Scholars including Jeo R. Feagin, in the article “The Continuing Significance of Racism Discrimination Against Students in White Colleges,” report an sustained feeling of alienation experienced by Black students, and students of color in other minority groups. The general assumption assumes tokenism impacts the experiences of students of color but do not address 1) the mental health resources (or lack of) available to students of color and 2) the accessibility or reliability of mental health tools for the various intersections of minority identifiers. I am studying/working on the implementation of a creative, community narrative project that assists students of color in combating tokenism on predominantly white college and universities. I argue that by using artistic, qualitative research, and digital humanities methodologies it becomes possible to deterritorialize and defamiliarize predominantly white spaces, while empowering students of color through emotional social support.

The primary sources I will be studying include the archival data preserved in Project: Token: oral narrative interviews (both previous and continued) from 17 students of color at Davidson College, and photographs. Alongside, I will develop a critical framework for understanding 1) the impact of art as a mental health practice, 2) deterritorializing/defamiliarizing spaces through language, and 3) innovative, ethical community building through digital humanities. I will rely on my personal archive and scholarly databases.

I am interested in continuing to make predominantly white spaces, rooted in colonial legacies, safer for the people of color. Colleges and universities harbor students of color for four years, yet may not be equipped with the necessary tools for that student’s healthy, and safe, racial development. As a black male, my racial learning has occurred through a series of physically and emotionally violent moments. Microaggressions manifest through subtle acts and language that cumulatively chip away at a student’s mental integrity. I cannot promise a cure to racial tensions, but can develop a tool for students of color to rely on for additional support. Others would be interested in a community platform that benefits the campuses most marginalized student groups. Currently, I have already gathered the first leg of qualitative research, and need a more intentional focus on synthesizing data into creative, digital mediums. Therefore, the project becomes viable in its expansion and will focus on curating participant stories into forms representative of their personalities and agency. The greatest challenges including 1) the intellectual and creative labor of synthesizing oral narrative interviews, 2) creating an evocative digital presence.


Toward a Theory of Minority Student Participation in Predominantly White Colleges and Universities by Kenneth P. Gonzalez

Affective Personality and the Content of Emotional Social Support: Coping in Organizations

Art for mental health’s sake by Helen Spandler

The Continuing Significance of Racism Discrimination Against Black Students in White Colleges by Joe R. Feagin

Creative Recovery: Art for mental health’s sake by Geraldine Dyer and Ernest Hunter

Emotional, Social, and Academic Adjustment of College Students: A Longitudinal Study of Retention by Hilary Gerdes and Brent Mallinckrodt

Research on Race and Ethic Relations Among Community College Students by William Maxwell

The Implementation of Diversity in Predominantly White Colleges and Universities by Bryan McKinley Jones Brayboy

Join the Conversation


  1. This excellent project is ideal for a digital presence. I’m just wondering if, given your ambitious vision, you might still want a team from our class to work with you, even though you already have collaborators. Are there ways that a team might help you expand or develop/refine your vision for the digital platform?

    1. Hey Suzanne, thank you for such a vital question. My only concern is not having a team-worthy order of operations. All of the details for expansion require skills I have self-taught, or learned, throughout Project: Token’s development or pull from my training as a scholar of English and Africana Studies (spoken word poetry, videography, and so on). All of the major qualitative data has been collected. I potentially see a team effort for planning the project’s digital presence, but even that may not be laborious enough for a semester’s worth engagement.

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