Atlantic History, Historiography, Caribbeanist Historiography, Aquatic History, Political Ecology, Riverine and Littoral Spaces (West/Central Africa), Race (Blackness), Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, Political Theory
I am a PhD Student and Fulbright Scholar from SE London, England, in the Geography Department at the University of California, Berkeley. I am also part of the Berkeley Black Geographies Project. My research focuses on the aquatic histories of the Atlantic World and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, specifically charting the origins of racialisation and the association of Blackness with danger in the riverine, littoral waterscapes of West/Central Africa.
My research project is concerned with understanding the conditions whereby Blackness became associated with danger, terror, and criminality. I am interested in the origins of this in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and in sequentially theorizing three spatial contexts: (1) the riverine environments of the west/central African interior, (2) the littoral and coastal areas of this region, and (3) the slave ship and the shark. I will examine the processes which developed an association between Blackness and danger using the themes of risk, fear, and domination. In making these connections, my project will show how the long shadow of these associations reproduces the condition of Black subjugation through incarceration. Thus I show how the terrorization of the enslaved became terrorizing to the enslavers, how for the enslavers the enslaved became Black, and how Black became dangerous and criminalized.
BSc Politics and International Relations, University of Bristol (UK)
First Class with Honors, awarded October 2020
Study Abroad Exchange Year, University of California, Berkeley - (2018/2019)
University of California Education Abroad Program
Focus: Ancient History and African American Studies
I am interested in thinking through the danger of Blackness, and how this works beyond associations with criminalization and incarceration (Alexander, 2012). From within the context of the Black child, specifically the Black male teenager in the K-12 setting, I will investigate Special Educational Needs and 'challenging behavior'. This is a site that is both the extension of, and reproduction of, the historical association between Blackness and danger (Annamma, 2018; Brown et al, 2017). My work will also investigate and theorize disabled learning profiles within the political context of Blackness, exclusion and rebellion.
I will argue that an association between Blackness and danger was formalized in the interior spaces and waterscapes of West/Central Africa and on board the Slave Ship. Hence processes involving disabled Black children can be understood through the association between Blackness and danger, using the themes of risk, fear, and domination. The pathologization of non-disabled Black children then further 'Blackens' their educational experience, creating confinement within the school setting. These are spaces that can be physical detention units or are present conceptually in hostile pedagogical practices (Annamma, 2018). The management of the enslaved, including the invocation of an adult/child distinction - understood using these themes - then forms a historical template through which to understand Special Educational Needs and disabled learning profiles (Simplican, 2015).
Annamma, S.A. (2018) The Pedagogy of Pathologization: Dis/abled Girls of Color in the School-prison Nexus: The Pedagogy of Pathologization. New York: Routledge.
Brown, L. et al (eds) (2017) All the Weight of Our Dreams: On Living Racialized Autism. Lincoln, NE: DragonBee Press.
Simplican, S. Clifford. (2015) Capacity Contract Intellectual Disability and the Question of Citizenship. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
At UC Berkeley, I am an active neurodiversity advocate, campaigner and policy developer. In Fall 2022, I was nominated to serve on the UC Berkeley Graduate Divisions' inaugural 'Neurodiversity Task Force' - an initiative I helped to develop for the 2022/2023 academic year.
Currently, I am working with Dr Peter Cornish, the co-director of Student Mental Health at UC Berkeley, to co-lead a Neurodiversity project at UHS. I am co-leading a project to create a strengths-based and trauma-informed neurodiversity clinic and Neurodistinct affirming space that offers access-intimacy to all students. This project has four stages: launching the ADHD pilot clinic, mobilising campus partners in support of fundraising and grant-writing, developing a neurodiversity clinic, with the long-term goal of building a neurodivergent multicultural healing centre. This involves me working at the intersection of research, community engagement and administrative management.
