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IAAR-SLATE holds first research symposium for undergraduates

Jorren Biggs presents his research project at the Student Learning to Advance Truth and Equity (SLATE)'s inaugural research symposium. DTH Screenshot.

Ten undergraduate students presented original research projects on issues of race, racism and racial equity at the Student Learning to Advance Truth and Equity (SLATE)'s inaugural research symposium last week.

The symposium, held virtually on Sept. 8 and 9., featured projects across several disciplines. Research topics included southern politics, ethnography, gentrification, origins and identity, art, health care and Black womanhood. 

SLATE, an initiative launched in 2020 and led by UNC's Institute of African American Research, aims to involve undergraduate students in critical examinations of race, racism and racial equity. 

UNC-IAAR has been facilitating and funding research on the African American experience and African diaspora for over 25 years. IAAR-SLATE is an extension of the College of Arts and Science’s 2019 “Reckoning” initiative, which was originally designed to support student learning on race, heritage and reconciliation, among other topics.

Renée Alexander Craft, faculty director of research for IAAR-SLATE, spoke on what she hopes this and future symposiums will offer for students.

“I hope it opens up new questions that audience members might ask, new resources that they have to answer those questions," she said. "I'm hoping that it deepens and enriches the dialogue that we have about race, racism and racial equity on UNC's campus and beyond.”

The 2021 research fellows were selected to carry out original research this summer with mentorship from UNC faculty.

Denee Dapremont, a senior majoring in anthropology, was one of the presenters at the symposium. Her project focused on the treatment of African-American women in health care.

Dapremont's research, titled “It Takes a Village: Highlighting community-driven solutions that strengthen pregnancy and birthing support for BIPOC families” focused on community pregnancy support, birthing people and storytelling.

Dapremont collaborated with Dr. Anne Berry, preventive medicine resident at the UNC Department of Family Medicine, and her mentor was Angela Stuesse, an associate professor in the Department of Anthropology.

“People don't consider health care as being a field where racism takes place,” Dapremont said. “And if you're not a person of color you don't really experience those things, so it's easier to deny someone else's experience because you've never experienced something like that.”

Dapremont said she is looking into the way the UNC School of Medicine handles racial equity and is educating students on patient treatment. 

Junior Victoria Bryant and senior Kayla McLaurin are both IAAR-SLATE research fellows. Their presentation, titled "The ORIGINal Power of Black Women: UNC Voices of Invisibility," featured research on Black womanhood and origin stories. Bernard Bell, executive director of the UNC Shuford Program in Entrepreneurship, acted as faculty research fellow and mentor. 

Bryant and McLaurin said they interviewed Black women who had attended or worked at UNC for the ORIGINal Power of Black Women Project. They highlighted the similarities of their stories and testimonies, and also the differences.

“Black women may be in similar situations, but their experiences are always very vastly different," McLaurin said. "… They may have a set of similar obstacles, but the way that they work through those obstacles, and the way that they navigate through life is very different."

Bryant shared how listening to the women’s testimonies also gave her insight into her own life.

“My main takeaway was continuing to be authentic even in spaces where you’re uncomfortable," Bryant said. "It’s really easy to be authentic in spaces where you feel safe, but more often than not we’re not gonna be in spaces where we feel safe."  |

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