USF research grant program selects proposals to study systemic racism 

USF project leaders have partnered with local and national groups to research issues close to the African American community, like colorism, mental illness and substance abuse. ORACLE PHOTO/LEDA ALVIM

As part of a $500,000 research grant program, USF on Wednesday afternoon selected 23 research proposals focused on understanding and addressing the effects of systemic racism at local, national and international levels.

With topics ranging from colorism to stigmas around mental illness in Black communities, the 12-month research projects will be funded by the Offices of the Provost and USF Research through a $500,000 research grant program. The projects consist of about 90 faculty members, including co-principal investigators, as well as undergraduate and graduate student researchers.

One of the projects, led by Chair of the Anthropology department Antoinette Jackson, will focus on identifying, preserving and recording forgotten African American burial grounds in Florida, including Tampa’s Zion Cemetery and St. Pete’s Oaklawn Cemetery.

Another project, led by Associate Professor David Ponton III from the School of Interdisciplinary Global Studies, will focus on studying “police killings and intraracial disparities based on skin color and facial features.” The research project will be partnering with IDEA Tampa Bay, a national network of tuition-free Pre-K-12 public schools.

The 23 funded projects include 13 Tier I awards, eight Tier II awards and two Tier III awards. Tier I will fund proposals up to $30,000 while Tiers II and III will fund proposals up to $15,000 and $10,000, respectively. 

Co-chair of the research task force Pritish Mukherjee said the awards encompass researchers from eight colleges across all three campuses — Tampa, St. Pete and Sarasota-Manatee. He said the diversity of “intellectual perspectives and research expertise” of the researchers involved is a “distinctive aspect of the awards.”

“The awarded proposals include a multiplicity of active partnerships with the community, national and global interactions, and a truly transdisciplinary approach to understand and end the perpetuation of inequities resulting from systemic anti-Black racism,” Mukherjee said.  

Among the proposals, a project in partnership with the ‘This is My Brave’ (TIMB), WE-CARE and the Central Florida Behavioral Health Network will focus on reducing the stigma while promoting conversations around Black mental health.

Led by Associate Professors Kyaien Conner and Kristin Kosyluk from the College of Behavioral and Community Sciences, the project will focus on evaluating TIMB, a virtual three-part series titled ‘This is My Brave (TIMB): Stories from the Black Community,’ which is a series to highlight the experiences and voices of the Black community around mental illness and substance abuse. 

With the awards distributed, Mukherjee said he is excited to see the proposals unfold.

“I look forward to the transformative results that will undoubtedly emanate from the proposed projects and future sustained progress through external funding from federal, corporate and private donors seeded by these awards,” Mukherjee said.