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Jeffrey McCune Jr. returns to Rochester to steer Frederick Douglass Institute : NewsCenter

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September 3, 2021



A former postdoctoral fellow on the College of Rochester’s Frederick Douglass Institute for African and African-American Research, Jeffrey Q. McCune Jr. has returned to steer the institute. (College of Rochester picture / J. Adam Fenster)


The achieved scholar discusses the significance of Black research in addition to his plans to develop the scope of the institute.

A former postdoctoral fellow on the Frederick Douglass Institute for African and African-American Research (FDI) has returned to the College of Rochester 14 years later to steer the institute. Jeffrey McCune Jr., an award-winning scholar on problems with race, gender, and id, began his new position as director on June 1.

“We would like a richly interdisciplinary Black research program that not solely offers with the on a regular basis lives of Black folks, but in addition thinks past the on a regular basis,” says McCune. “It must span Black cultural practices and communities and areas.”

McCune has a bachelor’s diploma in speech/theater and secondary schooling from Cornell Faculty and a grasp’s diploma in communications research from the College of Nebraska–Lincoln. He earned his PhD in efficiency research, with a concentrate on African American and gender research, from Northwestern College. Earlier than coming to Rochester, he served eight years as affiliate professor of girls, gender, and sexuality research and of African and African American research at Washington College in St. Louis. He’s the creator of Sexual Discretion: Black Masculinity and the Politics of Passing (College of Chicago Press, 2014).

At Washington College, McCune loved a repute as an attractive and stimulating professor. His sought-after course on Kanye West—“a case examine for interrogating the interaction between fame, gender, sexuality, and race”—made a USA As we speak record of “11 school programs in popular culture we want we might take” in 2017.

As well as, McCune claims standing as a royal—on the earth of karaoke.

You had been a postdoctoral fellow on the Frederick Douglass Institute 14 years in the past. What made you wish to come again to Rochester?

Once I got here to the Frederick Douglass Institute in 2006, I fell in love with the neighborhood—the neighborhood on the College, but in addition the neighborhood past the campus. But the trajectory of my life gave the impression to be taking me elsewhere—from right here to DC and to St. Louis, with no considered returning to Rochester.

That was till a couple of people from the school and administration requested if I might have an interest within the directorship. I used to be satisfied that there have been sufficient sources to develop one thing each inventive and cutting-edge. I used to be then in a position to persuade myself and my household that this was the place to be.

What do you convey to FDI?

Jeffrey McCune smiles at the camera with his hands together outdoors.

Jeffrey McCune Jr. (College of Rochester picture / J. Adam Fenster)

My first impulse is to say that I convey years of expertise main folks, but in addition facilitating dialogue and important dialog. I convey charisma and power that may get folks to imagine that issues are doable, even after they appear fairly inconceivable.

The opposite factor that I convey is my neighborhood. I’m deeply rooted within the discipline of Black research with a large community, from social scientists to humanists, in addition to folks within the medical and public well being fields. These broad connections enable me to situate the FDI as a useful resource engine and as a part of an internet. We’ll have the ability to attain out and facilitate conversations in locations the place, traditionally, the FDI has not been concerned. For example, we’re internet hosting a convention on September 24 and 25 known as “We Have Nothing to Lose however Our Chains: Black Examine and Its Futures.” It would concentrate on the way forward for Black research with individuals who work throughout its many areas.

You’ve returned to Rochester through the Black Lives Matter motion, when extra white persons are studying books about racism, in addition to speaking about racism and what it means to be Black in the USA. Does that create a possibility for you at FDI?

Completely. My recruitment was a direct response to the present local weather in the USA. The grotesque anti-Blackness and annihilation of Black life on this nation has created a bitter feeling amongst many white people who now understand the affect of slavery on their lives at present; but anti-Blackness is a white American custom, which so many nonetheless stay and breathe with ease.

That’s why, for me, having to be positioned in a management position the place I’ll facilitate conversations on this campus and within the broader neighborhood is, fairly frankly, a divine position. Nevertheless it’s additionally one which comes with nice strain, as a result of we’re on the precipice of a altering cultural neighborhood.

The frequency of Black loss of life—from state-sanctioned police violence to COVID to HIV/AIDS—is a product of gross inattention to Black life and Black well being. And I do imagine that the consciousness and consciousness of Black loss of life creates an actual consideration to Black life.

That is particularly vital as we focus on the necessity to develop Black college and improve the variety of Black and Brown college students at Rochester. It’s vital once we make arguments for why the College must be extra engaged—past scientific analysis or medical therapies—with Black communities. Now nobody can ask if inequality is actual. We all know it’s actual. The FDI directorship is a chance to truly have an effect on change throughout the establishment in addition to within the broader Rochester Black neighborhood.

Inform us about the way you see FDI’s mission.

The institute is called after Frederick Douglass, who was one of many foremost abolitionists and believers in preventing towards Black “unfreedom.” The institute started in 1986 as a student-organized dedication to the examine of Black life and the examine of racial inequality.

The dedication of the FDI, although, has been not solely to try this work, but in addition to do it throughout the diaspora, so it’s not located simply inside a US-based framework. We cowl a span of geographies because it pertains to Black life and tradition. What constitutes Blackness? How will we perceive Blackness worldwide, and never simply within the US? How is it that Black folks stay within the Caribbean, in Europe, or in Africa? How will we perceive and focus on the connections, in addition to the variations and the distinctions, amongst these numerous geographies, histories, and peoples?

At current, the FDI capabilities as a useful resource for conversations on race. However our aspiration is to steer these conversations—on this specific neighborhood, but in addition globally—as each producers and distributors of data.

Frederick Douglass statue amid fall foliage.

