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Faculty Colloquium | Deonte Hollowell on ‘Policing the Black Experience’

Steve Jones

Dr. Deonte Hollowell, Assistant Professor of history and African-American Studies in the School of Liberal Studies, will present the spring 2019 Faculty Colloquium, at 5 p.m. Tuesday at the ELC’s Troutman Lectorium. In a presentation titled, “Policing the Black Experience,” he’ll present his research into the African-American community and police relations, and discuss the creation of a course he’ll teach in Session 6 dealing with these themes. That course is part of the African-American Studies minor in the School of Liberal Studies that Hollowell has developed.

In advance of his presentation, Dr. Hollowell discussed the Faculty Colloquium and his work at Spalding:

Why did you come to Spalding, and what do you like about teaching here?

I love being here, and I stay here because I like the history of the institution and I like the mission. It gives me something structurally that allow to be a pathway. My interests have always been in trying to make life better for people who are underserved, underappreciated in society. Spalding’s mission is linked to that. I came here as an adjunct in 2009 and was just looking for a place to teach courses. There was an opening to teach history here (three years ago), and I got it, and the rest is, as they say, history.

 What are some of your academic specialties and areas of interest in research?

Overall, it’s African-American Studies and Pan-African Studies. African-American Studies is what we teach here at Spalding, that’s also the PhD that I have from Temple University. I also have a master’s and bacherlor’s in Pan-African Studies from the University of Louisville. Temple was the first program to offer a PhD in African-American Studies.

Why did you feel it was important to introduce and develop an African-American Studies (AAS) minor at Spalding?

I think there was a void there in our curriculum just to make sure we study and highlight not just accomplishments but also the struggle of people of African descent and people who identify as African-American in this country. Again, it goes back to the mission that speaks toward having compassion and inclusivenss, diversity. The situation was just right for it. We have the right president. Both (former Liberal Studies Chair) John Wilcox and (current Chair) Pattie Dillon are very interested in African-American Studies, which is why they brought me here in the first place, because of my background. When I came here as an adjunct, I would speak to students who didn’t have too much knowledge about the African-American experience, whether they were African-American or not, so I felt there was an opportunity there to pinpoint more of that history and to have a separate offering of courses. I’ve always been intrigued by the praxis side of African-American Studies, where you go into communities and try to get a better understanding of some of the social issues that are occurring and some of the solutions and trying to be a part of it, whether it’s legislation or cultural practices that highlight solutions to a social problem.

Tell me a little about what you’re planning at the Faculty Colloquium.

It’s titled, “Policing the Black Experience.” It’s influenced by when I was a grad student at Temple. I went there to look specifically at hip-hop music and its effects on the African-American community. That’s what I promised to do my research on when I got there. (After working with an advisor who was skeptical that it could be the basis of the research and project), she asked for me to come up with another topic and something that I was passionate about, something that affected me personally. She said to reach back in my childhood and try to find something involving the African-American struggle that was personal to me. I started thinking about how I was arrested when I was 10 under the guise that I was stealing from a store, which I wasn’t. I was beaten up at that time by a police officer who arrested me in public in a grocery store, and this time type of thing happened to me or people I know throughout my life. I started to write about it. …. My PhD advisor wanted the project to be Afrocentric, so I had to get a handle on what Afrocentricity means, not only academically but socially. So I came up with the topic for my dissertation. It was called, Control and Resistance: An Afrocentric Analysis of the Historic and Current Relationship between African American Communities and Police.  … Upon my being hired at Spalding, Pattie Dillon and I talked about my dissertation and how we could possibly make that into a class, how we could take the work I was doing in African-American Studies and make that into a minor. … Since I’ve been here at Spalding full-time, I’ve visited six cities, so I’m kind of breaking that down into a case study where these types of issues have occurred and have interesting stories. There are seven cities – six I’ve been to, one I haven’t so far. Louisville; Greensboro, North Carolina; Sacramento, California; Oakland, California; Ferguson, Missouri; and Cleveland, Ohio. And Chicago, which I haven’t been to. All of those cities, with the exception of Cleveland, I’ve made connections with Black Lives Matter organizers. I’ve been to several different protests. I’ve been a fly on the wall, so to speak. I’m just trying to get a sense of what are some solutions people are trying to take into account, what are some of the reasons people feel these things are happening. Most importantly for me, what’s the culture of the city that allows this to take place? A case in point, in Ferguson, we were looking at the housing politics. St. Louis was starting to grow so rapidly that they had to find placement for other people, so the local housing entities started to establish public housing in the area that’s now known as Ferguson. That area is very densely populated by African-Americans, but African-Americans did not have political power. They do now. They’ve achieved a lot more political balance there. But the housing situation shaped the whole Ferguson dynamic. I’m looking at stuff like that.

What are some other things you’ve been involved with at Spalding?

As part of the Intro to African-American Studies class, we established the Elmer Lucille Allen Conference on African-American  Studies. She was an early African-American graduate at Spalding. She’s a very dynamic personality. She’s been a big part of us establishing the Black Student Alliance. All these things are kind of coming into fruition with the coursework and the curriculum.