Samuel Kelton Roberts, Jr. (STSI Director)

Samuel Kelton Roberts is Associate Professor of History (Columbia University School of Arts & Sciences), and Associate Professor of Sociomedical Sciences (Columbia Mailman School of Public Health). He writes and lectures widely about black politics and history, especially issues pertaining to public health. He is the author of Infectious Fear: Politics, Disease, and the Health Effects of Segregation (University of North Carolina Press, 2009), and is currently researching and writing a book-length project on the policy and politics of race, addiction treatment, and the United States’ War on Drugs between the 1950s and the 1990s, a period which covers the heroin and crack cocaine eras and the early years of methadone maintenance treatment (MMT), and syringe exchange programs (SEPs). Dr. Roberts has served as a member of the Mailman School of Public Health’s Working Group on Mass Incarceration and Public Health, and as the Policy Coordinator of Columbia University’s Criminal Justice Initiative. He also was the organizer of the conferencem “Challenging Punishment: Race, Public Health, and the War on Drugs” (4-5 October 2013, in New York City). He tweets from @SamuelKRoberts

Zaheer Ali

Named one of Brooklyn Magazine's "100 Most Influential People in Brooklyn Culture" in 2016, Zaheer Ali is the Oral Historian at Brooklyn Historical Society, a nationally recognized urban history center founded in 1863. As Brooklyn Historical Society's Oral Historian, he records, collects, archives, and curates the lived histories, testimonies, memoirs, and narrations of Brooklynites from all walks of life. Previously, he served under the direction of the late Manning Marable, as project manager and senior researcher of the Malcolm X Project (MXP) at Columbia University, and contributed as a lead researcher for Marable's Pulitzer Prize-winning biography Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention (2011). He is currently an adjunct lecturer at New York University's School of Professional Studies, where he teaches American history.

Afua Atta-Mensah

Afua Atta-Mensah is the  Executive Director of Community Voices Heard (CVH) a member-led multi-racial organization, principally women of color and low-income families in New York State that builds power to secure social, economic and racial justice for all.  Afua was previously the Director of Litigation for the Safety Net Project at the Urban Justice Center where she oversaw the project’s affirmative litigation on behalf of plaintiff classes and individuals in federal and state courts.  Prior to her tenure at the Urban Justice Center, Afua worked for the Center for Working Families and the Legal Aid Society.   In 2008, Afua was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship in support of her work at the International Federation of Women Attorneys (FIDA) in Accra, Ghana. While in Ghana, Ms. Atta-Mensah advocated on behalf of indigent women living in the Ashanti Region before regional and local courts seeking the equitable distribution of household property after the dissolution of a marriage. She also worked with area lawyers to develop proposed legislation, for a marital rape law, and served as a visiting lecturer at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST). Afua, who is a Harlem resident, holds a law degree from Fordham Univ. School of Law, and a BA in Sociology and African American History from Trinity College.  Ms. Atta-Mensah has been a member of the Board of Trustees at St. Barnabas Hospital, the Board of Governors of the Healthcare Trustees of New York State, and African Communities Together.

Melissa Barber

Dr. Melissa Barber is a South Bronx native and single mother of a beautiful and amazingly gifted autistic child, Delilah Christina Barber. Dr. Barber completed medical training at the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) in Havana, Cuba, and belongs to the ELAM contingent of Cuba’s Henry Reeve Medical Brigade, a disaster relief medical mission. Dr. Barber examined the themes of mass incarceration and poverty from a biblical and social justice perspective at Union Theological Seminary as a participant in a two-year program called “Engaging the Powers” and within their Poverty Initiative group. Currently, Melissa works at the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization as the Program Coordinator for the ELAM Medical Scholarship program; serves as a co-founding member of South Bronx Unite; is a board member of the Mott Haven-Port Morris Community Land Stewards; is co-founder and Chief Medical Officer of Radical Health Inc.; is a member and advocate for the national maternal-infant organization, the Birthing Project USA: the Underground Railroad for New Life, for which she serves as an Ambassador for their SisterFriend Safe Birth Kits. She is also a member and co-organizer of the Bronx Parents Autism Support Circle, which educates and provides resources and support to Bronx families with loved ones on the autism spectrum. Dr. Barber dreams of establishing community medicine clinics in the South Bronx, based in the Cuban model, which incorporates and addresses all aspects of health and wellness.

