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The Genius of Dr. Tiya Miles

University of Michigan professor recently won a MacArthur Fellowship “Genius” Award

(page 6 of 6)

It is this type of courage and perseverance that enabled her to pioneer new ground in academia, earning her the Genius grant.

“When she received the phone call notifying her that she had won a MacArthur Fellowship,” says her husband, Dr. Gone, “I felt overwhelming pride in and for her, thanks to the distinctive recognition that her work so truly deserves.”

He adds, “To me, the most amazing aspect of Tiya’s scholarly contribution is that it sensitively sympathizes with the historical predicaments of both African Americans and American Indians without averting our gaze from the horror and heartbreak that characterized some of the encounters between these peoples.”

Miles says she may use some of the money for a program she founded in 2011, called ECO Girls — Environmental and Cultural Opportunities for Girls in urban Southeast Michigan.

Her goal? Promoting the positive development of girls and helping the environment by pairing college students with girls of color in economically challenged areas.  Miles said she’d been receiving small grants, but was not sure how to fund this project. Now she knows.

The fellowship will also facilitate research—including facts about slaves in Michigan.  

Miles, who taught in the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of California- Berkeley before moving to the University of Michigan in 2002, views her good fortune through a thick lens of gratitude, intensified by the historical perspective of how women of color have struggled and sacrificed.

“I cannot look at my daughters without thinking about the history of Afro-Native women in slavery, and the kinds of experiences they would have had.  It’s heart-breaking because I know our ancestors went through that. We have so much to be grateful for today, standing on the shoulders of others.”

She adds: “There, but for the grace of time, go I.”

Elizabeth Atkins is a veteran journalist an author of five novellas, including “White Chocolate,” featuring mixed-race people in provocative plots. 

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