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Fronteras: UTSA Furthering Efforts To A More Equitable Future With Support From Major Grant

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Protestors march up Guadalupe St. into San Antonio's West Side on Sep. 11, 2020.
Joey Palacios | Texas Public Radio
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Protestors march up Guadalupe St. into San Antonio's West Side on Sep. 11, 2020.
Rhonda M. Gonzales, professor and chair of UTSA’s Department of History.
The University of Texas at San Antonio
Rhonda M. Gonzales, professor and chair of UTSA’s Department of History and co-collaborator of "Democratizing Racial Injustice: Remembering Histories, Transforming Futures."

Calls for social justice were amplified in 2020 following the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other men and women of color — many of them unarmed.

Last year’s racial awakening has since transitioned into legislation after House lawmakers on March 3 passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. The bill now moves to the upper chamber, where Senate Democrats must garner the support of at least 10 of their Republican colleagues.

But calls for a more equitable future are extending beyond Capitol Hill as institutions of higher education are spurring projects to address injustices within democracy and civil society. The University of Texas at San Antonio is among them and was recently awarded a $5 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to further these efforts.

“Not everybody in [the] community makes it into a higher education space,” said Rhonda M. Gonzales, professor and chair of UTSA’s Department of History. “So bridging that divide was of central importance to us, and I suppose that's what struck the Andrew Mellon Foundation.”

Gonzales and Alejandra Elenes, professor and chair of the Department of Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (REGSS) at UTSA are co-collaborators of the project “Democratizing Racial Injustice: Remembering Histories, Transforming Futures,” which was developed and led by Jackie Cuevas, associate professor and assistant chair of the Department of REGSS.

With support from the grant, the project will support educators’ effort to bring more awareness and hands-on learning opportunities on racial and social justice to San Antonio. It’s an interdisciplinary effort involving scholars, students and local nonprofits that have been longtime advocates for disenfranchised communities.

“We knew that opportunity existed in our own drive for systemic social justice change,” said Gonzales, “But also recognize that we had long wished for an opportunity to truly bring in what we might refer to as ‘organic intellectuals’ — people who are actually living and experiencing what we might call injustice in its many forms, racial injustice being one of them.”

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Norma Martinez can be reached at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter at @NormDog1
Lauren Terrazas can be reached at lauren@tpr.org and on Twitter at @terrazas_lauren