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Spring 2018 Stories

Samuel Joseph Brown, Jr, Self-Portrait, Watercolor, charcoal, and graphite on paper, ca. 1941, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Web. 8 May 2018. Used with permission.

Samuel Joseph Brown, Jr, Self-Portrait, Watercolor, charcoal, and graphite on paper, ca. 1941, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Web. 8 May 2018. Used with permission.

Powering Forward Toward Racial and Ethnic Justice in Our Common Home

Reflections from the 2016–18 Bannan Institute Faculty Collaborative


By Brett Johnson Solomon
Associate Professor, Child Studies Program
Bannan Faculty Fellow, Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education
Santa Clara University

In the winter of 2018, my 95-year old grandmother, Hazel Lee, was honored by the National Alumni Association of Spelman College as the founder of its Los Angeles chapter. Hazel founded the chapter in March 1955 in honor of her mother, my great-grandmother, Idenie Fitzgerald, who graduated from Spelman in 1916. Hazel’s vision for the chapter was social justice, support, and advocacy during a time of tremendous racial and ethnic turmoil in the United States.

Located in Atlanta, Georgia, Spelman College is our country’s only all-female historically black college or university (HBCU). Supported by the U.S. government, HBCUs were founded in the 1800s as a means of providing places of higher learning for African Americans who were not allowed to attend white colleges and universities. Spelman College served, and still does, as a place of academic rigor, support, and empowerment for African-American women who were (and some would argue still are) considered unequal and inferior in these United States of America. As I listened to the intelligent, insightful, successful African-American women reflect on how Spelman prepared them for the world, I was reminded of the pure “light” that existed amidst the social and racial storm that surrounded my great-grandmother and grandmother in the 19th and 20th centuries. I was reminded of the framework for racial and ethnic justice that generations before ours started, but now, we are charged to finish. I was reminded of the unrelenting need to power forward toward racial and ethnic justice in our common home.

How can the idea of social justice be reclaimed to bring it from the negative perception of being something that “elite liberals” concern themselves with, and show how social justice and a preferential option for the poor are values of students and faculty within a privileged institution. My work comes from volunteering with poor immigrants, and this is the kind of work that helps one reevaluate and recalibrate what is important in an area with so much wealth, but also so little regard for issues like homelessness.

—Cruz Medina, Assistant Professor, Department of English, Santa Clara University

 Being constituted in 2016, 100 years after my great-grandmother graduated from Spelman, our Racial and Ethnic Justice Bannan Faculty Collaborative1 did not anticipate the threats to racial and ethnic justice that would be resurrected in our country. Topics such as racism and white allyship; rhetoric and cultural deficiency; immigration, relational citizenship, assimilation and difference; implicit-bias and the preschool to prison pipeline; race and mass incarceration; and truth and reconciliation were topics that my colleagues and I took on in an effort to find common good in our pre- and post-election homes. 

Racism, xenophobia, sexism, and marriage equality are all pressing issues in our world today. As a historian I explore past injustices and traditions of resistance in order to inform the people and our students. That knowledge can then be applied to the challenges of today. I think as a scholar/teacher I have been effective in that effort.

—Anthony Hazard, Associate Professor, Department of Ethnic Studies, Santa Clara University

Motivated by the plight of our ancestors, our search for the common good started in the fall of 2016 with a panel discussion that was in part titled “Stronger Together, Making America Great Again,” and aimed to answer the question, “What is at stake for racial and ethnic justice in 2016?” Collectively, we discussed our research in the context of the upcoming election and emphasized what was at stake for criminalized adults, children of color in America’s schools, mass incarceration, social media, voter rights, and voter suppression. The above topics were salient prior to the election and remain vital to racial and ethnic justice today.2

[We need to] discover and discuss issues less known in U.S. society from multiple perspectives. Due to the imbalance of the media, we seem to have a flattened view, if any, toward certain regions in the world, certain populations.

—Hsin-I Cheng, Associate Professor, Department of Communication, Santa Clara University

In winter 2017, the Racial and Ethnic Justice Bannan Faculty Collaborative launched the first episodes of the INTEGRAL podcast series for the Bannan Institutes. All members of the collaborative provided a deeper lens into their interests and research during each podcast.3 In addition to the INTEGRAL podcasts, our faculty collaborative was busy with presentations and consultations throughout the United States. Over the past two years, we have produced over 10 professional or practical presentations, five publications, five works in progress, and seven new or ongoing research projects—all relating to racial and ethnic justice in our local, national, and international “homes.”

