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Asim Hopes to Put Emerson in the ‘Vanguard of Social-Justice Efforts’

Associate Professor Jabari Asim

Emerson College Associate Professor Jabari Asim was recently named the first recipient of the Elma Lewis Distinguished Fellowship in Emerson’s Social Justice Center.

Asim will provide leadership and expertise on social justice issues while engaging the campus and broader community. He will also lead the College’s annual Teach-in on Race, and organize campus events that highlight issues of social consequence.

“I’m hoping to place the college in the vanguard of social-justice efforts outside campus while supplementing the work the center already does within our campus boundaries, by developing other forms of programming,” said Asim.

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: On Black Lives, White Lies, and the Art of Survival, 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.

Asim was touched by being the first honoree of the fellowship named after Emerson alumna Elma Lewis ’43, who devoted her life to utilizing arts as a tool to create and promote social change.

“I had an opportunity to reflect on her legacy while writing a passage about her in A Child’s Introduction to African-American History, published a year ago,” said Asim. “In my view, she holds a revered place in a pantheon of pioneering black artist-educators such as Katherine Dunham, Samella Lewis, and Arthur Mitchell. Her facility for combining community, culture and art remains an example that I study and strive to emulate.”

Check out Asim discussing his book, We Can’t Breathe: On Black Lives, White Lies, and the Art of Survival, on WGBH.

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