This has been a big week for me at Bennett College. I have been driving the 50 miles to Greensboro every day [I leave once again in an hour], visiting classes with my research expert, Ms. Dania Francis, who is being paid on the Spencer Foundation grant I was able to secure. Dania is a brilliant young woman -- graduated from Smith College at nineteen, went to Harvard to do Economics and did not take to that rather odd environment, left Academia for a while, and is now about to get her doctorate in Public Policy at Duke University. Dania lives in Boston with her husband and her tiny baby, Sloan. Her dissertation director at Duke is William "Sandy" Garrity, Jr.
Sandy Garrity's father was William Garrity Sr, the founding Dean at UMass of the School of Health Sciences. Bill Garrity was one of a small band of African-American scholars and administrators who for decades served as an informal network of support for the Black students who found their way to UMass. When I joined the UMass Afro-American Studies Department, after twenty-one years on the campus in the Philosophy Department, I learned of this community within the commuinity for the first time. It was one of the many things I learned about UMass by changing departments.
While Dania was on the Bennett Campus, I took her in to meet Esther Terry, my former Chair of Afro-American Studies at UMass and now the Interim President of Bennett. Esther, of course, was an old and very good friend of the Garritys, and she greeted Dania warmly, in effect welcoming her into that circle. The next day, Dania had a meeting wtih Sandy Garrity at Duke about her dissertation, and when we met later that day at Bennett, she said that she had told him about meeting Esther.
"I think she used to baby-sit me," this distinguished senior Duke professor said.
It takes a village.