I am also an advocate for disabled students and the politics of disability. As Project Director for the Graduate Assemblies Disabled Students Advocacy Project (2021-2022), I co-founded the Accessibility Beyond Compliance (ABC) initiative and co-wrote the 'DSP Crisis Quick Guide' with fellow Graduate Student Rosa Enriquez, M.S.W. The initiative secured $120k to use over a two-year development plan. ABC aims to create communities of staff, faculty and graduate students with the knowledge and resources to start making their educational environment more accessible, trauma-informed, and culturally responsive. Our program uses the #InclusiveByDesign framework developed by Stanford researcher Dr Lakshmi Balasubramanian and trauma-informed education research from Berkeley researcher Dr Renee Starowicz.
I have also authored a 24-page report named 'Exclusion by Design: An Infrastructure of Inaccessibility, and Systematic Disability Discrimination Practices.' This report examines the practices that lead to exclusion and discrimination against graduate students with disabilities. The report offers programmatic and policy improvements to better support graduate students. Although this report continues to prove controversial, it offered a launching point for a Fireside Chat with UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ on Disabled graduate students, and the agenda of the Graduate Divisions Neurodiversity Task Force.
During my time as a Diversity and Community Fellow (2021/2022 – 2022/2023), I co-led the development of the Graduate Student Child Welfare System Impacted Youth Initiative. Working alongside the Berkeley Hope Scholars (BHS), we organized the first town hall for this community under the Graduate Division's leadership. Our goals were to establish a new definition for child welfare system impacted youth, replace the outdated Federal definition of Foster Youth, and modify the Berkeley graduate application process to reflect this new definition. Additionally, we ensured that affected students were immediately directed to relevant campus services, received monthly funding for dinner, participated in a dual-mentorship model program, and doubled scholarship funding for Graduate students impacted by the child welfare system. Starting in Fall 2022, graduate students who've experienced the child welfare system will get $6k in scholarships, double the previous amount. This resulted in $40k in additional annual funding for this group of students.
I presented my strategic plan and achievements at the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) conference (Region 9) with BHS Director Charly King Beavers in 2022, to spur wider development. This led to me receiving the first-ever UC Regents Leadership Award for services to Foster Youth (2022).
active initiatives and programming
1. Fellow and Co-founder @ Accessibility Beyond Compliance (ABC) - (Spring 2022 to Present)
ABC is a new multi-year initiative at Cal that envisions a campus environment that is accessible and inclusive. Using expertise from long-time inclusive education and disability studies researchers and educators, the ABC workshop is a training that provides accessibility support to campus stakeholders, using an #InclusiveByDesign framework developed by Stanford researcher Dr. Lakshmi Balasubramanian, and trauma-informed and culturally responsive research from Berkeley researcher Dr. Renee Starowicz. This initiative sits between the Disability Community Center (DCC) and Equity and Inclusion at UC Berkeley.
2. Graduate Student Researcher and Co-Lead @ UHS Neurodiversity Project (Spring 2023)
Student Mental Health, The Center for Mental Health Innovation, and I are currently engaging in a project to build and deliver a specialist Neurodiversity clinic at University Health Services, and Neurodistinct spaces of access-intimacy.
3. Committee Member @ UC Berkeley Graduate Division Neurodiversity Task Force (Spring 2023)
The Task Force is charged with proposing what changes we believe need to happen for graduate education at Berkeley to serve its neurodivergent prospective and current students' needs. This taskforce was founded upon the work I led alongside Rosa Enriquez, MSW, to better listen to our disabled and neurodivergent graduate students on campus.
I have received numerous awards for my community engagement and also UK press attention for my advocacy, including website and YouTube profiles in The Times, Times Radio, ITV This Morning, BBC Radio 4 Today, and Ian Wright’s Everyday People podcast. I have also been invited to contribute chapters to two edited collections, Black, Brilliant and Dyslexic: Neurodivergent Heroes Tell their Stories and Square Pegs: Inclusivity, compassion and fitting in – a guide for schools, both focusing on my neurodiversity advocacy and biography.
Graduate Student Researcher (50%): UHS Neurodiversity Project – Student Mental Health – University Health Services (Spring 2023)
Graduate Student Reader: Urban Studies - 70AC Professor Brandi Summers (Spring 2021)
Graduate Student Researcher: Geography Department Anti-Racism Working Group (Fall 2020 to Spring 2021)
Scholarships & Awards
The University of California Regents Leadership Award for Services to Foster Youth 2022, University of California
- Awarded by President Michael Drake and Chair of the Regents Richard Leib; I was the inaugural recipient of this now annual award.
