CLAGS received notification a year ago that it had won a $250,000 Humanities Fellowship Award–the largest foundation award ever given to a non-AIDS gay or lesbian organization. CLAGS uses only a small portion of the
money for its own operating expenses; the bulk of it goes to six grants over a three-year period ( 1993-1996) of $37,000 each to scholars in the field of gay and lesbian studies.
To avoid any taint of cronyism, CLAGS appointed an outside jury of six to choose the winners of the first year’s Humanities Fellowship competition. The jury met on March 6, 1993 and was composed of Jacquie Alexander, Professor of Women’s Studies at Hamilton College; June Chan, neuroscientist at the Cornell University Medical Center and co-founder of East Coast Asian Lesbians; John D’Emilio, Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and author of Sexual Politics. Sexual Communities; Ramon Gutierrez, California at San Diego and author of When Jesus Came. The Corn Mothers Went Away; Essex Hemphill, author of Ceremonies and co-editor of Brother to Brother; and Nan Hunter, Associate Professor of Law, Brooklyn Law School and former Director of the ACLU Lesbian and Gay Rights Project.
The theme of the first-year competition was “Race and Class in Gay and Lesbian Communities,” and it drew 37 applications. In the view of the jurors, every one of the applicants was worthy of funding and picking two winners from among them required a full day of careful, even anguished discussion. After some six hours of deliberation, the jury announced its choices: Carra Leah Hood, a doctoral candidate in comparative literature at Yale University, for her proposal, “Contending Forces or the Ecology of Contagion and Desire,” and Charles I. Nero, an assistant professor of rhetoric at Bates College for “Invisible Lives: Black Gay Men, Domesticity and the Reconstruction of Manhood.” Hood’s project, in her own words, is to “examine fictions of ‘immunity,’ ‘origin,’ and the ‘innocent victim’ embedded in cultural productions of narrativizing cholera, yellow fever, syphilis, and AIDS epidemics.” She describes her primary focus as revolving “around constructions, conflations, and confusions of ideas of disease and desire, specifically as they are attached to ideas of racialized, gendered, and (sexually) deviant bodies.” Nero describes his project as one that “examines the ways in which the domestic as used in literature, film, and the social sciences alienates African American gay men, and how their lives become, in a sense, invisible.” Nero will further examine “how African American gay men attempt to revise the domestic in their literature and film and, as a result, reconstruct African American ideals of manhood.” Both scholars will be in residence during the 1993-1994 academic year to facilitate interaction with CLAGS and CUNY graduate students. Both will participate in the ongoing series of monthly colloquia (each offering a session devoted to their own work-in-progress), and each will offer a mini-course (four 2-hour sessions) for credit at the Graduate School on the subject of their own research.