Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts



Ray Block is Senior Research Advisor for the African American Research Collaborative.  Dr. Block has led research design for AARC on a range of polls, including research involving elections, health policy, and African Americans’ policy goals.

The AARC’s expert team is made up of pollsters, scholars, researchers, and commentators with 30 years of expertise in polling, African American political behavior, and everyday issues that impact us all, such as the economy, housing, civil rights, policing, jobs, grassroots organizing and social justice.

Providing high quality research on African American polling behavior and the skill to interpret that research is their top priority. African American Research Collaborative

Cynthia Young, associate professor of African American Studies and English, recently shared her expertise in the Yahoo News article “Critics say Mastriano’s pledge to make Pennsylvania citizens reregister to vote is aimed squarely at Black Americans“.

Professor Young told Yahoo, “There is much to say about the Republican nominee, most especially that he is a Christian Nationalist, the current term for white supremacist. His stated desire to have voters re-register is a dog whistle designed to reinforce the racist belief that Black and other BIPOC voters are not, in fact, fully enfranchised citizens guaranteed the same rights as white voters. The irony, however, is that were his scheme to be implemented many white, rural voters would be excluded from the voter rolls. …Rights won in one moment can be lost in another. Without constant vigilance and organized struggle against such racism, Black people can easily lose what we have fought and died to secure. Mastriano and his ilk count on us being exhausted (we are) and unaware (we are not) and just as with reproductive rights we have to say loudly and clearly that their will be no return to a fantastical vision of a white nation that exploits Black labor and intellect without granting us our Constitutionally guaranteed rights.”

A new award to assist students enrolled in the Department of African American Studies in Penn State’s College of the Liberal Arts has been established in memory of Penn State alumna Yaayaa M. Hunt, who passed away unexpectedly at age 26 on December 29, 2019.

“She had the biggest, brightest personality, and for her, the sky was the limit,” said Penn State alumna Alecia Panuski, a friend of Hunt’s, who is helping create the Yaayaa M. Hunt ’16 Award with a $5,000 lead pledge. “After talking with some friends from Lion Line and Yaayaa’s mother, I knew we had to do something — to start a fund in her name — right away.”

Hunt grew up in southeast Washington, D.C., the first in her family to attend college. While at Penn State, she worked as a student supervisor for “Lion Line,” Penn State’s telefund organization. Hunt also was involved in several campus organizations and was universally revered by peers and professors.

After graduating, Hunt returned to her hometown to teach. Her most recent position was at Eastern Senior High School, where she taught mostly Black and low-income students.

“It was clear that Yaayaa cared deeply about Black students, Black people, and Black history because of what she had been exposed to growing up,” said AnneMarie Mingo, assistant professor of African American studies and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies. “[Washington] D.C. mattered to her, and she became a bridge, an inspiration, and a role model to students in her community.” Hunt had taken one of Mingo’s classes, titled “Scandal: Black Women, Power and Politics,” where her “zest for life” was evident, according to Mingo.

“The cost of this kind of loss is just too great,” added Mingo. “Yaayaa was doing work that she loved in a community she loved. She was reaching students and touching the next generation. This memorial fund extends a legacy allowing African American Studies students for years to come to know Yaayaa’s name and what she stood for here at Penn State and beyond.”

“To me, the greatest tragedy is that there are students who will never have the chance to learn from her or to know her energy, her positivity, and her determination to help others succeed,” said Panuski. “She was a rare find in a person and a friend.”

The Yaayaa-Maria Hunt Memorial Award


Penn State News recently interviewed Timeka Tounsel, assistant professor of African American studies and media studies, on her new book Branding Black Womanhood: Media Citizenship from Black Power to Black Girl Magic. Check it out here:

Congratulations, Timeka!

Timeka Tounsel, assistant professor of African American studies and media studies, recently wrote an article for The Conversation: “In age of racial reckoning, Ralph Lauren partners with Morehouse and Spelman grads on vintage Black fashion styles”.

Congratulations on your new publication, Timeka!

We are happy to report that Mikayla Howard (PSU Alum with BA in AFAM, 2021) has been accepted into 9 law schools for 2022 admission, including Northeastern where she has been offered a full scholarship!

AFAM helps to send an intern for the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice center at Northeastern University each summer.  Last summer Mikayla Howard worked as an intern there and then stayed on to work with them as a paralegal this year.

Mikayla has given us permission to share this amazing news, with the caveat that she has not yet made a decision on which law school admission offer she will accept.

Thanks to this amazing department, and especially to any faculty with whom Mikayla took courses and/or from whom she received mentoring and support during her time here!


Ray Block’s recent paper, “The Self Appraisal of Masking Instrument,” got published in a special COVID-19-related issue of Measurement Instruments for the Social Sciences. 

In response to growing political polarization regarding disease-spread-mitigation practices during the COVID-19 pandemic, and leveraging polling evidence from a nationally representative survey, Dr. Block and his coauthor developed the very brief Self Appraisal of Masking Instrument (or “SAMI”). Public health officials come to understand that masking hesitancy (like vaccine hesitancy) is not a simple reflection of scientific understanding but is rooted in social and political identities.  Their series of questions are informed by social identity theory, and we believe this approach is both original and useful in understanding the contemporary polarization of mask wearing.

Analyses of SAMI’s properties confirms that the instrument has promise. They further suggest that this approach is applicable well beyond masking, and we encourage its adaptation by other scholars to a wide range of health behaviors.

If you are interested, here is a link to the paper:

Ray Block, associate professor of political science and African American studies and Brown-McCourtney Career Development Professor, wrote a recent opinion piece for Penn Live about redistricting in Pennsylvania.

Check it out here:

Congratulations to Ray on this timely piece!

Phi Beta Kappa is excited to announce that Gabrielle Foreman is one of their 2022-2023 Visiting Scholars. 

Since 1956, the Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar Program has been offering undergraduates the opportunity to spend time with some of America’s most distinguished scholars. The purpose of the program is to contribute to the intellectual life of the campus by making possible an exchange of ideas between the Visiting Scholars and the resident faculty and students.

 The press release is posted here, and the announcement was made this week on their website and via social media.

Congratulations Gabrielle!


AnneMarie Mingo was cited in the Gainesville Sun, ‘Freedom Must Be Taken.’ The article was subsequently picked up by, as well.

Dr. Mingo was among the panelists who discussed “The Role of the Black Church in the Modern Social Justice Movement”, the topic during a town hall symposium that was held last Wednesday at DaySpring Baptist Church as part of local 2022 King Celebration activities sponsored by the Martin Luther King jr. Commission of Florida and its partners.

Congratulations to AnneMarie on her media placement!