The Fulbright Scholarship: The Fulbright All Discipline Award (2020/2021) - US-UK Fulbright Commission
The Fulbright Alumni Award:(2020/2021)
- Awarded to Fulbrighters who ‘embody exceptional ambassadorial qualities’, limited to one annual award. It is the highest additional accreditation the US-UK Fulbright Commission can give.
Harvard History Project Research Grant (2022/2023) – Harvard University, Center for History and Economics, History Department, Faculty of Arts and Sciences
- Selective and merit-based small grant fellowship available, open to scholars from around the world
The John L. Simpson Pre-Dissertation Research Fellowship in International & Area Studies (2022/2023) – UC Berkeley, Global, International and Area Studies (GIAS)
- Selective and merit-based small grant fellowship available to UC Berkeley Graduate students conducting pre-dissertation summer research
Political Economy of Technology Research Fund (2022/2023) – UC Berkeley, The Berkeley Economy and Society Initiative (BESI)
- Selective and merit-based small grant fellowship available to UC Berkeley PhD Students in the College of Letters and Science
BIPOC Scholarship (2022/2023) – Point Foundation, LGBT Scholarship Fund
- Selective merit & identity-based small grant awarded to BIPOC LGBT Students for their community engagement, activism, and educational attainment
Geography Department Summer Research Fellowship (2022/2023) - UC Berkeley
- Merit-based fellowship fund available to Geography PhD students conducting research over the summer.
Diversity and Community Fellow, UC Berkeley Graduate Division (2021/2022 – 2022/2023)
- Fellows advance and implement the diversity and inclusion goals of the Office for Graduate Diversity and the Graduate Division.
Andrew W. Mellon Black Studies Collaboratory Summer Fellowship (2021/2022) - UC Berkeley African-American Studies Department
- Selective and merit-based small grants available to faculty, staff and students whose research centers ‘Blackness’ and collaboration.
Geography Department Summer Research Fellowship (2021/2022) - UC Berkeley
- Selective and merit-based fellowship fund available to Geography PhD students conducting research over the summer.
R. Kirk Underhill Graduate Fellowship (2020/2021) - UC Berkeley
- Selective and merit-based fellowship, awarded to graduate students whose research focuses on Anglo-American affairs, and US-UK relations or comparisons.
conferences & symposia
University of Washington, Department of Geography Colloquium, Seattle, WA - April 14th 2023 [virtual]
- Panelist, title: Communities of Care for Disability in the Academy and Beyond
American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting 2023, Denver, CO - March 24th 2023 [virtual]
- Panelist, title: Cripping Geographical Research
Andrew W. Mellon Black Studies Collaboratory Small Grantee Symposium 2022, UC Berkeley, CA - September 9th, 2022
- Panelist, title: ‘The Death Walk: Special Educational Needs and Psychiatry as Encounters of Confinement’
National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) Region 9/CAL-CAAN Conference 2022, Orange County, CA – March 16th–18th, 2022
- Co-Lead Workshop Facilitator/Presenter, title: ‘Don't Stop, Won't Stop: From Foster Care to Graduate School’
MediaX at Stanford University series: Flying Without Co-pilots: Opportunities to Bridge Gaps in the Support Ecosystem for Children with Autism, Stanford, CA – January 12th, 2022 [virtual]
- Panelist, title: ‘The Relationship between Blackness, Autism and Carcerality’
The Al Noor Global Summit 2021: Frontiers of Disability Rehabilitation and Inclusion International Virtual Conference, Dubai UAE –December 11th -12th , 2021 [virtual]
- An international conference sponsored by a Dubai/UAE Educational Initiative
- Panelist, title: ‘Academic Ableism, Racism and Social Mobility Narratives’
UC Berkeley Leadership Academy Neurodiversity Workshop – UC Berkeley, CA - October 28th, 2021 [virtual]
- Keynote Panelist, title: ‘Neurodivergence, Race and Educational Displacement’