for young black men.