Cardinal Appointment Generates Excitement and Hope for Future of Catholic Church

Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Washington, D.C. made history on Saturday — becoming the first African American cardinal.

Cardinal Wilton Gregory

His ascendancy in the Catholic Church marks a momentous and symbolic turning point in a year that was filled with historic firsts, including the election of the nation’s first woman of color to the second highest office in the land.

“Among the people that have congratulated me and wished me well, friends and colleagues, I’ve heard this: it’s about time,” Gregory told  The Washington Post. “But it is also an important recognition that the African American, the Black Catholic community, is an important component within the larger, universal church.”

The ceremony, known as a consistory, was unorthodox due to the impact of COVID-19. About 100 people witnessed the elevation of Gregory and 12 other bishops and priests to the College of Cardinals at the Papal Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican.

Social distancing protocols were put in place and masks were worn by cardinals when seated. Some chose to remove their masks when receiving their ring and biretta; however, Gregory wore his for the duration of the ceremony.

Sr. Ann Howard

“My heart was warmed when [Gregory] wore a mask to receive his ring and the biretta,” said Sr. Ann Howard, director of campus ministry at Trinity Washington University, the nation’s first Catholic liberal arts college for women founded in 1897 by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. “I just respect the choice of his so much just because I think it speaks volumes. He acknowledges the pandemic and protected the Pope.”

Those who traveled to Rome were also required to quarantine at the Vatican for 10 days.

Two of the new cardinals, Brunei Apostolic Vicar Cornelius Sim and Archbishop Jose F. Advincula of Capiz, were unable to attend in person. To accommodate them and others who could not travel, television screens were placed around the Basilica to launch a live stream.


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HSI by Choice or By Circumstance: Examining R1 Hispanic Serving Institutions

Dr. Andrew Martinez

Representing 18% of the U.S. population, the growth of the Latinx population continues to grow and disperse throughout the nation.

According to the Pew Research Center, the growth of the Latinx population accounts for more than half of the total U.S. population growth since 2010, with Texas, California, and Florida experiencing the largest share of the Latinx population growth. Similarly, higher education institutions throughout the nation, and within these specific states, have seen significant increases in Latinx student enrollment.

The number of Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) has also been growing rapidly. Excelencia in Education reports that there are currently 539 HSIs in the nation that enroll 67% of Latinx students in this country.  In 2019, there were ten HSIs that were also R1 (very high research activity) institutions, with most of them located in California, Texas, and Florida. Due to demographic shifts in the nation, we were interested in examining whether or not the growth of HSIs among R1s was at all reflected in a commitment to enrolling and educating more Latinx students. Using publicly available data from the National Center for Education Statistics, we described the current landscape of HSI R1 institutions.

This report highlights enrollment and graduation changes at these R1s from 2014-2018, along with the specific initiatives they have as HSIs.

We began this project while working at (Garcia) and attending (Martinez) the University of Pennsylvania where it was evident that we were few in numbers. We often shared conversations of our pathways to the doctorate which both occurred for us in historically White research intensive universities (R1s). We questioned, what would it have meant for us to attend an HSI at any point in our educational trajectories? Would we have received more academic and financial support? How might our racial and ethnic identities been visualized in the curriculum and demography of the university or college? These questions and many more ultimately dictated our research agendas as junior academics of color.

Nobel Prize Spotlights Sickle Cell’s Disproportionate Impact on African Americans

This summer, 34-year-old Victoria Gray became the first person in the U.S. to have a gene editing therapy as treatment for sickle cell disease. “It’s a very big deal for me,” Gray said in a national media interview after learning the groundbreaking treatment was working. “It’s the change I’ve been waiting on my whole life.”

Gray, a Black wife and a mother of three from Mississippi, had been living with the complications of the inherited blood disorder that disproportionately affects African Americans for her entire life.

Dr. Sohail Rana, professor of pediatrics at Howard University’s College of Medicine

CRISPR is a new technique that involves cutting out a tiny piece of the mutation or defective gene that causes sickle cell disease in the hopes that the corrected gene will then work to make normal hemoglobin (a protein in red blood cells) instead of the sickle-shaped hemoglobin that gives the disease its name.

Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier and Dr. Jennifer Doudna were awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry in October for their work on the experimental gene therapy that made it possible for Gray to get the infusion. The technique has already “had a revolutionary impact on life sciences,” the Nobel Committee said, and for genetic diseases like sickle cell, it has the potential to “make the dream” of a cure “come true.”

But the hope for new treatments and a possible path to a cure for the mainly Black and Hispanic children and adults in the U.S. with sickle cell disease depends on their participation in clinical trials, says James G. Taylor, M.D., director of Howard University’s Center for Sickle Cell Disease in Washington, D.C.  “Even if we get a cure today, we don’t have enough patients volunteering for clinical trial studies to implement it,” Taylor said at the center’s 2019 World Sickle Day conference.

Racism and a mistrust of the medical system dating back centuries remain an issue for many African Americans. Many cite the syphilis experiments the federal government conducted on about 600 Black men from Tuskegee, Alabama over a 40-year period starting in 1932. The men were promised free health care, but for

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National Leadership and the Significance of the Breadth and Depth of American Identity

As President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris assemble the people, resources and programs that they will bring to the White House in January, they will create tremendous possibilities and opportunities for all Americans. This is true even for those who did not vote for them.

In the Biden-Harris ticket and eventual administration, America sees itself comprehensively reflected. America is a diverse country and, though Joe Biden and Kamala Harris do not tick off all of the boxes, between them and their families, they represent more than any previous administration in history.

Dr. Elizabeth Meade

Representation matters. One of the secrets to the success of women’s colleges and HBCUs is that their students see people like them in every leadership position possible. When people have said over the centuries that women or Black Americans cannot do something, what they have always meant was that they had never seen women or Black people doing the job in question. Yet.

As an educator and president of a women’s college, I have witnessed great change over the years. As a child of the 1960s, I only knew women to be teachers, secretaries, or nurses. Over my lifetime, women have entered professions and risen to positions falling just short of the highest in the land. I have seen how important it is for a young woman to see other women embracing new roles and doing jobs that other women have not yet done because it expands the possibilities that she imagines for herself.

Personally and professionally, Kamala Harris presents a particularly powerful example of the nature and the promise of America. It is significant that she obtained her undergraduate education from an HBCU and that her mother, a noted biomedical scientist, had earned her undergraduate degree at a women’s college. Harris has talked about the experience of being raised by an incredibly accomplished woman who came to the United States as an immigrant and has stated that it was her mother’s example that opened up a world of possibilities for her and her sister. Her late mother both helped her imagine–and provided a role model and exemplar of the fact—that anything was possible.

Vice President-Elect Harris&r

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