I was a co-leader of the Mentoring Future Faculty of Color project (MFFC), which was organized in spring 2012 through the support of the English Program at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. MFFC sought to address the ongoing violence of institutional racism by offering scholarly and professional mentorship to students in underrepresented communities at the Graduate Center and throughout the CUNY system. It sponsored an annual lunch and lecture series geared toward helping minority students establish contacts with and receive guidance from prominent scholar-activists of color. In addition to public lectures on current research projects, MFFC invited speakers to participate in informal lunch conversation about the difficulties of navigating the academy and grappling with institutional and departmental politics as minoritized subjects. One of the main goals of MFFC was to develop an ever-growing network among scholars of color to provide a sense of community in a profession that too often remains isolated and individualized.
Although MFFC officially disbanded in 2016 after most of its lead organizers graduated from their respective doctoral programs, it helped foster lasting ties among a small cohort of CUNY students. I remain in touch with my co-conspirators, who are now dispersed at various institutions across the country, through weekly accountability emails that keep us on track with our research and teaching while also reminding ourselves always of the importance of self-care. To my mind, MFFC gave us what we needed at the time to navigate the daunting, uncertain terrains of graduate school and our entry into academic professionalization (and the job market). Recognizing that the project grew out of our specific interests and concerns was also what helped us let go of MFFC in the end, not because it was a failure, but because we wanted incoming students to have the opportunity to build on and from this project, to rethink and re-form it into a model that speaks to their own circumstances and aspirations.