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Department Spotlight

CRGC Students Make Impressive Showing at University Award Ceremony

Critical Race, Gender, and Culture students honored with seven awards

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Johneé Rendia Wilson and their parentsSeven students from American University’s Department of Critical Race, Gender, and Culture Studies (CRGC) have received 2023 Academic Achievement Awards. These awards recognize academic excellence at the undergraduate level in diverse categories from research to performing arts. In all, 18 awards were given, with College of Arts and Sciences students winning a total of 14 awards. 

Professor Eileen Findlay, chair of CRGC, says that the CRGC student winners are inspirational. “Their creativity, insight, deep curiosity, and commitment to systemic social change gives me hope in a world which can often consign us to despair. All six of these students illuminate new paths that call to us all in our search for meaning.” 

Three of the award-winners are from the African American and African Diaspora Studies program. “What I am most thrilled about is that the work of Maia, Malik, and Johnee focuses on community engagement and social transformation,” says Professor Sybil R. Williams, chair of the program. “While we are a young program, four years old, we are committed to building communities of deeply engaged, socially conscious scholars who will continue to contribute to some of the most innovative and transformative thinking in the field.” 

Malik Gomes Cruz
Outstanding Achievement in Creative Art

Malik is a Frederick Douglass Distinguished Scholar, completing his final semester at American University. He is a dreamer, groover, and creative artist. As a Dance and African Diaspora Studies scholar, Malik’s creative practice harnesses movement rituals in Black communities as modes of socio-political protest. He was named an American University Summer Artist in 2022 to conduct embodied research within and among Black communities in the DMV. Through this research, Malik is crafting a movement repertoire that aligns ritual with protest in order to heal. He dedicates himself to uplifting Black stories through movement that centers joy and play. Malik is currently interning at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts with the Social Impact Programming department, where he crafts artistic programming for and among a diverse range of communities both locally and internationally. 

Talia Marshall
Outstanding Undergraduate Research

Talia Marshall (Literature and American Studies) is a senior whose research lies at the intersection of queer, disability, and literary studies and is especially interested in the concepts of time and language. In 2021, she received AU Summer Scholars funding to begin her project “Neuroqueer Time: Exploring Temporal Intersections.” The project has also been supported with a Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program award for Feminist Research. In January, Talia traveled to San Francisco to present this work at the Modern Language Association’s annual conference. She has also worked with AU's Center for Teaching, Research and Learning to update classroom accessibility standards, and she currently enjoys being a Core Leader for an introductory literature course on desire and identity. 

Abigail Martínez
Outstanding Undergraduate Research

Abigail Martinez (Literature) is a proud Chicana writer whose work is primarily inspired by past, present, and future social issues focusing on Latine stories. In the past, she has dedicated herself to promoting quality education and care for students within marginalized communities through volunteering in her community. She is the recipient of the American University 2023 Achievement Award for Outstanding Achievement in Undergraduate Research for her recent research essay, Sexual Empowerment and ‘The Husband Stitch. She is currently studying at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland in the hopes of immersing herself in a new and fresh culture while developing and expanding her writing style. For now, and in the future, she hopes to continue researching and writing about social issues regarding Latine studies to bring much-deserving attention to Latine stories in the literary industry.

Stevie Marvin
Outstanding Achievement
in Community Service Award

Stevie (Economics major and minors in Transcultural Studies and American Studies ’22) currently works at the Economic Policy Institute as a Research Assistant where they support research that centers racial justice and worker power. In a project that grew from their role as a research assistant to Professor Christina Juhász-Wood, Stevie recently completed a zine that encourages AU faculty members to center Critical Indigenous and Ethnic studies in antiracist curriculum development. Stevie was involved with AU's Asian American Student Union and Hawai'i Club since 2020. In spring 2022, they co-organized the Settler Colonialism Event Series with Caribbean Circle, LULAC, SJP, and SANC, dedicated to addressing the ongoing resistance against settler colonialism and empire around the globe. They also interned at AU's Antiracist Research and Policy Center as the community coordinator for campus outreach.  

Maia McCall
Outstanding Undergraduate Research

Maia ’23 (African American/African Diaspora Studies) received the Outstanding Achievement in Undergraduate Research award for her research with Assistant Professor of Anthropology Orisanmi Burton on his upcoming book Tip of the Spear. Maia conducted archival research and oral histories of elders from the Prison Movement, Black Panther Party, and the Black Liberation Army — including Jalil Muntaquim and Dhoruba Bin-Wahad — as well as some of the lawyers from the Panther 21 case. Maia also conducted research with Professorial Lecturer (American Studies) Christina Juhasz-Wood, and she currently sits on the Department of Critical Race, Gender, and Cultural Studies Faculty Council as a Student Representative. Her research broadly examines the most recent epoch of Anti-Colonial insurgency and its impact on Black cultural-intellectual production. After graduating, she plans to pursue her master's in library and Archival Sciences and a PhD in Africana Studies, with a focus on the nature of Being probed by Anti-Colonial struggles in Grenada, Jamaica, and Cuba. She is an organizer with the Party for Socialism and Liberation, loves listening to Alice Coltrane, Sun Ra, D’Angelo, Quasimoto, and Fela Kuti, and she’s never seen a raccoon in real life. 

John Paul “JP” Mejía
Outstanding Award in Environmental Leadership

Born and raised by a single immigrant mom in the frontline community of Miami, Florida, JP’s commitment to climate justice began after witnessing the government's response to Hurricane Irma leave his community members behind. Propelled into action, JP has since organized for climate justice at institutional, local, and federal levels, engaging students, community members, unions, and elected officials along the way. Today, his devotion to movement-building continues in his work as the national spokesperson for the Sunrise Movement and a campaign manager for the Green New Deal for American University campaign. As a Frederick Douglass Distinguished Scholar at American University and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences' commission on Accelerating Climate Action, he centers a value-driven and critical approach in his scholarship as he does in his activism. 

Johneé Rendia Wilson
Outstanding Achievement in Community Service

Johneé ’24 is a 3rd year AU Honors student (SIS major and AFAM minor). Within the advisory of Professor Sybil Roberts, Johneé led a team of four student researchers to achieve the Dope Diaspora research project—an independent study on the evolution of female sexual empowerment through a socioeconomic lens of African Diaspora music and language. In 2022, as a Gilman Scholar, she studied abroad with CET in São Paulo, Brazil. Johneé is the recipient of the AU Matthew and Cynthia Warshaw, Black Alumni Book Awards, Student Government Civic Engagement, and SISU Davenport scholarships. Winter 2022, she interned overseas with Dream Sports Africa to co-design resiliency models for youth leadership programs in Nigeria and is the founder Million Mats DC, a yoga-led initiative for underserved youth. Mali Collins, PhD, published her work in the Black MedHum Encyclopedia in 2023. After graduation, Johneé seeks to continue research in Brazil as a Fulbright Scholar and attend graduate school to prepare for a career at the intersection foreign service, design thinking, and creative storytelling.

For More Information  

American University’s Department of Critical Race, Gender, and Culture Studies (CRGC) is a vibrant and inclusive community of faculty and students that explores diverse voices, histories, and experiences through socially engaged scholarship. Visit the CRGC website for more information and news.