Statue of Frederick Douglass within the metropolis of Rochester’s Highland Park (College of Rochester picture / J. Adam Fenster)

What are your short- and long-term targets?

My short-term purpose is to remind the College and the encircling neighborhood of the worth of this institute—its mission, its folks, and its tasks. I wish to electrify the neighborhood with vigorous and sturdy programming involving top-notch students from world wide.

Additionally, throughout the subsequent 12 months, I would like the FDI to grow to be the Division of African and African American Research. Proper now, African American research exists as a program on the College. I used to be employed to raise the FDI to a full division, and I wish to have that carried out by August of subsequent 12 months.

Long run, although, I would like us to be a spot that has inventive, cutting-edge students, who matriculate by means of the ranks at Rochester to grow to be leaders within the discipline. And I wish to assist domesticate that expertise and make it possible for younger students get the eye and the mentorship they deserve.

Lastly, I would like the FDI to be an area that’s recognized for its inventive and collaborative programming—and never simply on the College. I’m speaking about creating relationships with different establishments—peer establishments—in addition to establishments that aren’t friends, equivalent to traditionally Black faculties and universities. One option to obtain that’s to develop a type of summer time institute that facilitates the event of younger Black analysis students right here at Rochester and at HBCUs.

What are the advantages of elevating the institute to an instructional division?

The examine of Black folks on the earth is a significant venture encompassing geography, tradition, political science, sociology, economics, and creativity. All of that’s sturdy and deserves to be studied critically.

Having a devoted Division of African and African American Research would enable us to rent college who’re fully dedicated to the mission of FDI. Some college will proceed to have partial appointments, nevertheless it’s vital that we home college who’re dedicated to this unit, who wish to develop and develop the curriculum and the programming in a method that’s going to be appropriate for our college students.

It’s additionally no thriller that many mother and father and college students consider packages as short-term. Departmentalization could be a recognition that Black research is an present discipline—and has been on this nation for the reason that 1960s—and never one thing that happened in response to present occasions.

We, as Black students and as a bigger Black diasporic neighborhood, have at all times understood anti-Blackness as a poison. We’ve at all times understood the way in which during which Black ladies are handled inside society. We’ve at all times recognized that Black queer people died by the hands of HIV/AIDS when the Reagan administration didn’t act. We have now at all times recognized that Black trans ladies are disproportionately killed in comparison with different trans ladies and different queer folks. And the College of Rochester ought to acknowledge that the institute has at all times been engaged on these points.

Black research has by no means been a single-issue discipline. It consists of complicated, layered, intersectional points. It can’t be understood with a dance live performance or a spoken phrase poetry set. Whereas these issues are vital, they’re singular. Having a division at Rochester devoted to Black research could be an acknowledgement of the complexity of Blackness itself.

How will FDI serve and work with the remainder of the College neighborhood, in addition to the encircling neighborhood?

For starters, there shall be a deepening of our relationship with the Douglass Management Home [an undergraduate student organization based on the River Campus] and a improvement of larger relationships with college students throughout campus.

“Black research has by no means been a single-issue discipline. It consists of complicated, layered, intersectional points. … Having a division at Rochester devoted to Black research could be an acknowledgement of the complexity of Blackness itself.”

We are going to proceed to have occasions and a curriculum that cater to the pursuits of our pupil physique—every part from excited about the politics of Kanye West to inspecting the position of Islam. We will even develop programming to areas that required severe interrogation, equivalent to homelessness and incarceration.

The FDI, and notably me in my position as director, will assist recruiting Black college to different components of this establishment. I consider the FDI as an mental hub and useful resource, in addition to a protected house for Black college, college students, and employees. Any potential college member will wish to know what is going on with the Frederick Douglass Institute and shall be happy to know that we’re rising and increasing and persevering with the nice legacy of Frederick Douglass.

I additionally see the FDI as a neighborhood accomplice. Within the spring, we’re going to herald Dr. Janice Johnson Dias, a sociologist on the John Jay Faculty of Legal Justice in New York, who simply wrote a guide known as Guardian Like It Issues: How one can Elevate Joyful, Change-Making Women. And a few of the workshops we’ll be holding as a part of the occasion will happen off campus. On prime of that, the FDI will search for alternatives to accomplice with arts facilities and community-based organizations that facilitate companies to Black folks and communities.

What does being the FDI director imply to your personal analysis? Will you proceed to do your individual work and, in that case, what is going to that seem like?

Whereas my dedication is to doing the absolute best job I can directing the FDI, I’ve at all times been a multitasker.

I plan to finish the manuscript that I’ve been engaged on for the previous couple of years known as Disobedient Studying: An Experiment in Seeing Black. It’s a essential interrogation of age-old canonical narratives which have described Black life and that I’m now uncovering as incomplete. I’m providing disobedient readings of issues from the Black church to slavery to state-sanctioned police violence.

And over the subsequent two years I’ll be ending a guide about Kanye West that offers with the complexity of Black celeb.

What about these instances once you’re not operating the Frederick Douglass Institute or doing your individual analysis? What do you do to calm down?

I’m a karaoke king. After an extended day of working or after an enormous writing binge, I’m discovering one of the best karaoke spots in Rochester. I’ve already discovered three, so don’t be stunned should you come throughout me doing karaoke someplace within the metropolis.

What’s your go-to tune?

My go-to tune is John Legend’s “So Excessive.” And if I’m actually feeling good, I’ll attempt to perform a little Kanye West—“Heartless.”

The opposite factor I do for enjoyable is simply hang around with my six-year-old, Caleb. And, fortunately, I’ve the privilege of doing that very often.


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Tags: Arts and Sciences, featured-post, Frederick Douglass Institute for African and African-American Research, Jeffrey McCune Jr.

Class: Featured

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