Dante Barry

Dante Barry is a Black writer, grassroots organizer, and digital campaigner. Dante is currently at the helm of the country’s leading Black and Brown led national racial justice network to end mass criminalization and gun violence, Million Hoodies Movement for Justice. Million Hoodies develops next generation leaders to combat anti-black racism and systemic violence to create the conditions for a safer and just world. As the Executive Director, Dante works out of the National Office and collaborates with staff, board, and national leadership to build a powerful network of emerging human rights leaders on the front lines for radical social change.Previously, Dante led organizing, policy, and leadership development programs at the Center for Media Justice, the Roosevelt Institute, and School Based Health Alliance. Barry frequently contributes to MSNBC, The Nation Magazine, The Guardian, Huffington Post, EBONY Magazine, Truthout, Al Jazeera America, and has been featured in, The Future We Want: Radical Ideas for the New Century, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and Democracy Now.  In 2015, Barry presented at the Personal Democracy Forum to discuss the role of technology and social movements. Barry has been honored by Revolt TV, The Root, and Huffington Post Black Voices for his contributions to the racial justice and Black liberation movements. A graduate of Monmouth University, Dante received his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Communications.

Ansley Erickson

Ansley T. Erickson is a historian who focuses on educational inequality, the place of schooling in the American urban landscape and economy, and African American history. She earned her Ph.D. in U.S. History from Columbia University. She has been an Assistant Professor of History and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University since 2011, and was an NAE/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow for 2012-13. Erickson’s first book, Making the Unequal Metropolis: School Desegregation and Its Limits was published by the University of Chicago Press in 2016. She has been awarded the Bancroft Dissertation Prize, the Claude A. Eggertsen Dissertation Prize, and the History of Education Prize for her co-authored article Segregation as Splitting, Segregation as Joining: Schools, Housing, and the Many Modes of Jim Crow, published in the American Journal of Education in 2015. Erickson’s writing has appeared in History of Education Quarterly, Journal of Urban History, Teachers College Record, American Journal of Education, and Dissent. Erickson co-directs the collaborative research project Educating Harlem at Teachers College, and is co-editor of the project’s edited volume on the history of education in Harlem in the 20th century, now under contract with Columbia University Press. On Twitter: @ATErickson

Crystal Feimster

Crystal N. Feimster, a native of North Carolina, is an associate professor in the Department of African American Studies, the American Studies Program and History Department at Yale University, where she teaches a range of courses in 19th and 20thcentury African American history, women’s history, and southern history. She has also taught at Boston College, UNC-Chapel Hill, and Princeton.  She earned her Masters Degree and Ph. D. in history from Princeton University and her BA in History and Women’s Studies from UNC-Chapel Hill.  Her manuscript, Southern Horrors: Women and the Politics of Rape and Lynching  (Harvard University Press, 2009), examines the roles of both black and white women in the politics of racial and sexual violence in the American South.  She is currently working on two book projects: Sexual Warfare: Rape and the American Civil War and Mutiny at Fort Jackson: A Case Study of Wartime Freedom.

Steven Fullwood

Steven G. Fullwood is the former curator of the Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. He also oversees “In the Life Archive,” a project devoted to acquiring and preserving historical materials created by and about LGBTQ life of people of African descent. Fullwood holds a BA in English and Broadcasting from the University of Toledo and an MLS from Clark Atlanta University. He is co-editor of the anthology, Black Gay Genius: Answering Joseph Beam’s Call (with Charles Stephens, 2014). His other publications include Think Again (with Colin Robinson, 2003), Funny (2004), and To Be Left With the Body (with Cheryl Clarke, 2008).

Michelle Hall

Michelle Hall is the Associate Director for Educational Programs at the CTL. She provides cross-campus leadership and direction around services, technology platforms, and faculty development aimed at faculty and academic departments. Michelle has designed and developed numerous successful educational technology programs and workshops for faculty at Columbia University.
Before joining the CTL, Michelle worked as an instructional designer, creating web-based learning courses for Citigroup’s Risk Management division and McGraw Hill Construction’s Continuing Education Center. Prior to that, she served for several years as a secondary-school teacher of biology and chemistry in Barbados. Michelle has an M.A. in Computing and Education from Teachers College. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Cognitive Studies in Education at Teachers College.
Michelle volunteers her program design and communications talents to Global Doctors for Choice, an international network of physicians that advocates for access to safe, comprehensive, evidence-based reproductive health care.

