PROMISE Alumni Professors Give Voice to #BaltimoreUprising: Dr. Karsonya Whitehead, Dr. John Bullock, & Dr. Chris Whitt #Baltimore

Our PROMISE family includes alumni who are now professors who have insight and wisdom to share regarding the unrest that we are seeing in Baltimore. We connected with three of them this morning. They are former PROMISE Peer Mentors, and once they became professors, they served as PROMISE Summer Success Institute (SSI) “Mentors-in-Residence.” They are pleased to share information with our audience.

They are:

  • Dr. Karsonya (Kaye) Wise Whitehead, Associate Professor (newly tenured), Department of Communication, Loyola University Maryland, formerly from PROMISE at UMBC
  • Dr. Christopher Whitt, Associate Professor, Political Science Department, Augustana University, formerly from PROMISE at the University of Maryland College Park
  • Dr. John T. Bullock, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Towson University, formerly from PROMISE at the University of Maryland College Park


ChrisWhittDr. Christopher Whitt is from Baltimore, and his activism has carried into his new home in Illinois where he is now a tenured professor of Political Science. Dr. Whitt is regularly interviewed about issues of equality and access. His research and teaching cover race, wealth, and inequity in American Politics. Dr. Whitt describes his work as follows: “My scholarly research continues to provide varied takes on inequality along line of race, ethnicity, gender and social class in American politics, government, and society and even in higher education.” Dr. Whitt regularly returns to the PROMISE SSI to share the experience of being a professor at a liberal arts college. He is a strong proponent of making sure that people of color know that they have options when considering an academic career, and that they should take time to investigate smaller colleges such as Augustana that encourage growth of diverse perspectives and a diverse representation of professors. Dr. Whitt is also known for being a regular speaker at the Southern Regional Education Board’s Institute for Teaching and Mentoring. At the SREB conferences in Atlanta, Tampa, and Virginia, you will often see him recruiting new faculty at Augustana’s table. In 2014, he was accompanied by the president of the university as a sign of the university’s commitment to diversifying the faculty.

Dr. Whitt’s words this morning in response to media outlets that disagree with his stance: “I refuse to deny my love and empathy for my people and for ‪#‎Baltimore‬.”  He also had strong words for media outlets that are covering the issue: “Don’t put all that effort into discussing destruction of property and no effort into discussing the pain, frustration, degradation, and marginalization at the root of much of this. If you are going to get near the pool, don’t be afraid to get wet, get all the way in.”


Kaye2Dr. Karsonya (Kaye) Wise Whitehead has been on the front lines of what is now known as the “Baltimore Uprising.”  She has been a guest on Morgan State University – Radio Station, WEAA, 88.9FM talking about Freddie Gray (the young man from Baltimore who died while in police custody), and she has been active in the peaceful protests. Many of her reports have been “from the line,” and she has provided “on the ground” perspectives of the situation. Dr. Whitehead is the author of several books, and has directed documentaries. She was an award-winning history teacher in Maryland prior to completing her PhD at UMBC. She now speaks all over the country, including The White House, and has been known by the moniker “#GriotOnTheGo. Dr. Whitehead gives the PROMISE call to action at the annual Summer Success Institutes (SSI), during the “PhD Roll Call” where all of the current PhDs stand around the room and encircle and encourage those who are on their way. Dr. Whitehead recently received tenure from Loyola University. As a wife and mother of sons, Dr. Whitehead is a vehement supporter of the rights of those in the Black community. Her latest book is, “Letters to My Black Sons: Raising Boys in a Post-Racial America.”

This afternoon, Dr. Whitehead was featured on NPR radio, WYPR to talk about “The Media’s Coverage of Freddie Gray.” “We build over our ruins,” she said. “We have an opportunity now.”  

#BlackLivesMatter is one of her daily messages. More about Dr. Whitehead on Amazon.


John BullockTVDr. John T. Bullock teaches “Urban Politics and Metropolitan Studies” at Towson University, and is deeply committed to Baltimore. He has served on boards and committees such as the Downtown Baltimore Family Alliance, Coppin Heights Community Development Corporation, the Empowerment Academy, and the Park Heights Community Health Alliance. As a student at College Park, John participated in the PROMISE Dissertation House, and as a professor, he was a key speaker on the social science panel for the 2014 PROMISE SSI. Dr. Bullock’s talk:” PROMISE Community, Social Science Parallels,”  discusses community sustainabilty and equity in the following words: ” Sustainability is the ability “to meet the needs of the present without sacrificing the ability of the future to meet its needs.Intergenerational equity means acting in a way so that the next generations are inheriting a healthy economy, environment, and society.”

In the “Race, Class, and Power” section of Dr. Bullock’s PROMISE SSI talk, he says, “People who are disadvantaged by the status quo often lack the capital to be heard and are thus unable to make their demands known.”

Dr. Bullock’s comments about Baltimore have been covered over the last few days by NPR radio and The Baltimore Sun. He has also been participating in “on the ground efforts” with brothers from his fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, and was featured on CBS News, WJZ, Channel 13.


Chris Kaye John

KWQC6NewsHD  “I have a high level of empathy for the people who are in pain in that city. There’s a lot of people there who are the have-nots who are lacking hope, who are lacking opportunity and they have not many ways to express themselves,” said Whitt.  “I definitely feel a high level of frustration that it takes violence and destruction for real discussions to happen about the plight of the people in those communities.  In no way am I condoning what they did, it’s about the root of the issue that so many people feel helpless, feel hopeless, they feel left behind and left out and that should really be the focus of the nation.” “We definitely have to change our priorities in this country to care more about lives and to care about the futures of young people versus buildings that can be repaired and rebuilt,” said Whitt.  “I’m not saying there’s any excuse for violence but there’s definitely an explanation for violence and there definitely should be empathy for people over things.” -Chris Whitt, covered by KWQC-NEWS, TV6 “Augustana professor from Baltimore calling for empathy.”    


Everything that you see written has been shared with permission. Thank you for reading, for thinking, for caring, and for acting. We know that you, our students, staff, and alumni, have been involved in clean-ups, teaching moments, discussions, activities within houses of worship, and service.


Excerpts from the message “Challenging Times,” from UMBC’s President Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, and Dr. Philip Rouse, Provost, who is also the PI of the PROMISE AGEP (“Challenging Times,” April 28, 2015):

Freddie Gray’s family has suffered a tragic personal loss, and we send them our sincere condolences. This event stands as a reminder of systemic issues of social injustice and inequality. These difficult times mark an opportunity to engage in honest conversations about these issues.

We recognize that one of the greatest strengths of our nation is the right of citizens to protest. As you each consider your personal response to the events unfolding in Baltimore, we ask that you act safely and responsibly.


You are invited to use the comment section here to share, post thoughts, information, and ways that people can help.

Published by Renetta Garrison Tull

Dr. Renetta Garrison Tull is the Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) at the University of California Davis. She previously served as Associate Vice Provost for Strategic Initiatives at The Graduate School at UMBC, and was Professor of the Practice in the College of Engineering & IT. She was Special Assistant to the Sr. Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs & Director of Graduate and Professional Pipeline Development for the University System of Maryland (12 institutions). She is the Founding Director of PROMISE: Maryland’s Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) –, and Co-PI for the USM LSAMP. Her research on global diversity in STEM continues, and she is an international speaker, covering nearly all continents, for groups and conferences such as the World Engineering Education Forum, the International Federation of Engineering Education Societies, and the Pacific Sciences Congress. Her personal website is: Connect with her on Twitter: @Renetta_Tull;

12 thoughts on “PROMISE Alumni Professors Give Voice to #BaltimoreUprising: Dr. Karsonya Whitehead, Dr. John Bullock, & Dr. Chris Whitt #Baltimore

  1. Events at University of Maryland Baltimore (UMB):

    UMB Forum: A Discussion About Race in Baltimore
    Wednesday, May 6, 2015
    Noon – 2 p.m.
    School of Nursing Auditorium

    UMB Forum: A Discussion About Race in Baltimore

    On April 19, 25-year-old Freddie Gray of West Baltimore died from injuries sustained in police custody. In the days following Gray’s death, the city has seen both peaceful demonstrations and violent unrest, and many questions remain unanswered.

    UMB sits in the heart of Baltimore and, as a community, we, too, are actively searching for answers: Why is this happening? What does it mean? What is our role?

    The USGA, in partnership with Dr. Perman, invites you to participate in this conversation on Wednesday, May 6, at noon in the School of Nursing Auditorium. The discussion will feature a panel of local experts who will help us contextualize recent events within the larger scope of Baltimore’s relationship with race. The panelists bring a diverse experience of community organizing, a deep knowledge of the city, and thoughts on how Baltimore can move forward.

    UMB Responds:


  2. Events at the University of Maryland College Park:

    Black Lives Matter at UMD
    DATE: Tuesday, May 5, 2015
    TIME: 2:30 p.m.
    LOCATION: Sundial, McKeldin Mall

    Please wear a black shirt and join us for a Moment of Solidarity, followed by a Solidarity Teach-In.

    This event seeks to strengthen and expand solidarity with the Black Lives Matter Movement at the University of Maryland. This event honors the work that has been done and is continuing to be done to support the #BlackLivesMatter Movement on our campus and in our communities.


    (Shared by the Office of the Dean, College of Behavioral and Social Sciences at College Park)


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