Cambridge, MA: Harvard Kennedy School today announced that Devon Jerome Crawford will serve as the inaugural staff director of the William Monroe Trotter Collaborative for Social Justice at The Center for Public Leadership.
Named for William Monroe Trotter, the first African-American Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Harvard and founding influence of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Collaborative will expand the civil rights and social justice legacy of William Monroe Trotter. Leveraging the expertise of on-the-ground practitioners across the country, Trotter Collaborative programming will support excellence in the practice of social justice by supporting applied research and the use of evidence in advocacy and activism. It will bring together Harvard faculty, staff, and students with leaders in communities across the country to create social impact and build advocacy for transformative public policy.
The Trotter Collaborative is led by faculty director Cornell William Brooks, professor of the practice of public leadership and social justice at Harvard Kennedy School, and former president and CEO of the NAACP.
“The sacred memory of William Monroe Trotter beckons us to engage power at all levels –from the White House to State Houses to City Halls –using nonviolent direct action and radical love,” said Crawford. “For these reasons and more, I am excited to join my colleagues at Harvard Kennedy School and leading this collaborative with my mentor and beloved brother Rev. Cornell Brooks.”
Crawford brings academic and organizing rigor to a career focused on catalyzing systemic social change. As a licensed minister and nonviolent activist, Crawford organized students in the Atlanta University Center Consortium to march and protest the extrajudicial killings of Black people by police officers following the death of Michael Brown. In 2017, he garnered national attention for his organization of the Mobile, AL sit-in protesting Jeff Session’s nomination as Attorney General.
Crawford, with Brooks, will design and lead an interdisciplinary strategy for students and faculty working with communities addressing core social justice challenges. Community partners will build capacity on issues such as algorithms and biased policing; voter suppression; environmental discrimination; pre-school to prison pipeline; municipal fines; and modern debtors’ prisons.
“From the academy, to the pulpit, to the streets of Chicago, to Dynamite Hill in Alabama, Devon Crawford has distinguished himself as an activist, advocate, movement intellectual and minister,” said Brooks. “After meeting in the back of a police van protesting police brutality, I have witnessed his authentic leadership from criminal justice to voting rights, from the NAACP to now Harvard Kennedy School. He stands in the intellectual lineage and moral legacy of William Monroe Trotter.”
Crawford said: "As I retrace the steps of my journey from Dynamite Hill to Harvard University, I realize that life's challenges and opportunities have shaped me in unfathomable ways for this moment. We are living in an opportunistic time in which the energy of activists, the engaged research of scholars, and the strategies of organizers can be harnessed together to create a revolution of values and vision for America.”
Early in his career Crawford served as a Humanity in Action fellow for the NAACP, where he connected the polls to pop culture, leading a countrywide millennial voter campaign in partnership with Chance the Rapper’s Magnificent Coloring world tour. He was also named an Oprah Winfrey South Africa and Zimbabwe Leadership Fellow (Morehouse College) and a John Lewis Fellow (Humanity in Action). A scholar of African and African-American religious ethics, historical theory, the intersection of faith and politics, and social movements in the U.S., Crawford’s writing and activism have been featured in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Washington Post, CNN, The Chicago Tribune, and The Birmingham Times.
He is a native of Birmingham, AL and an honors graduate of Morehouse College. Crawford was awarded his M.Div from the University of Chicago.
About the Center for Public Leadership
The Center for Public Leadership at Harvard Kennedy School develops principled, effective public leaders. A global hub for leadership learning, we integrate academic preparation with practice to build knowledge and character required to make positive change in the world.
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