Spanning 200 years, Roseland tells the story of the last seven generations of Gray’s family through her direct female ancestors, alongside the arc of U.S. history. Using research and oral histories, Roseland explores that tender place where myth meets memory - and the meaning between. In her essay, “Chiasmus: A Narrative of Ascent,” published by South Side Weekly and in Rust Belt Chicago: An Anthology (Belt Publishing 2017), Gray opens with an ancestral roll call that Roseland will continue: 

“It’s 1986 and I’m born on the South Side of Chicago. My mother Sharon’s a Chicagoan too—born in 1964…six years into her parents’ northern life. My grandma Pearlie Mae is born in 1942 in a Mississippi Delta town founded by formerly enslaved people. My great-grandmother Wyona’s the first of us to be born in the twentieth century and would be eleven when white women got the vote, forty-five when segregation fell on paper, and fifty-nine when Dr. King was shot. Her mother Trudy was born in 1887 just up the road in the town where WC Handy first heard the Blues. Her mother Lucinda was born in 1862, one year into a war that’d color the conscience and collective memory of a nation. Her mother Martha was born in 1820, part of the generation begging for that slouch toward justice and would be forty-one years old when it began.”

Read more about Roseland here.

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I dug into the histories of about sixty African American and Indigenous communities in Oklahoma for Growing Up with the Country: Family, Race, and Nation after the Civil War (Yale Press, 2018).

Order here (£35.00 / $45.00 USD)

Following the lead of her own ancestors, Kendra Field’s epic family history chronicles the westward migration of freedom’s first generation in the fifty years after emancipation. Drawing on decades of archival research and family lore within and beyond the United States, Field traces their journey out of the South to Indian Territory, where they participated in the development of black and black Indian towns and settlements.
When statehood, oil speculation, and Jim Crow segregation imperiled their lives and livelihoods, these formerly enslaved men and women again chose emigration. Some migrants launched a powerful back-to-Africa movement, while others moved on to Canada and Mexico. Their lives and choices deepen and widen the roots of the Great Migration. Interweaving black, white, and Indian histories, Field’s beautifully wrought narrative explores how ideas about race and color powerfully shaped the pursuit of freedom.

The Black Law Students Association (BLSA) at Vermont Law School presented “#BlackGirlMagic: Black, Intelligent, and Educated—Now That’s Power,” a celebration and panel discussion from 6 to 9 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 9, in Yates Common Room at VLS. 

Panelists: Connecticut Supreme Court Justice Maria Araujo Kahn; District Superior Court Judge Melanie Cradle; and Rayshauna Gray, coordinator of the Gender Initiative at Harvard Business School and a historical researcher at the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at Tufts University.

The mission of the Black Law Students Association is to articulate and promote the professional goals and needs of minority law students, to encourage and foster professional competence, to focus on the relationship between minority law students and the law structure, to instill in minority law students a greater awareness of and commitment to the needs of the minority community, and to influence American law schools and legal associations to use their expertise and prestige to bring about change within the legal system in order to make it responsive to the needs of the minority community. BLSA collaborates with other student groups at Vermont Law School to promote diversity and enhance cultural awareness, and to make an impact on the institution, community and region in accordance with the missions of BLSA and the National Black Law Students Association.


What happens when you take 20 handpicked creatives and luminaries, give them each two minutes before a live audience and the same (fuzzy) question to unravel? That's the premise behind 20x2, the popular event staged since 2001 at SXSW Interactive —20x2 has grown to an ever-expanding pantheon of participants. Founded in Austin by Kevin Newsum, Chicago's own Andrew Huff produced the first permanent satellite 20x2 Chicago show in 2013, with shows now happening twice annually.

On 10/20/17, a great group of folks gathered at The Hideout to be enraptured. Andrew Huff hosted 20x2 Chicago, a show in which 20 people from all different walks of creative life get two minutes each to answer the question of the day in whatever way they like. The results were as varied as the emotions and reactions they evoked.

Check out the Storify article (complete with tweets and all the videos) here.

Rust Belt Chicago: An Anthology is the ninth book in a series of city anthologies that shines a light on the common ground Chicago shares with the Rust Belt through essays, memoir, journalism, fiction, and poetry.

On 8/13/17, great folks gathered at The Hideout to celebrate the release of Rust Belt Chicago, a collection of essays, journalism, poetry, and fiction edited by Martha Bayne. This collection tells the vibrant and culturally rich history of this great city, all together singing a forlorn love song to a place similarly marked, if less evident, by deindustrialization and economic decline as Rust Belt sister cities.

Editor's Introduction // Order // Storify article (tweets, event video)


In addition to researching in Tufts University's history department, I'm also part of the team behind the Boston African American Freedom Trail. Inspired by the scholarship of the late Tufts Professor Gerald R. Gill (1948-2007), the project aims to develop African American historical memory and inter-generational community across greater Boston.

View map // Take a tour

The Center for the Study of Race and Democracy (CSRD) is devoted to conceptualizing the intersection between race and democracy at the local, national, and international levels. It focuses on the pivotal contributions of ordinary activists, iconic anti-racist political activists, intellectuals, elected officials, and cultural workers. Based on the belief that history informs contemporary struggles for democracy and public policy, the Center seeks to participate in a public conversation about the very meaning of racial, social, and political justice.