African American studies professor Nikki Jones wins W.E.B. DuBois Award

Photo of Nikki Jones in March 2018
Sydney Chang/File
UC Berkeley professor Nikki Jones is currently working on analyzing videotaped 'routine' encounters between police and civilians, especially the frequent encounters between police and young Black men.

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UC Berkeley professor Nikki Jones has been awarded the 2020 W.E.B. DuBois Award for her work in raising awareness for racial and ethic issues in criminology and criminal justice.

The Western Society of Criminology, or WSC, is a professional association made up of students, teachers, researchers and practitioners of criminology and criminal justice. WSC awards the honor yearly to someone that contributes to the field of criminology.

According to Henry Fradella, executive director of WSC, Jones is being recognized for her recently published books that examine the links between communities of color and economic instability.

“Getting people to sustain their attention on the systemic issues that face communities of color is something that communities of color care deeply about and, I think, most criminologists care deeply about,” Fradella said. “But getting the public, in general, to focus on that and getting policymakers and lawmakers to focus on that is more challenging. People who are doing that work to bring injustice to the forefront, like Nikki Jones, are recipients of this award.”

As a professor in UC Berkeley’s department of African American Studies and faculty affiliate with the Center for the Study of Law and Society, Jones’ research focuses on the intersections of race, gender and justice, according to the department’s website.

Jones first discovered her official victory announcement when she was scrolling through Twitter, noting that she appreciated the recognition and was especially honored when reflecting on her inclusion with past winners.

“I was quite honored to receive this award,” Jones said. “It’s always nice when you are recognized for a body of work.”

Jones added that both the Black intellectual tradition and Black feminist tradition of thinking inform her work, as they are descriptive, corrective and prescriptive in their push against historically racist narratives toward the goal of social transformation.

Among these works Jones includes the work of W.E.B. DuBois. She was first introduced to his work as a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, noting she was drawn to his ideas around the “Negro problem.”

“Black people are not a problem — the right question to ask is what problems are they facing.” Jones said. “You get a deeper understanding of what Black people have been facing over the last 400 years.”

Jones is currently working on analyzing videotaped “routine” encounters between police and civilians, most notably the frequent encounters between police and young Black men, according to the department’s website. Her next book will examine how men with criminal histories from neighborhoods in San Francisco affect their lives and neighborhoods.

She added that this year has been “rewarding,” as she won a few other accolades, including an Outstanding Book Award from the American Society of Criminology and an award from the UC Berkeley Graduate Student Assembly for outstanding mentorship.

“It’s nice to take a moment to reflect on the work I’ve done and to just use that has encouragement for moving forward,” Jones said. “I’m on the right track.”

Contact Matt Brown and Katia Pokotlyo at [email protected].