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UHD Center for Critical Race Studies Partners With Houston’s Project Row Houses

Upcoming Art Round Focuses on Critical Race Theory


By Sheryl E. Taylor

Painting by artist Steve Johnson

UHD Center for Critical Race Studies and Houston’s Project Row Houses are collaborating to host Round 53: “The Curious Case of Critical Race … Theory?” March 12 - June 5.

This unique partnership came to fruition thanks to a community relationship with Dr. Felicia Harris, Assistant Director of the UHD Center for Critical Race Studies (CCRS) and Associate Professor of Communication Studies, and Terri Hamm, founder of Kindred Stories, a Black-owned bookstore currently housed on-site with Project Row Houses (PRH). Hamm recommended the CCRS partner with PRH after learning of this month’s art round theme, “The Curious Case of Critical Race ... Theory?”

Hamm connected Harris with PRH’s curator Danielle Burns Wilson to include the CCRS into the art round’s narrative.

“The goal of our education house is to offer a space where visitors to the art round can come and have some of their questions answered about critical race theory (CRT), and to get information that hasn’t been shared widely throughout mainstream media coverage of the current debate about the theory,” noted Harris. “Furthermore, it’s a space that offers information that can be used to illuminate what viewers will be seeing through the fantastic artwork that will be installed in the additional art houses in the round.” 

This partnership with PRH and CCRS is significant to a community-wide vision, mission and experiential learning experiences for UHD students.

“Our mission at the Center is to produce knowledge, transform lives and empower communities, so a partnership with PRH is a natural and welcome fit,” said Harris. “PRH’s mission is to empower people and enrich communities through engagement, art and direct action. Community empowerment and transformation are shared pillars in the missions of both the Center and PRH. This project is significant because it gives us the opportunity to bring our academic insights on critical race theory to Houston’s local community in an engaging and creative format.”

She added, “And UHD students are gaining hands-on experience working with an organization that highlights the importance of education, creativity and awareness in community transformation.”

Created in the 1970s by legal scholars, CRT was developed as a tool for scholarly analysis of the structural and racial disparities that endure in our society and engender differential experiences of law and policy across lines of difference.

“The idea was to get us to think about racism as structural and systemic, as opposed to the more prevalent notion that racism manifests only through the thoughts and deeds of individuals,” Harris explained.

She emphasized the impact the University of Houston-Downtown has on the Greater Houston communities, noting how UHD threads education into timely and relevant conversations that are impacting those communities every day.

“So often, academics and academic centers are criticized for talking about highbrow issues in academic circles only. What’s unique about this partnership is that it allows us to tackle a timely and relevant conversation on an academic topic (CRT) while in direct conversation with Houston’s local community. Now that CRT has gained the interest of Texas legislators, it’s important to have this dialogue within the community so that Houstonians and Texans can become more aware of how current and forthcoming legislation could have a lasting impact, particularly in the realm of education,” she said.

“The invitation to participate in this round is significant for us at the Center because it demonstrates our growing reputation as an academic center that can engage with the public on issues that impact our everyday lives, and it allows us to continue to expand our ability to partner with even more organizations doing the work to empower and transform the Houston area. Furthermore, the opportunity for our students to see, in real time, how what they are learning in the classroom translates to issues of legislation, policy and community impact is priceless.” 

Participating artists include Leah Gipson, David-Jeremiah, Adam W. McKinney, Tammie Rubin, Bradley Ward and ROUX, a collective comprising Rabéa Ballin, Ann Johnson, Delita Martin and Lovie Olivia.

Visit Project Row Houses to learn more.

About the University of Houston-Downtown

The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD)—the second largest university in Houston—has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974.

As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates more than 15,000 students; boasts more than 60,000 alumni and offers 45 bachelor’s, nine master’s degree programs and 16 fully online programs within five colleges (Marilyn Davies College of Business; Humanities & Social Sciences; Public Service; Sciences & Technology; and University College).

For the fourth consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report ranks UHD among universities across the nation for Best Online Criminal Justice Programs (No. 27 and No. 15 for Veterans) and Best Online Bachelor’s Programs.

UHD has the most affordable tuition among four-year universities in Houston and one of the lowest in Texas. U.S. News ranked the University among Top Performers on Social Mobility and a No. 1 ranking as the most diverse institution of higher education in the southern region of the U.S. The University is noted nationally as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, Minority-Serving Institution and Military Friendly School. For more on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit www.uhd.edu.