Fall 2017

The Center on Race and Social Problems Celebrates 15 Years

The University of Pittsburgh Center on Race and Social Problems (CRSP) hosted a reception on September 12 that celebrated its 15th anniversary. Many friends and supporters, including Chancellor Patrick Gallagher, Chancellor Emeritus Mark Nordenberg, Provost Emeritus James Maher, and law firm and foundation partners, as well as many other friends, were in attendance.


In 2002, CRSP was founded in partnership with the generous support of then Provost James Maher and the University of Pittsburgh. By 2007, the center had a full staff, with Larry E. Davis as director, an associate director, an administrative assistant, and three postdoctoral fellows. Through the generous support of two Pittsburgh law firms, Reed Smith LLP and Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC, the center was able to begin offering two of the most popular lecture series at the University, the CRSP Fall and Spring lecture series, which highlight race scholars, community leaders, and award-winning writers and attracts some of the most diverse audiences seen at Pitt.

During its first five years of operation, the center established its seven core areas of focus: economic disparities; educational disparities; mental health; interracial group relations; families, youth, and the elderly; health; and criminal justice.

In its first five years, CRSP funded 29 pilot studies and completed 19 externally funded projects. It hosted 22 Summer Institutes that delivered relevant and practical research into the hands of policymakers.


Man giving a speechIn association with Springer International Publishing AG, the center began publishing the journal Race and Social Problems in 2009. The journal has become tremendously successful, and in 2016, it was ranked in the 92nd percentile of anthropology journals.

In 2010, the center hosted the national conference Race In America: Restructuring Inequality, which featured the most solution-focused dialogue on race ever held. During 2012, the center began its community partnership with the Homewood Children’s Village in Homewood, a predominantly Black neighborhood in Pittsburgh. Each year, CRSP supports up to eight fellows who work one on one with children who struggle with social, emotional, and family issues that adversely affect their ability to function in school. The fellows are able to provide these children with resources, coping strategies, and practical help.


During the summer of 2017, CRSP offered three Summer Institutes. The annual Race and Child Welfare Summer Institute was held June 7 and 8 to a sellout audience of child welfare professionals from across the country. This year, the topic was national and local perspectives on the intersections among immigrants, human trafficking, and social services. Featured speakers included Pittsburgh City Councilman Dan Gilman and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, who both spoke about Pittsburgh’s commitment to immigrants and refugees as a matter of principle and policy. Yolanda Padilla from the University of Texas at Austin and Rowena Fong were keynote speakers on days one and two. Diego Chaves-Gnecco described his experiences in setting up a medical/ social work clinic for immigrant children at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, and Dawn Brubaker of Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Pittsburgh conducted a workshop on understanding immigrant cultures.

The Policy and Community Summer Institute also attracted a full-capacity crowd of law enforcement professionals and featured City of Pittsburgh Bureau of Police Chief Scott E. Schubert; acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania Soo C. Song; and University of Pittsburgh law professor David A. Harris, who also hosts local 90.5 WESA’s Criminal (In)justice podcast. Presenta- tions and workshops on recognizing and avoiding bias were provided by the Pittsburgh Police academy training team.

The segregation Summer In- stitute focused on national and local perspectives on residential segregation and its related issues: education, health, and the law. Jacob Rugh of Brigham Young University, and Claudia Colton of Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University provided the keynote addresses. A diverse audience attended a variety of panels and workshops offered throughout each day.

This fall, CRSP welcomed the new cohort of Homewood Children’s Village fellows— Tulleesha Burbage (MSW), Abbey Hall (MSW), Aisha Pier (MSW), Felicia Campbell (MSW), Lora Kay (MSW), Belen Montanez (MSW), and Rachael Popcak (MSW). We wish them well in their important work.

We also congratulate the winners of the Annual CRSP student paper awards. The undergraduate prize went to Devin Rutan (MSW/JD) for a paper titled “Food Oases: A Case Study of East Liberty” and written for a course taught by Waverly Duck. The master’s prize went to student Allison Hall, whose paper, “The Language of Osama bin Laden: How Language Is Used as a Proxy for Race in Discrimination Against Arabic Speakers in the United States” was written for a course taught by Jasmine Gonzales Rose. The doctoral-level prize was awarded to Kess Ballentine for his pa- per, “A Theoretical Analysis of Oppositional Defiance Disorder and Attention-Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder by Race,” written for a course taught by John Wallace of the School of Social Work. Congratulations, students and faculty!

We look forward to another term of intellectual food for thought at the CRSP fall speaker series. See the outside back cover of this issue of Bridges for a complete list of speakers.

When the center began operating, many people questioned the need for a center devoted to race-related issues, falsely believing that we had become a postracial society. The presidential election of 2016 and the subsequent recent events clearly show that the work of the center is needed now more than ever. During 2016, we held a memorial reception and panel discussion honoring the late civil rights leader Julian Bond, who said in a speech he made at the center in 2010:

“The truth is that Jim Crow may be dead, but racism is alive and well. That is the central fact of life for every non-White American, including the president of the United States, eclipsing income, position, and education. Race trumps them all.”

The Future

In some respects, it seems that race relations in our country have gotten worse. Yet, if we take a broader, more historical perspective, there clearly has been significant progress. However, what many of us have come to realize is that the problems of racism were greater than we had thought. Those of us who are at the forefront of this struggle must refuse to be demoralized. It is true that racism is still very much in the fabric of our society, but we at CRSP believe that the arc of justice is on our side.

The center is committed to sustaining its focus and efforts. We do sincerely appreciate the support we receive from so many of you, and we promise to continue to do our part to help make America a more just and equitable society.