For Dawna Jones, being director of the Mary Lou Williams Heart for Black Tradition will enable her to deal with celebration fairly than disaster.
Jones started her new place on Aug. 11 after leaving her place as assistant dean of scholars on the College of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She succeeds interim director Quinton Smith, who took the helm following former director Chandra Guinn’s departure in February.
“I’m excited. That is my first time working at a non-public establishment, and proper now it appeared like Duke was doing the work that I’m very fascinated about doing,” Jones mentioned.
Jones mentioned that her profession to date has been “primarily based primarily in disaster,” similar to supporting college students by means of psychological well being, household and monetary troubles. At UNC, she was additionally chair of the Carolina Black Caucus, a job during which she advocated for Black faculty and staff within the wake of reports relating to Nikole Hannah-Jones’ tenure.
“I used to be in search of a chance to maneuver extra into cultural celebration and fascinated by how I might assist Black individuals particularly at this loopy time,” Jones mentioned. Listening to concerning the College’s priorities through the analysis and interview processes made it seem to be “the precise time and the precise place.”
Jones isn’t any stranger to elevating Black tradition—as chair of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro chapter of the Nationwide Affiliation for the Development of Coloured Folks, she labored with each cities to plan the first Juneteenth festival earlier this yr.
Aside from planning a Juneteenth occasion at Duke and a center-wide Spades match, her major purpose is guaranteeing that the Mary Lou looks like “Granny’s front room” for college kids and Durhamites alike.
“My large purpose is assembly individuals and understanding what Duke college students are in search of out of the Mary Lou Heart, and likewise constructing relationships with the group,” Jones mentioned. “My understanding is that we have now an abundance of pleasure and Black excellence right here on campus and that hasn’t essentially filtered into how we relate to the encircling group right here in Durham.”
Making the Mary Lou really feel like house for everybody means “lifting individuals up so people know they are often themselves and that they gained’t be ostracized,” Jones mentioned. Psychological well being and wellness can even be a serious focus given the occasions of the previous two years, along with celebrating heritage, historical past and legacies.
Jones’ purpose of offering an area the place Black college students can deliver their genuine selves is influenced by her personal intersecting identities, together with being a girl and a first-generation doctoral scholar.
“I’m excited to assist first-generation and low-income college students right here. I’m actually excited to assist our queer group right here at Duke, particularly the Black queer group. And I’m trying ahead to getting concerned in every kind of issues that contain Black feminism and Black financial growth,” Jones mentioned.
Jones was chosen by a search committee together with junior Kelyce Allen; junior Cody Perry; senior Noah McKee; Ariel Powell, Fuqua ‘21; John Brown, vice provost of the humanities; college archivist Valerie Gillispie; Joyce Gordon, director of Jewish Life at Duke; Jordan Hale, dean of New Pupil Packages; Professor of Biology Gustavo Silva; and Tasha Curry-Corcoran, affiliate director of Collaborative Studying and Communications. The search commenced on the finish of spring 2021.
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The Mary Lou will start interviews for an assistant director quickly, in keeping with an Aug. 4 electronic mail from the Heart to Black college students.
| Managing Editor
Nadia Bey is a Trinity junior and managing editor of The Chronicle’s 117th volume.