Rujeko Hockley

Rujeko Hockley is Assistant Curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art, former Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art at Brooklyn Museum, and co-organizer of We Wanted A Revolution: Black Radical Women 1965-85, currently on view  at the  Brooklyn Museum. Her interests include modern and contemporary art, with a particular focus on conceptual and other avant-garde practices, social movements, and the African diaspora. She earned a B.A. in art history from Columbia University. She is a Ph.D. candidate in art history, theory and criticism at the University of California, San Diego. Hockley worked as Curatorial Assistant at The Studio Museum in Harlem (2005–2007). She has also organized exhibitions and programs at various independent spaces in San Diego and New York, and has written broadly on contemporary art. 

Mychal Johnson

Mychal Johnson has a long-standing track record in community-based advocacy for environmental and economic justice.  He is a co-founder of South Bronx Unite and a member of the Board of Directors of the Mott Haven-Port Morris Community Land Stewards.  He also serves on the Board of Directors of the Bronx Council for Environmental Quality, the Board of Directors of the NYC Community Land Initiative, the Watershed Advisory Committee of the Park’s Department Harlem River Watershed and Natural Resources Management Plan and the Community Advisory Board of Columbia University’s NIEHS Center for Environmental Health in Northern Manhattan. Mychal was also appointed as a civil society voting member of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Open Space Committee, selected by the United Nations to serve as one of 38 global civil society appointees to the historic UN Climate Summit in 2014 and invited by the Bolivian government to participate in the World Peoples Conference on Climate Change.

Ashley Kingon

Ashley Kingon is a Learning Designer at the CTL. Ashley is based on Columbia’s Medical Campus and works primarily with the College of Physicians & Surgeons and the Mailman School of Public Health. Ashley is also the co-lead for Columbia’s WikispacesWikischolars, and Canvas (Learning Management System) platforms.

Before joining the CTL, Ashley served as the Communications and Administration Coordinator for the Global Master’s in Development Practice Secretariat, based at Columbia University. Ashley focused on developing the GMDP’s suite of online ‘global courses,’ as well as overseeing the development of the GMDP website and course management system. Ashley graduated with a B.A. in Cognitive Science from Brown University and an M.S. in Sustainability Management from Columbia University.

Minkah Makalani

Minkah Makalani, Associate Professor of African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, is an intellectual historian who works on radicalism, black political thought, culture, racial formation, and diaspora in the Caribbean, US, and Europe. He is the author of In the Cause of Freedom: Radical Black Internationalism from Harlem to London, 1917-1939, and co-editor (with Davarian Baldwin) of Escape from New York: The New Negro Renaissance beyond Harlem. His work has appeared in the journals Souls, Social Text, Journal of African American History, and Women, Gender, and Families of Color, as well as the collections, White Out: The Continuing Significance of Racism, Outside In: The Transnational Circuitry of U.S. History, and C.L.R. James’ Beyond a Boundary Fifty Years On. He is currently working on a study of C. L. R. James’s return to Trinidad (1958-1962) that gives particular attention to his thinking about democracy, the arts, and Africa in conceptualizing a Caribbean political future beyond liberal democracy. This work is tentatively titled, Calypso Conquered the World: C.L.R. James and the Politically Unimaginable in Trinidad.

Joanne N. Smith

Joanne N. Smith, founder and Executive Director, moves Girls for Gender Equity (GGE) closer to its mission through strategic advocacy, development, and leadership cultivation. Ms. Smith is a Haitian-American social worker born in NY. A staunch human rights advocate, Smith is co-chair of the nation's first Young Women's Initiative for girls of color in NYC, steering committee member of Black Girl Movement and a Movement Maker with Move to End Violence -a 10-year initiative designed to strengthen the collective capacity to end gender based violence in the United States. Smith is featured on the summer 2016 Gender Justice issue of YES! Magazine sharing her experience of intersectional feminism.  Joanne is an alumna of Hunter Graduate School of Social Work and Columbia Institute for Nonprofit Management. She has co-authored Hey Shorty: A Guide to Combating Sexual Harassment and Violence in Public Schools and on the Streets. Girls for Gender Equity's work to combat sexual harassment in schools is featured in the 2014 documentary Anita: Speak Truth to Power. Smith resides in Brooklyn, NY. More information about Girls for Gender Equity (GGE) may be found at

Please reload

STSI PResenters


Seminar Leaders

Meet our STSI seminar leaders, who are some of the leading scholars in their fields. They will  guide us through the many worlds of Black Activist New York.

Website designed by Zoraida Lopez-Diago