Mark Q. Sawyer, Presente! (January 10, 1972 – March 26, 2017)

Mark Q. Sawyer, Presente! (January 10, 1972 – March 27, 2017)

We in the Department of African American Studies are mourning the sudden and tragic loss of our beloved colleague and friend, Mark Q. Sawyer.  He was only 45.  A genuine academic star in the areas of race, politics, and Latin America, Mark was Professor of African American Studies and Political Science.  He has been a member of UCLA’s faculty since 1999, having arrived just as he received his doctorate in Political Science from the University of Chicago.

His first book, Racial Politics in Post-Revolutionary Cuba, published by Cambridge University Press in 2006, earned critical acclaimed and garnered major prizes in his field, including the Ralph Bunche Award, American Political Science Association and the W. E. B. Du Bois Award from the National Conference of Black Political Scientists.  The book was pathbreaking in its objective assessment of the Cuban Revolution’s capacity to eliminate racism and incorporate the island’s Black population.  Mark dismisses both detractors and defenders of Castro who either see the revolution as a profound failure or a shining success.  The results, he reveals, are far more nuanced and unstable.  He also examines Cuban politics in the diaspora, mainly the activities of exiled Cubans in Miami as well as Black nationalists.   His research shows that while the Miami Latino community pushed to overthrow the regime, revolutionary Cuba remained popular among Black people who experienced palpable changes in their lives and life-chances.

Mark has also published widely on racial political, gender, immigration, coalition politics—always with an eye toward history—in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and here in the U.S.   His essays have appeared in Souls, Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, Journal of Political Psychology, Du Bois Review, Perspectives on Politics, and the UCLA Journal of International and Foreign Affairs.

Mark was also a key institution builder here at UCLA.  He served as the Director of the Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Politics, Associate Director of the Center for American Politics and Public Policy, and Chair of the Interdepartmental Program in African American Studies.  Indeed, as Chair of the IDP from 2011 to December 2013, Mark drafted and shepherded the application that ultimately resulted in our departmentalization.  He had been a consisted voice for departmentalization for at least a decade and was willing to work tirelessly toward the goal.  

Although Mark was beset with serious health challenges over the past few years, he persevered and insisted on mentoring students and participating in the life of the university.  He will be remembered as a brilliant scholar, a visionary academic leader, and a popular teacher whose enthusiasm for his subject was palpable and infectious. 

Mark Q. Sawyer is survived by his family, including his wife Celia Lacayo and daughter, Nina.  To them we send heartfelt condolences.  We will update you with any information about services, memorials, or instructions from the family regarding donations/gifts.

Mark Q. Sawyer, Presente!

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