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February 10, 1997

UCSC sociologist John Brown Childs receives prestigious Fulbright Award

By Jennifer McNulty

[Photo of John Brown Childs] In recognition of his academic achievement and his community work, John Brown Childs, professor of sociology, has received the prestigious Fulbright Thomas Jefferson Chair award for 1997-98.

Childs, an expert on contemporary urban issues, will spend a portion of the 1997-98 academic year at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. As a visiting scholar, Childs will be an "academic ambassador" to universities and community organizations in the Netherlands, lecturing about issues of urban community and the state of race and ethnic relations in the United States.

The Fulbright Program is an international educational exchange program administered by the United States government. Grants are awarded to U.S. students, teachers, and scholars to study, teach, lecture, and conduct research abroad. Grants are also given to foreign nationals to engage in similar activities in the United States. Administered by the Fulbright Program, the Thomas Jefferson Chair is awarded to an individual each year with "impressive academic achievement" in both teaching and research.

Childs is a popular teacher whose research on social action and populist social movements is enriched by his volunteer participation in community groups. He has been involved for many years in the urban youth antiviolence movement in the U.S. He is a member of the board of directors of Barrios Unidos/United Neighborhoods, a Santa Cruz-based national organization that is dedicated to creating peaceful alternatives to gang and youth violence. Childs also works with Stop the Violence in Los Angeles and the Institute for Violence Reduction in Hartford, Connecticut.

"There are about 6,000 antiviolence organizations in the U.S. today, and what we're seeing is really a community renaissance--a rebuilding of our urban areas," says Childs. "I believe this emergence of constructive leadership opportunities for youth has positioned us to create a positive society in the 21st century, and it's because of what's going on in the ghettos and in the barrios."

Many young people in urban areas face a range of problems from violence at home or on the streets, to family, drug, or school problems, says Childs. Barrios Unidos, which has 34 chapters across the country, offers a multidimensional program that combines job training, leadership skills, and education with spiritual values that stem from Native American sensibilities, he says.

"It's pragmatic and also very visionary," Childs says of the Barrios Unidos program. "The emphasis is on youth leadership--most of the directors are under 25 years old. In order to do this work, you have to have been there, and these young people have. They've not only ignored society's message that they can't make it, they've done the opposite. They've made it and are helping thousands of other young people make it. It's tremendously uplifting."

Childs is author of Leadership, Conflict, and Cooperation in Afro-American Social Thought (Temple University Press) and coeditor of Global Visions: Beyond the New World Order (South End Press). He has written numerous articles, including the recent "Peace in the Streets: The New Youth Peace Movement," which appeared in Z magazine. He is currently writing a book entitled "Transcommunality: Roots of Peace and Justice in the Age of Crisis."

The Fulbright Program was established in 1946 to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries through educational and cultural exchanges. Approximately 4,800 new grants are awarded annually.

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