On Friday, February 12, the Libraries announced the inaugural winners of the Black Queer Studies Student Awards! A true labor of love several years in the making, the Monica K. Roberts Graduate and the Hogan/Schell Undergraduate Awards recognize honor, and celebrate excellence in student scholarship and creative endeavors in the field of Black Queer Studies. Winning submissions directly engage with the Libraries’ groundbreaking Black Queer Studies Collection.
Our first cohort of winners are Allen Poterie, a graduate student from the Performance as Public Practice program in the Theater and Dance Department, and Jeremiah Baldwin, an undergraduate senior majoring in Government, Rhetoric and Writing, and African and African Diaspora Studies (AADS).
Allen’s winning submission is entitled “And Don’t Let Go: Scenes of Holding as a Means of Emotional Exchange between Black Men.” Allen’s work is a scholarly literature review that contextualizes his creative work-in-progress – a television screenplay about the lives and relationships of Black Queer men. The selection committee was impressed with the quality of his literature review. Allen cited many books and films in the Libraries’ Black Queer Studies Collection, including literary work by Essex Hemphill, films directed by Marlon Riggs, and scholarship by E. Patrick Johnson.
Jeremiah’s submission is “Caught At An Intersection The Podcast,” which examines Black Queer experiences through interviews and discussions, using Kimberlé Crenshaw’s watershed theory of intersectionality as a framework. In one episode about James Baldwin, Jeremiah interviews author Alejandro Heredia. Alejandro’s book You’re the Only Friend I Need is part of the Black Queer Studies Collection.
Additionally, the selection committee was so impressed with two additional submissions that they awarded Honorable Mentions to Alexandria Cunningham, a graduate student in AADS, and Tolu Osunsade, a senior majoring in Public Health and AADS. Alexandria’s submission was a selection from her dissertation “The Black Freak Nasty Magic Project™ :: Choreographies of Play, Pleasure and Sexuality.” Tolu’s work was the research paper “The Harm in Reproductive Healthcare for Black Women and Gender Non-Conforming Individuals in The United States”.
These four students were recognized at the Awards Ceremony, held on Zoom on Friday, February 12. The ceremony included several guest speakers, including two of the collection’s co-founders. Matt Richardson shared the story of how he founded the Black Queer Studies Collection with librarians Kristen Hogan and Lindsey Schell, and he read from his recent novel Black Canvas: A Campus Haunting. Lindsey Schell and Xavier Livermon discussed their contributions to the BQSC, and Dee Dee Watters and Jo Hsu spoke about the life and legacy of Monica K. Roberts. Monica was known as the TransGriot, and she was a Houston-based transgender rights activist and blogger. The graduate award is named for her. Alexis Pauline Gumbs closed the ceremony with her presentation on “Archive as Oracle”, which included creative divination readings based on the poetry of Audre Lorde. The Black Queer Studies Collection includes Alexis’s books, such as Undrowned and M Archive: After the End of the World.
Many UT staff and faculty worked behind the scenes to make both the awards and the ceremony possible. Gina Bastone and Adriana Cásarez are the liaison librarians who curate and maintain the collection, and they partnered with professor Lyndon Gill from African and African Diaspora Studies to organize the awards and the event. The faculty selection committee included Hershini Young, Neville Hoad, and Nessette Falu.
The Libraries would like to thank our campus partners for sponsoring the awards ceremony and providing annual funding for the Black Queer Studies Collection. They include the African and African Diaspora Studies Department, the John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies, the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, the LGBTQ Studies Program, and the English Department. The prize money is dispersed through the UT Libraries, and primarily draws from the Black Queer Studies Collection Endowment, originally funded through a crowd-sourced fundraising campaign in 2021. To give to the Black Queer Studies Collection Endowment fund, please contact the UT Libraries Development Office.