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History Museum honors Dé Bryant with African American Legacy Award

Community Engagement Jun 7, 2024

Dé Bryant portrait The History Museum will host its Juneteenth Luncheon on June 11 in South Bend. At the event, the museum’s 2024 African American Legacy Award will be presented to Dr. Dé Bryant, professor of psychology at IU South Bend.

Her decades of work in the classroom setting were a factor in the award selection process, but the honor extends to her efforts in many off-campus initiatives as well. The African American Legacy Award is bestowed in recognition of someone who has demonstrated leadership and creativity in promoting African American history, and fostered increased understanding of and appreciation for the heritage of the African American community.

Bryant received her B.A. in clinical psychology from the University of Illinois-Champaign in 1982, and her M.A. in community psychology from Wilfrid Laurier University in 1985. She obtained her Ph.D. in community psychology and urban studies from Michigan State University in 1990. Bryant joined the psychology faculty of IU South Bend as an assistant professor in 1990, rising to associate professor in 1996, and full professor in 2004.

During her first year in South Bend, Bryant independently founded the Social Action Project (SOCACT).

“The award is about engagement within the community, and that’s what the Social Action Project is,” Bryant said. “It’s about taking the tools that are available here at this institution in terms of information and people who can get involved, and putting them to use in real community connections.”

Using participatory action research methodology, Bryant has made those critical connections locally and internationally, taking the Social Action Project as far as Nigeria, Rwanda, and South Africa. No matter what kind of cultural differences each of those societies may have, the conversations are similar at their core.

“We talk with people, asking about their life. What are the things that make you happy? What are the things you wish you could change? All of that. In the course of those conversations, which can occur sometimes over weeks, even months, it becomes clear how the Social Action Project may be able to collaborate with them to address some need,” Bryant said.

The courses Bryant has conceptualized and taught at IU South Bend have focused on topics of social justice, trauma-informed psychology, and interfaith activism. She is a co-founder of Black Lives Matter - South Bend, and she has served as an ambassador of the Parliament of the World’s Religions since 2015.

A SOCACT initiative titled the Ubuntu Spirit Project addresses trauma through storytelling and the arts.

“The arts can be a mechanism for navigating grief and trauma,” Bryant said. “We’ve seen successes using whatever art form – music, sculpture, dance, puppetry, spoken word. We’ve seen just about everything. We bring in artists who can walk folks through their own creations, and in making those creations we can begin to address some of those aspects of traumas that people have been fiercely looking away from.”

Progress in emotional health is not always linear, but there are times when a person clearly has a breakthrough, a critical discovery.

“You can see it when it happens. Something clicks. You can hear it across the room,” Bryant said. “That’s the work.”

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