Certainly the enduring legacy of racism and ethnic bias remains as a pressing issue facing our world today. How these are interrelated, e.g., race and class, environmental degradation; the particular vulnerabilities of women to poverty and climate change, etc. remains a critical issue. Collaboration across the disciples remains critical for me. My teaching, writing, and scholarship are devoted to this end; as is my pastoral work as Catholic chaplain at the Federal Women’s Prison in Dublin, California.

—William O’Neill, S.J., Associate Professor, Jesuit School of Theology, Santa Clara University

 In addition to the research, publications, presentations, and invited talks, the Racial and Ethnic Justice Bannan Collaborative was fortunate to welcome Vincent Lloyd, associate professor of theology and religious studies at Villanova University, to deliver our collaborative keynote address. Lloyd’s teaching and work centers on the philosophy of religion, religion and politics, and race. He delivered a compelling talk to the campus community about black religion as black radicalism.

Poverty, climate change, racial injustice, mistreatment of immigrants and refugees, these are all pressing issues facing the world today. My work focuses particularly on racial justice and the need for multiple strategies to heal historical and ongoing racism, particularly in the United States.

—Margaret Russell, Professor, School of Law, Santa Clara University

Being part of the Racial and Ethnic Justice Bannan Faculty Collaborative has shaped our work as teachers and scholars in multiple ways. It has provided us space and time for our vocational and intellectual commitments to racial and ethnic justice by learning the perspectives of varied disciplines and applying them to our own. The engaged dialogue has been immensely valuable by deepening our understanding of interdisciplinary resources for understanding the history, nature, and implications of racism and ethnic bias today. Our common commitment has fostered rich and critical conversations, in which we have learned from and supported one another in our vocation as engaged scholars at this most critical time in our nation’s and world’s history.

Is there a common good in our common home? How do we advocate for all people? How do we eliminate school inequality, exclusionary discipline practices, and implicit bias so that all children grow up in schools where they feel safe, secure, supported, and not at risk of being suspended, expelled, imprisoned, or killed? My volunteer work as an asset building champion (ABC) reader for YMCA’s Project Cornerstone allows me to reach 50 elementary school children each month reading books on race, equality, empathy, and compassion. My teaching in child studies contributes to our students being culturally competent stewards of children. My research on the preschool to prison pipeline aims to understand and address issues of implicit bias among teachers who have the power to shape the world. My research with mothers and children who have been victims of exclusionary discipline practices aims to capture the true impact of such acts on children and families. The common good in our common home starts with our children by way of the caring adults who surround them.

—Brett Solomon, Associate Professor, Child Studies Program, Santa Clara University 

In the name of all our grandmothers and greatgrandmothers who laid the foundation for social justice, support, and advocacy, there’s no doubt that the Racial and Ethnic Justice Bannan Faculty Collaborative has been powering toward a common good in our common home. Powering forward toward racial and ethnic justice has allowed us to influence initiatives on campus by collaborating with administrators, students, and colleagues. Powering forward toward racial and ethnic justice has contributed to new course development and new or expanded research programs for our collaborative members. Powering forward toward racial and ethnic justice has informed our service to the University through our participation on the Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion, the Campus Climate Workgroup, the University Grievance Committee, Faculty Senate, and serving as interim provost/s for Diversity and Inclusion. Simply stated, involvement in the Racial and Ethnic Justice Bannan Faculty Collaborative has served as a platform for us to power forward toward a common good in our common home. It is our hope that the next generation of faculty scholars continues to power forward toward racial and ethnic social justice for our most vulnerable populations.


BRETT JOHNSON SOLOMON is an associate professor in the liberal studies program at Santa Clara University. She is the director of the SCU Future Teachers project, a pipeline program for students of color who want to teach in urban and underserved communities. In 2016–17 she served as interim associate provost for diversity and inclusion and her research focuses on the school to prison pipeline. Solomon earned her Ph.D. and M.A. in educational psychology from UCLA. She also has a Master of Education in early childhood risk and prevention from Harvard University, and a Bachelor of Arts in social welfare from UC Berkeley.



  1. One of four interdisciplinary Bannan Institute Faculty Collaboratives convening in 2016–18 to collaborate on research, teaching, and University initiatives that advance the common good and extend the Jesuit, Catholic vocation of SCU as a transformative social force.
  2. “What Is at Stake for Racial and Ethnic Justice in 2016? Stronger Together, Making America Great Again,” panel dialogue, 2016–18 Bannan Institute series, Santa Clara University, October 5, 2016, a video of the full event is available online:
  3. Four seasons of the Bannan Institutes INTEGRAL podcast series are now available, including season one on Racial and Ethnic Justice and the Common Good, see:
Racial Justice, Theologically Home The Moral Margins of Poverty and Prosperity: Toward an Integrative Justice Model