Dr. Tamera Marko Named Executive Director of the Elma Lewis Center for Civic Engagement
Emerson College is pleased to announce that Dr. Tamera Marko will join the Social Justice Center as Executive Director of the Elma Lewis Center for Civic Engagement, Learning, & Research at the close of the spring semester.
Dr. Marko is familiar to many students, staff, and faculty at Emerson, having spent the last 10 years as a full-time lecturer and serving a year as Acting Director, and most recently, Senior Lecturer in the First-Year Writing Program within the Department of Writing, Literature and Publishing. The last 25 years of Dr. Marko’s work has centered on building relationships between communities on and off college and university campuses to make educational and cultural resources more accessible, just, dignified, and representative for local, national, and transnational communities.
Dr. Marko is also the Co-Founding Director of Proyecto Boston Medellín, a transnational cross-border collective with colleges and universities in seven cities engaging with emerging social justice artists from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia in Medellín; Director and Co-Founder of my home, medellín, a documentary collaborative with founders and residents of 16 neighborhoods who built their own communities and settlements after being displaced by violence in Colombia; and Co-Founder and Executive Director of Mobility Movilidad, Inc., a non-profit organization working with artists, scholars, scientists, farmers, and self-settlement founders as they cross borders to share their work on social justice and environmental crises.
Dr. Marko’s previous positions include visiting faculty with the Universidad Nacional de Colombia and at Duke University, Director of the North Carolina Latin American Film Festival, a Mellon Faculty Fellow with the University Writing Program, and Director and Co-Founder of DukeEngage Colombia, a program she integrated with Emerson College Global Pathways Colombia. Dr. Marko also directed a project with writing students at Duke and K-5 students and educators at a Durham, North Carolina elementary school to build institutional, curricular, and human relationships and channel resources across universities, newly arrived migrant laborer families and long-standing black civil and human rights activists in Durham. Dr. Marko has held positions with the Muir College Writing Program and the Latin American History Department at the University of California, San Diego; at the San Diego City College, Mid City Navajo and Cesar Chavez campuses; and as a human rights journalist working in post-war reconciliation zones in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
At Emerson, Dr. Marko worked collaboratively with Emerson maintenance workers to launch Proyecto Carrito. Now in its seventh year, it is a writing collective of custodial staff, students, faculty, administrators, and staff publishing a book, academic essays, and documentary materials that have been presented in parking lots, art galleries, festivals, K-20 classrooms and academic conferences across the United States and internationally.
Dr. Marko earned a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Pepperdine University, a Master of Arts in Latin American Studies, and a Doctorate in Latin American and Brazilian History from the University of California, San Diego.
“I believe we have everything we need to change the world,” Dr. Marko said of the general philosophy behind her work. “This might sound naïve or trite, but growing up in the turbulence and resilience of the San Diego-Tijuana border region, which inspired my life working in anti-racist, feminist, pro-LGBTQ+ and pro-immigrant projects, I have found this to be true.
“If we want to change our worlds in small and sometimes big ways, we have to cross many kinds of borders: national borders (land, oceans, mountains) as well as institutional, socio-economic, and social borders within our own neighborhoods, cities and campuses to come together face-to-face and listen. I truly believe that educational institutions can be powerfully core co-collaborators in making our worlds more just, humane and sustainable.”
As Executive Director, Dr. Marko will provide leadership and direction for the Elma Lewis Center and advance the college’s commitment to meaningful community engagement.
“I am very excited to have Dr. Marko in this important leadership role within the Social Justice Center,” said Sylvia Spears, Vice President for Equity & Social Justice. “She has incredible depth of experience in bringing people together in a manner that grows critical consciousness, affirms the self-determination of individuals and communities, and transcends boundaries for the purpose of making material differences in the lives of those most marginalized.”
Dr. Marko will be transitioning into her role as executive director throughout the semester and will officially begin on May 13.
Jabari Asim Named Elma Lewis Distinguished Fellow in the Social Justice Center
Acclaimed author, playwright, poet, and associate professor Jabari Asim, has been named the first recipient of the newly created Elma Lewis Distinguished Fellowship in Emerson’s Social Justice Center. The fellowship honors the work of Emerson alumna Elma Lewis ’43, an arts educator and founder of the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts and the National Center of Afro-American Artists, who devoted her life to invoking the arts as a powerful mechanism for social change.
The Elma Lewis Distinguished Fellow in the Social Justice Center at Emerson plays an important role in deepening discourse and engagement around social justice on campus and in the broader community. The fellow provides thought leadership and expertise on social justice issues, leadership in the creation of the college’s annual Teach-in on Race, and convenes campus events and programs that bring attention to issues of social consequence.
“This fellowship honors the legacy of Elma Lewis’ groundbreaking work and discourse as a leader in social justice advocacy and simultaneously acknowledges the important intellectual writings and commentary about injustice in our society that Jabari Asim exposes decades later,” said Emerson President M. Lee Pelton.
“The appointment recognizes that Professor Asim is an extraordinary writer, public intellectual, teacher, and mentor—his work has initiated campus-wide conversations on race in America and in higher education, and deepened the Emerson community’s engagement with these most pressing issues of our time,” said Michaele Whelan, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs.
An associate professor of Writing, Literature and Publishing at Emerson, Asim has authored several books for both adults and children. His most recent book, We Can’t Breathe, was recently a named a 2019 PEN America Literary Awards finalist. Prior to his appointment at Emerson, he was an editor for 11 years at the Washington Post, where he also wrote a syndicated column on politics, popular culture, and social issues. Formerly the editor-in-chief of Crisis magazine, the NAACP’s flagship journal of politics, culture, and ideas, he was the recipient of a 2009 Guggenheim fellowship in Creative Arts.
“Jabari Asim is an extraordinary talent who provides timely and poignant commentary on some of society’s most pressing social issues. As a public intellectual, writer, and artist, he brings deep and powerful analysis of race and culture into our collective gaze. I am so pleased to have Jabari Asim as the first recipient of this new fellowship, in recognition of Elma Lewis’ life and legacy,” said Sylvia Spears, Vice President for Equity & Social Justice.
“It is an honor to represent the college from this new platform within Emerson’s Social Justice Center. It provides an ideal site for encouraging the campus and outside communities to consider issues of social justice and race more deeply,” said Asim.
Asim, who is a Boston Public Library Trustee, will continue as a member of the creative writing faculty at Emerson in addition to his duties as the Elma Lewis Distinguished Fellow, which include serving as a thought leader and public intellectual for external and media outlets.