Emerson College Professor Jabari Asim Named First Elma Lewis ’43 Distinguished Fellow in the Social Justice Center
Boston, MA — Emerson College today announces that acclaimed author, playwright, and poet, Professor Jabari Asim, has been named the first recipient of the newly created Elma Lewis Distinguished Fellowship in the institution’s Social Justice Center. The fellowship honors the work of Emerson alumna Elma Lewis ’43, an arts educator and founder of the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts and the National Center of Afro-American Artists, who devoted her life to invoking the arts as a powerful mechanism for social change.
The Elma Lewis Distinguished Fellow in the Social Justice Center at Emerson plays an important role in deepening discourse and engagement around social justice on campus and in the broader community. The fellow provides thought leadership and expertise on social justice issues, leadership in the creation of the college’s annual Teach-in on Race, and convenes campus events and programs that bring attention to issues of social consequence.
“This fellowship honors the legacy of Elma Lewis’ groundbreaking work and discourse as a leader in social justice advocacy and simultaneously acknowledges the important intellectual writings and commentary about injustice in our society that Jabari Asim exposes decades later,” said Emerson President M. Lee Pelton.
An associate professor of Writing, Literature, and Publishing at Emerson, Asim has authored several books for both adults and children. His most recent book, We Can’t Breathe, was recently a named a 2019 PEN America Literary Awards finalist. Prior to his appointment at Emerson, he was an editor for 11 years at the Washington Post, where he also wrote a syndicated column on politics, popular culture, and social issues. Formerly the editor-in-chief of Crisis magazine, the NAACP’s flagship journal of politics, culture, and ideas, he was the recipient of a 2009 Guggenheim fellowship in Creative Arts.
“It is an honor to represent the college from this new platform within Emerson’s Social Justice Center. It provides an ideal site for encouraging the campus and outside communities to consider issues of social justice and race more deeply,” said Asim.
Asim, who is a Boston Public Library Trustee, will continue as a member of the creative writing faculty at Emerson in addition to his duties as the Elma Lewis Distinguished Fellow, which include serving as a thought leader and public intellectual for external and media outlets.
Cover Photo Provided by Emerson Today