IHC Public Humanities Graduate Fellow Jasmine Kelekay

IHC Public Humanities Graduate Fellow Jasmine Kelekay

July 1, 2020

Jasmine Kelekay is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Sociology with an interdisciplinary emphasis in Black Studies. Her work explores the relationship between racialization and criminalization, with a focus on the global circulation of ideas about race and crime. As an IHC Public Humanities Graduate Fellow, Kelekay recently completed a fellow-designed project working with the Pan-African Movement for Justice (PAMJ), a non-profit organization based in Sweden.

For the practicum component of the Public Humanities Graduate Fellows program you developed a fellow-designed community project. Tell us about the project and your community partner.

For my project, I worked in partnership with the Pan-African Movement for Justice (PAMJ), a non-profit organization based in Sweden doing advocacy and community organizing around anti-racism with a focus on promoting the rights and well-being of Black people in Sweden. Part of their agenda has been to develop ways to independently monitor hate crimes and police violence against Black people in order to better support their constituents and engage in advocacy on their behalf. To build on this, my project was to build PAMJ a website that would allow them to collect community members’ testimonies and complaints as well as provide general education and relevant resources on these issues.

In what ways were you able to present or disseminate your project results?

Given the shifting priorities and needs of the community organization I partnered with, the website is only now being launched. It has been a long process of collecting the board’s input on different aspects of the website such as the web design, establishing relevant relationships with community partners to be included as resources, and designing the surveys for each different category of victimization. The launching of the website is the most immediate outcome of this collaboration, but I will also be staying with the project to eventually produce a report on the basis of the information we collect from community members.

What are the broader anticipated outcomes of your project?

The hope is that this initiative will be able to provide some immediate resources and support for community members who experience violence and discrimination, but that it will also help to further knowledge production on the issue of anti-Black racism in Sweden and, in turn, help PAMJ and others better advocate for Black communities.

Here in the U.S. we are in the midst of widespread protests following the murder of George Floyd. Has this unfolding situation here impacted any of the work you are doing in Sweden?

One of the interesting things about this iteration of mass protests against police brutality has been its far-reaching global spread. Although protests and other initiatives in support of the #BlackLivesMatter movement have been organized in Sweden before, it is taking on a whole other form right now. There have been numerous protests in several cities across Sweden, and I have been involved with organizing several digital protests and talks to not only discuss what is happening in the U.S. but to also help make the movement local. The conversation about racial profiling and police brutality in Sweden has really been picking up as a result of these protests. This has had a big impact on my dissertation, but also my work with the Pan-African Movement for Justice. The organization has been focusing on responding to the current conditions, but the current situation has also highlighted the need for this website more than ever.

Has this project informed your dissertation research or other scholarly pursuits?

Yes, certainly. Working on this project has definitely helped me get a better sense of the types of experiences of discrimination that people typically report to the community organization I work with. Although I came into the project with a special interest in discrimination and abuse at the hands of police, I have learned how many people are also seeking help for situations involving schools and social services. So it has definitely helped me get a more grounded sense of the problem while also giving me a broader perspective on the ways in which Black people are criminalized and discriminated against on the basis of the stereotype that they are somehow threatening or aggressive.

How have your experiences working on this project and with this community partner influenced your view of publicly engaged scholars and scholarship?

Working on this project and with my community partner has had a huge influence on how I view publicly engaged scholarship. It has affirmed my instinct that there is a desperate need for scholars to be more firmly anchored in the communities they are studying and to be present in the struggles they are analyzing. The experiences that community activists have shared with me have renewed my commitment to producing scholarship that not only engages the public in terms of dissemination but is also engaged with and attentive to the needs of the communities that I am accountable to.

In what ways has your participation in the Public Humanities Graduate Fellows Program influenced your work?

Participating in the program helped me get a broader sense of what it means to do public facing scholarship, which allowed me to reflect on what it is different about doing publicly engaged scholarship on a deeper level.

Most concretely, however, participating in the program has helped me develop some of the tools that I would come to need in my work, both with my community partner and in my own public engagement. One of the things I did not know to expect when beginning the project with my community partner was that they would look to me to help them with some of the public facing work of the organization, such as helping to draft press releases, running their social media, and so on. So, while I was prepared to make use of our sessions on web design, several of the other skills we learned during the IHC seminar [Skills for the Public Sphere] ended up being very useful. Having to put these skills into practice on behalf of my community partner, however, also helped me realize how to put them into practice as part of my own publicly engaged scholarship. As a result, I have felt more comfortable with participating in the public debate over the last few months, and have organized digital events, written op-eds, done radio and newspaper interviews, and participated in podcasts. This is something I will continue to take with me as one way of ensuring that my work is not only grounded in the communities I care about, but that it can also reach communities beyond academia.

Click here to learn more about IHC Public Humanities Graduate Fellows Fellow-Designed Community Projects and Internships.