African American Research Collaborative


Our expert team is made up of pollsters, scholars, researchers, and commentators with 30 years of expertise in polling, African American political behavior, and everyday issues that impact us all, such as the economy, housing, civil rights, policing, jobs, grassroots organizing and social justice.

Providing high quality research on African American polling behavior and the skill to interpret that research is our top priority.

Screen Shot 2021-01-22 at 2.55.52 PM copy

Henry Fernandez

Henry Fernandez is CEO of the African American Research Collaborative.

He is also the CEO of Fernandez Advisors, a consulting firm which counsels clients in management, planning, project development and political strategy.  He serves as a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress in Washington, DC where he focuses on state and municipal policy. He previously served as a member of the Obama-Biden transition team based at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Fernandez has worked broadly in local government, including as Economic Development Administrator (deputy Mayor) for New Haven, Connecticut where he oversaw the city’s seven development departments.


Fernandez has held leadership positions in legislative and electoral campaigns. He has managed local and statewide political campaigns including a primary and general election campaign for governor in Connecticut. He has overseen the development of technology based and traditional grassroots organizing efforts as well as large scale television and radio communication efforts.


Fernandez was the founding Executive Director of LEAP, a nationally recognized child development program in Connecticut serving low income youth, primarily public housing residents.


He has been interviewed by a diverse set of media ranging from the New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe and Wall Street Journal to Variety and Black Enterprise; as well as local print, television and radio news. He served as a regular commentator on MSNBC and writes articles that can be found in new and traditional media sources including ThinkProgress, Salon, the Grio, and New America Media as well as in local newspapers.


Fernandez is a graduate of Harvard College and Yale Law School.

Screen Shot 2021-01-22 at 2.56.25 PM

Ray Block

Ray Block is Senior Research Advisor for the African American Research Collaborative.  Dr. Block has led research design for AARC on a range of polls, including research involving elections, health policy, and African Americans’ policy goals.

Dr. Block is also the Brown-McCourtney Endowed Career Professor at the McCourtney Institute for Democracy and Associate Professor of Political Science and African American Studies at Pennsylvania State University.  Previously, he was on the faculty at the Department of Political Science at the University of Kentucky and the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse. He received his BA in philosophy and political science from Howard University and his Ph.D. in Political Science from The Ohio State University.


Dr. Block’s research interests include racial, ethnic, and gender differences in civic involvement; the formation and mutability of social identity; campaigns and elections; and other topics. He has published dozens of book chapters, manuscripts, and peer-reviewed journal articles and is co-author of “Losing Power: Americans and Racial Polarization in Tennessee Politics,” a book in progress under advance contract with the University of Georgia Press. He serves as co-chair of the public opinion and political participation section of the National Conference of Black Political Scientists, and as faculty coach for the National Center for Faculty Development & Diversity. Dr. Block is a member of several professional organizations including the American Political Science Association and the Society for Political Methodology.

Screen Shot 2021-01-22 at 2.56.45 PM

Crystal Thomas

Crystal Thomas is Senior Advisor for the African American Research Collaborative.  Dr. Thomas’s work for AARC has included leadership on qualitative research on a myriad of topics including reproductive justice, ballot access, and labor rights.

Dr. Thomas holds a Ph.D. in Social Welfare from UCLA and also serves as an Adjunct Lecturer, Research Project Coordinator, and Faculty Advisor in the Department of Education at Brown University.


Dr. Thomas has extensive experience working within academic interdisciplinary research teams and among public/private partnerships both in Los Angeles and New York City, among other regions. Her research utilizes both qualitative and quantitative methods to advance policy and programming, including the use of geographic information systems and spatial analysis to illuminate regional trends.


Dr. Thomas received her BA, MSW and PhD all from the University of California-Los Angeles.

Screen Shot 2021-01-22 at 2.56.03 PM

Tracey Meares

Tracey L. Meares is the Walton Hale Hamilton Professor of Law at Yale University. Before arriving at Yale, she was Max Pam Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Studies in Criminal Justice at the University of Chicago Law School.

She was, at both The University of Chicago and Yale Law Schools, the first African American woman to be granted tenure. Before going into academia, