Fordham Faculty Members

  • Dr. Mark Naison, Professor of African American Studies and History at Fordham University, is the author of seven books and over 300 articles on African American politics, labor history, popular culture and education policy. His first book, Communists in Harlem in the Depression, published in 1983, is still in print, and is used in undergraduate and graduate courses around the nation.

    He recently published a novel, Pure Bronx, co-written with his former student Melissa Castillo-Garsow, and a book of essays on educational policy and Bronx history, Badass Teachers Unite.

    His seventh book, published by Fordham University Press in September 2016, is Before the Fires, An Oral History of African American Life in the Bronx from the 1930’s to the 1960’s. This book is one of the featured readings in a new course offered by Dr. Naison at Fordham entitled “The Bronx: Immigration, Race and Culture.”

    Dr. Naison is the founder of the Bronx African American History Project, one of the largest community based oral history projects in the nation and has brought his research into more than 20 Bronx schools, as well as Bronx based cultural organizations and NGO’s. In recent years, the BAAHP’s research has led to granting landmark status to several streets and a housing complex with historic significance, as well as the founding of a cultural center honoring the Bronx’s musical heritage.

    A co-founder of the Bronx Berlin Youth Exchange, Naison has published articles about Bronx music and Bronx culture in German, Spanish, Catalan, and Portuguese as well as English, and given talks about these subjects in Germany, Spain and Italy.

    In addition to his scholarship, Dr Naison has done extensive news commentary on outlets as diverse as ABC, CNN, New York 1, Fox News, and Fox Business, has appeared on the O’Reilly Factor, and entered the world of comedy with a much publicized appearance on the Chappelle Show. His courses have been regularly covered on Bronx 12 News and were recently featured in a Daily News article on the most poplar college courses in New York City.

    Email: [email protected].

  • Dr. Jane Kani Edward was born and raised in South Sudan, and educated in Sudan, Egypt, and Canada. Edward received her Ph.D. in Sociology in Education from the University of Toronto in 2004. Currently she is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of African and African American Studies, Fordham University. She also directs the African Immigration Research of the Bronx African American History Project (BAAHP).

    She teaches courses on women and Social Change in Africa, African History, Women, Power and Leadership in Africa, and African Immigration to the United States. Edward’s areas of research interest center on refugee and immigrant women’s experience, human rights and education, gender, race, class and representation, gender issues in conflict and post-conflict situations, and African immigration to the United States. Edward carried out research work among South Sudanese refugees and internally displaced persons in Egypt, Uganda, and South Sudan. She is the author of Sudanese Women Refugees: Transformations and Future Imaginings, 2007, and several book chapters, Journal, and opinion articles.

    Email: [email protected].

    Read more about Dr. Edward's Project, White Paper on African Immigration to the Bronx.

  • Dr. Shellae Versey is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Fordham University. She is a NYC transplant; born in rural South Carolina, and raised by generations of Black farmers and sharecroppers. Shellae's research focuses on the importance and meaning of place, and how place-based transitions - gentrification and migration - matter in the lives of Black Americans and older adults. Shellae directs the Critical Health + Social Ecology lab (CH+SE), and she is currently developing the G3 Incubator Project, a multi- neighborhood investigation of gentrification across New York City. She is excited to join the BAAHP; read more about her work here.

  • Tyesha Maddox is an Assistant Professor at Fordham University in the Department of African and African American Studies. She received her PhD in History from New York University in 2016. She received a BA in History and Africana Studies and a MPS in Africana Studies both from Cornell University. Her current manuscript, "A Home Away from Home: Mutual Aid, Political Activism, and the Construction of Caribbean American Identity, 1890-1940," examines the significance of early twentieth century Anglophone Caribbean immigrant mutual aid societies and benevolent associations in New York City. In 2020, she co-edited a comprehensive resource guide and website titled "This is Not a Riot!" to help contextualize the Black Lives Matter Uprisings of 2020 by placing them in the historical radical tradition of black protest in the US. She also serves as a key organizer for Mutual Aid NYC's Organizing Archive and Library. Her research and teaching interests include the African Diaspora, Caribbean, Black Atlantic, Women and Gender, African American History, Race, Transnational Communities, Migrational Movements, Immigration, Black Identity Formation, Social and Cultural History.

Community Researchers

  • Leroi "Arch" Archible moved to the Bronx from Harlem in 1960. A long time community activist, youth mentor, leader on Community Board 3, and organizer in Bronx Democratic politics, Mr. Archible is currently also one of the organizers for the "Friends of Charlton Garden," whose mission is to create a KoreanWar Veterans memorial at the site of the current Charlton Garden on 164th bet. Boston Road Cauldwell Avenue. For me information on the Friends of Charlton Garden, call 212-283-1643.

  • Lucy Blanco’s career as a jazz vocalist happened almost by chance. Now, years later, she is co-founder and lead singer of the Afri-Garifuna Jazz Ensemble in New York City, simultaneously recording her own debut album with international pianist Warren Byrd. Lucy grew up in the Bronx, daughter to two Garifuna immigrants. She moved to Los Angeles for college and to start her career. After getting married and having a baby, she stepped away from her career, but this gave her time to explore her singing abilities. She joined performance groups and honed her talents. After an Artist in Residence program in Amsterdam, she was Inspired by the way music transcends culture and language and she longed to explore the musical heritage of the Garifuna people. Lucy sought ways to combine traditional Garifuna rhythms with jazz. This culminated in her first recorded piece.

    Shortly after moving back to New York City, she met Garifuna musician- composer James Lovell, with whom she founded the Afri-Garifuna Jazz Ensemble. The Afri-Garifuna Jazz Ensemble is the first project of its kind; an innovative genre-bending project that blends Garifuna language, instruments and traditional rhythms such as Punta, Paranda and Hungu Hungu, with jazz arrangements. In their words, it is “jazz interpreted from a Garifuna perspective.” As one of the few female Garifuna artists and only Garifuna jazz vocalist, Lucy is grateful for the opportunities to continue this work.

  • Robert Gumbs was born and raised on Lyman place in Morissania and educated in New York City, where he studied art and graphic design. He started Gumbs and Thomas Publishers, Inc. in 1985 and is now President of the company. In 2004, Mr. Gumbs and African American veterans from the Bronx began, "Friends of Charlton Garden," whose mission is to create a Korean War Veterans memorial at the site of the current Charlton Garden on 164th bet. Boston Road Cauldwell Avenue. For me information on the Friends of Charlton Garden, call 212-283-1643.

  • Beverly Lindsay-Johnson is an Emmy nominated producer with Howard University Television WHUT-TV (PBS) in Washington, DC. She is the first African American and first female to receive the Central Educational Network (CEN) Jerry Trainor Award for her work with Public Television. Ms. Lindsay-Johnson was raised in Morrisania and attended P.S. 99 and P.S. 54. She was instrumental in organizing the BAAHP tribute to the late Morrisania singer/songwrwiter Arthur Crier. She is the VP for the Atlanta Doo-Wop Association, which preserves the history and culture of early R&B and Doo-Wop, and founded by Arthur Crier. Currently, she collaborates with early R&B and Doo-Wop recording artists from the Bronx for BAAHP oral history interviews.

  • Harriet McFeeters was born and raised and is still a resident of Morrisania. She earned degrees from Hunter College and Fordham University and has worked with the Board of Education for over thirty-five years. Mrs. McFeeters has taught on all grade levels and was a Deputy Superintendent for District 8. Harriet McFeeters has become an important part of the BAAHP research team as an advisor on the history of public school education in the Bronx. She also helps conduct interviews, encourages friends and family members to participate in the oral history project, and serves on the Project's fundraising committee. Her dedication to public service is undergirded by a family creed, "Equal Opportunity Means Equal Responsibility."

  • Sheikh Musa Drammeh is the founder of New York based Muslim Media Corporation that publishes three newspapers namely: Muslim Community Report, New York Parrot and Parkchester Times Newspapers, as well as the CEO of, Lifestyle Lifespan and New York Political Coalition ( Mr. Drammeh’s passion for entrepreneurial development hails from his decades in the areas of real estate, insurance and investment banking industries on Wall Street.  He is also a community organizer who has led and inspired many other community, peacebuilding, religious, political, health and educational initiatives through which he and his colleagues have received a number of proclamations from elected officials. He and his wife founded and manage a parochial school, K-12, in the Bronx since 2001. Mr. Drammeh executive produces Muslim Community Report and Public Emergency Management Adherence (PEMA) television shows on Bronxnet Television, and a frequent media commentator on Islamic issues and African immigrants’ affairs.


  • Joe Orange is a retired health insurance executive, currently running his own health insurance consulting firm near his home in Columbia, Maryland. Born and raised in the Morrisania section of the Bronx he is also a Jazz trombonist having worked with Lionel Hampton, Eddie Palmieri, Charlie Palmieri, Lloyd Price, Herbie Mann, and many others. He is the recipient of numerous awards for his business accomplishments including the Harlem YMCA's "Black Achiever' award.

  • Jim Pruitt was born and raised in Morissania. Jim attended school at PS 99, JHS 40 and Morris High School. He then attended Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, where he received a BA in history. Mr. Pruitt became a teacher at Morris high school for seven years, from 1964-71. He also worked as Assistant Director at Fordham Upward Bound from 1969-71 and then from 1971-80 he worked as the Upward Bound Project Director. After 1980, Jim spent the next 23 years teaching at John F, Kennedy High School. He is currently member of the Morris high school alumni/scholarship committee.

Graduate Researchers

  • Lisa Betty is a PhD candidate in History at Fordham University in New York City. She serves as the current Graduate Assistant for the Bronx African American History Project at Fordham supporting Bronx community collaboration and development of the oral history digital archive.  In addition to her research within academic spaces, she has worked in the field of nonprofit advocacy serving in organizations that advocate for children, families and incarcerated populations.

  • Michael Partis is a Graduate Researcher for the Bronx African American History Project, where he conducts ethnographic research on South Bronx public housing residents. He is also a doctoral student in Anthropology at the CUNY Graduate Center and Research Associate at the Howard Samuels State Management and Policy Center. Michael has been involved in grassroots activism around Hurricane Katrina recovery in New Orleans, community organizing on issues with education in New York City, and youth work through numerous workshops and speaking engagements for Black and Latino urban teens. He is the co-founder and co-director of The Bronx Brotherhood Project: a community based youth program designed to provide college awareness and adult male mentorship for poor and low-income Bronx Black and Latino high school males.

  • Corey Lionel Spencer is a Ph.D. Candidate in English at Fordham University, Rose Hill Campus. He serves as the current Graduate Assistant for the Bronx African American History Project at Fordham supporting Bronx community collaboration and development of the oral history digital archive. He organizes community events from jazz performances, guest lectures to art exhibits. His research focuses on oral traditions in African American Literature with a specific interest in the legacy of "the song" (i.e. spirituals, hymns, blues, etc) throughout Black culture. He questions the recent practice of ghostwriting in hip hop and whether it enhances or desecrates this legacy.

  • Damien Strecker is a PhD candidate in the Department of History at Fordham University. Previous to his time at Fordham, he worked at the Black Film Center/Archive at Indiana University and assisted with a course on the history of race and sports. He also taught social studies for 7 years in Fairfield Ohio. At Fordham, he concentrates on American history with an emphasis on the African American experience. He began work on the BAAHP during the 2014-2015 academic year.


Affiliated Scholars

  • Maxine Gordon (senior interviewer and jazz researcher) is a PhD Candidate in History of the African Diaspora at New York University working on a dissertation concerning the development of modern jazzculture in Harlem in the late 1930s. She is a CUNY graduate, the former archivist in the Center for Jazz Studies at Columbia University, and the widow of jazz legend Dexter Gordon.

    Email: [email protected]

  • Natasha Lightfoot completed her PhD from New York University's Department of History. She is a specialist in the history of the African Diaspora and the Caribbean. Her research focuses on resistance and identity among black working-class people in post-emancipation Antigua. Born and raised in the Bronx, she received her BA in History from Yale University, and an MA in History from New York University. After serving for one year as BAAHP Project Administrator she has accepted a position as Assistant Professor of History at Columbia University. Dr. Lightfoot will continueto work as the BAAHP's specilaist in West Indian migration and settlement in the Bronx

    Email: [email protected].

  • Frederick Douglass Opie earned a PhD in History at Syracuse University in 1999. He is writing a book that interprets African American and Latino relations in Brooklyn, Harlem, the Bronx, and suburban areas to the north in Westchester County, New York. The book focuses on southern African American and Hispanic Caribbean migrants in New York and the race and gender dynamics that develop between them. He teaches courses on Latin American, African Diaspora, and African American history. His first book based on his doctoral dissertation looks at black and Latino relations on the Caribbean coast of Guatemala at the turn of the century. Opie’s second book is a foodways study of the history of northern urban identity as seen through the development of soul food from the Atlantic slave trade to Black Power.

    [email protected]

  • Dr. Steven Payne is librarian and archivist at The Bronx County Historical Society. He is the lead archivist for the archival collections acquired through the Bronx African American History Project that are housed at The Bronx County Archives in The Bronx County Historical Society Research Library. He is also an interviewer for the Bronx African American History Project and has recorded oral histories for the project about the Coops, or United Workers Cooperative Colony, located at 2700 Bronx Park East, one of the first interracial housing complexes in The Bronx; the Black Panther Party in The Bronx; 1520 Sedgwick Ave., the Birthplace of Hip Hop; and various other topics. To set up an appointment at The Bronx County Archives or to contact him about other matters, Dr. Payne can be reached at [email protected] or 718-881- 8900 x105.

  • Brian Purnell was a member of the BAAHP research team from 2004-2010. He now teaches history and urban studies courses in the Africana Studies Program at Bowdoin College. His first book, A Movement Grows in Brooklyn: The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in Brooklyn, New York will be published by the University Press of Kentucky, and he is editing a collection of essays on the history of community formation, civil rights activism and cultural development in the Bronx entitled, Beyond the Burnings – Blacks and Puerto Ricans in the Post-WWII Bronx.

    Email: [email protected]

  • Susanne Stemmler (PhD) is a post-doctoral fellow of the Graduate Research Program Berlin – New York at the Center for Metropolitan Studies in Berlin. She studied French literature and culture and was a lecturer of French and Media Studies at the University of Düsseldorf (Germany). She is the editor of the book, Hip-hop and rap music in Algeria, France, Italy, Cuba and Latin America (2007),the author of Topographies of the Gaze: Orientalism in French 19th Century Literature (2004) and various articles on urban culture, migration, diversity and hip-hop in New York, Paris, Marseille, Algiers, Dakar and also on francophone literature and cinema in North- and Westafrica.She is currently working on a book on rap music and immigration in New York, Paris and Berlin. Susanne was a visiting fellow at Columbia University in Fall 2005, and at the Bronx African American History Project at Fordham University in Spring 2007. She conducted fieldwork in the Bronx and also took part in some of the interviews. She recently has curated the panel and film series "Sounds of New York" (featuring Henry Chalfant with the German release of "From Mambo to Hip-Hop. A Bronx Tale", Joe Bataan, Joe Conzo sr., Tony Touch, La Bruja, Juan Flores) and the conference „New York - Berlin: Cultural Diversity in Urban Space" (with Mark Naison, Marshal Berman, David Maurrasse, Nancy Foner) at the House of World Cultures in Berlin.

    Email: [email protected]