Five Questions with UCHRI Grantees: Imani Kai Johnson

Published on October 12, 2016

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Now that UCHRI’s calls for applications are open for the 2017-18 academic year, we are profiling previous grantees by asking them five questions about their experience, including any advice they have for potential applicants. This week we are speaking with Imani Kai Johnson, Assistant Professor of dance at UC Riverside, who received a 2015-16 conference grant for the Show & Prove 2016 Hip Hop Studies Conference.

What appealed to you about the conference grant and why did you apply?

I was excited to see that UCHRI’s conference grant offered institutional support for fledgling conferences.  I applied because I believe the work of the conference that I organized—the “Show & Prove 2016 Hip Hop Studies Conference”—spoke to the award’s interest in events that work across communities and campuses, and are free and open to the public.  These stipulations in particular further demonstrate the grant’s intentions to build with local communities, which made this grant all the more enticing.

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Facebook banner for the 2016 Show & Prove conference.

Can you discuss the process of planning and implementing the grant (e.g., how did you prepare, what did you hope to learn, how did you incorporate graduate students)?

Knowing that the bulk of my funding was secured more than a year in advance made the process of organizing Show & Prove 2016 exciting and busy, precisely because we had time and the resources to implement a bigger vision.

From the earliest stages, the UCHRI grant has afforded me unexpected benefits.  The grant application required that I thoroughly represent the conference and account for its history and place within the context of the field.  It also meant being open about my vision for the conference this year and in the future.  As a result, I produced a document with a usefulness that far exceeds the application itself. 

With additional funding for graduate student assistance, we brainstormed incredible programming ideas, ensuring that the interests of graduate students were met broadly.  Graduate students volunteered at the conference, presented new material, and took part in the numerous workshops and master classes. 

My plans for the conference included supporting the attendance of various international and undergraduate presenters who came to the conference.  The grant was indispensable to ensuring that those extra expenses did not prevent us from following through on all of our other plans.  Overall, the conference was a wonderful success. 

From the initial planning phase through the end of the grant period, what stands out to you as the most beneficial element?

Through honoraria and other forms of assistance, Show & Prove 2016 was able to contribute to the attendance and participation of multiple artists, graduate and undergraduate students, and international scholars.  The UCHRI grant made this possible, and its benefits are numerous.  First, it created an environment wherein those who put in the greatest effort to participate—traveling thousands of miles or taking the steps to attend their first academic conference—where able to do so more comfortably. Secondly, by providing some support, it maximized the conference’s diversity.  Finally, it ensured that we could demonstrate community building in practice by supporting the least financially able among us, which is at the core of the conference’s goals.

What do you wish you had known before starting the grant, and is there anything you would have done differently?

I found out about the grant only two days before its due date(!), and submitted a subpar initial application as a result.  Luckily and thankfully, they gave me a second chance to submit something more significant and of greater substance.  In the future, I would start the application early and look out for the deadline sooner!

What advice do you have for applicants and recipients of the conference grant?

Start you application early.  Be open about your vision and the possibilities of the conference you’re planning.  Take advantage of the opportunities afforded by UCHRI grants.