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UC Santa Barbara professors win MacArthur endowment for racial justice project

Following a mass shooting at UC Santa Barbara in 2014, the campus began looking for new ways to rebuild community and trust. Professor Jeffrey Stewart decided to use his experience with the history of jazz to create a safe space for community growth. Partnering with Professor Victor Rios, the pair created the Jazz Coffeehouse pop-up, an initiative that has since won the pair a $1 million MacArthur endowment.

The pop-up features live music, spoken word, and discussions about critical social issues. It’s a place for students to vocalize their opinions and collaborate on solutions.

The MacArthur Foundation’s new focus on criminal justice led them to the Jazz Coffeehouse. With the funding, the professors plan to launch a five-year tour of their pop-ups in cities throughout California. Their traveling pop-up will focus not only on community building but also on racial justice and education.

Stewart told The Independent, “I was saying maybe we should go down to Los Angeles and try to start doing this, try to create a sense that the promised land of California is not just for the adults, the privileged, the well-heeled.”

The coffeehouse is a classic symbol of community and the pop-up’s ultimate goal is to not only build connections and discussions within California’s marginalized communities but also emphasize that these ideas and voices have value in wider circles as well.

Rios says the central question behind the project is “How can we support our children in a way that provides some dignity, provides some prosperity, and acknowledges them and their families as central contributors to the making of this society.”

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