SJI Team PIcture at Fall Reception, 2014

Staff Profiles


Barbara RansbyBarbara Ransby


Professor Barbara Ransby is an historian, writer and longtime community activist. She received her B.A. from Columbia University and her M.A. and Ph.D in History from the University of Michigan. Barbara Ransby is currently a Professor of African American Studies, Gender and Women’s Studies (director, 2008-2013), and History at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) where she directs the campus-wide Social Justice Initiative. She previously served as Interim Vice Provost for Planning and Programs (2011 -2012). Her highly acclaimed biography, Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision received eight national awards and recognitions. Professor Ransby is also winner of the prestigious Catherine Prelinger Prize for her contributions to women’s history. Her most recent book is Eslanda: The Large and Unconventional Life of Mrs. Paul Robeson (Yale University Press, 2013).

Ransby has also published in numerous scholarly and popular publications and lectures widely. She serves on the editorial boards of The Black Commentator, (an online journal); the London-based journal, Race and Class; the Justice, Power and Politics Book Series at University of North Carolina Press; and the Scholar’s Advisory Committee of Ms. Magazine, as well as the National Advisory Board of “Imagining America”. In the summer of 2012 she became the second Editor in Chief of SOULS, a critical journal of Black Politics, Culture and Society published quarterly since 1999. In addition to her scholarship, Professor Ransby is a public historian who works with many community based and activist organizations.


Emily WilliamsEmily Williams

Associate Director

Emily is an educator with a background in curriculum and program design in community settings. She has taught on the U.S.-Mexico border in Reynosa, Mexico and in the U.S. public school system. Additionally she coordinated the Community Service Scholarship program at DePaul University. Emily is involved with the Chicago Girl Talk Collective, the Chicago Grassroots Curriculum Taskforce, and the U.S. Africa Network. She holds a B.A. in Psychology from Beloit College and an M.A. in Women’s and Gender Studies from DePaul University.


CharlotteCharlotte Jackson

Business Manager

Charlotte Jackson, Assistant to the Director. Charlotte received a B.A. in History from University of Illinois at Chicago. Having assisted with the West Side Women in Action project several years ago, Charlotte is interested in examining the legacy of Chicago’s west side Lawndale Community in the aftermath of the King Riots of 1968. After a long leave, Charlotte will return to working on a M.S. in Library and Information Science at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, concentrating in Community Informatics.  

jen bioJennifer Ash

Graduate Assistant

Jennifer Scism Ash is a native North Carolinian where she was a campus community organizer and graduate of Western Carolina University (BA, history) and UNC-Greensboro (MA- U.S. history).  Currently Jennifer is a graduate student in the Ph.D. program in History at UIC, where she focuses on African American women’s history and is also earning a graduate certificate from the Gender and Women’s Studies program.  In NC, she helped organize students, faculty, and staff at local colleges and universities and was a faculty member at Bennett College from 2008 until 2013.  In particular she was a faculty advisor to Bennett College’s LGBTQ/straight alliance- BRIDE, a faculty advisor to the social justice living/learning community, and served on the Africna Women’s Studies Steering Committee.  She is also an affiliate of Scholars for North Carolina’s Future, an organization of people in higher education committed to using knowledge across a variety of disciplines to foster informed conversations about North Carolina’s history and current challenges. 

Sergio CuetoSergio Cueto

Student Coordinator

Sergio Cueto, is an undergraduate student majoring in Latin American and Latino Studies with a minor in Sociology. For SJI, Sergio is a Student Coordinator helping out with administrative tasks. Prior to joining SJI, Sergio worked at the UIC Gender and Sexuality Center and at Erie Neighborhood House. In the fall of 2014 Sergio studied abroad in Costa Rica, his coursework had an emphasis on Social Justice. During his spare time Sergio is a volunteer for the Chicago Latino Film Festival.

skylaSkyla Hearn


When I was a child I enjoyed “rummaging” through my Grandmother’s purse and treasure hunting in my parent’s den. My father was an antique collector with an eye for the obscure. He collected late 19th and early 20th century furniture, oil and pastel paintings, books with African-esque focused subjects including photography books and personal relics---clothes, jewelry and other folks’ family photo albums. It was the search, research and lack of discovery that has lead me into my various “callings” as a fine art photographer, curator, special collections librarian and archivist. In my primary line of work as an archivist, I am excused for my nosey practices, praised for not tossing “stuff” and champion for the unknown, often unsung community, cultural and societal contributors often from African American and other marginalized backgrounds.

My professional journey began in 2006 with the Katherine Dunham Digitization Project in the Special Collections Research Center at Morris Library (SIUC) and has included a plethora of amazing encounters from working with acclaimed librarians, archivists, scholars and artists to completing and collaborating on projects at the University of Turabo in San Juan, the Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature (Chicago Public Library), the Institute for Museum and Library Services/The HistoryMakers, Inc., Never-the-Same Chicago Ephemera Archive, the South Side Community Art Center and currently with the UIC Social Justice Initiative and UIC Library-Special Collections. I hold a Master of Science in LIS with a Special Collections certificate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; a Bachelor of Art in Mass Communications and Media Arts with a minor in Black American Studies (currently Africana Studies) from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale; and an AGS from Harold Washington City College of Chicago.

Marco RocMarco Roc

Graduate Assistant

Marco Durce Roc received his B.A. in Sociology and African American Studies from Temple University and his M.A. in Sociology from University of Illinois at Chicago, where he is currently a doctoral student. His dissertation project critically explores how community-police partnerships address community violence. He is also currently part of a research team that focuses on the experiences of youth who trade sex. His research interests also include anti-Black racism, social control, and state violence. In addition to his role with the Social Justice Initiative, he has also been active on campus. He was member of the Student Advisory Group on the DSTP Committee, has been an assistant for IRRPP’s writing accountability group program, and a Black History Month Planning Committee member. He is currently president of Mojo’s Pen, which is a student organization that hosts open mics and gives artistic expression to the African Diasporic experience. He is also a member of the Illinois Campaign to End the New Jim Crow.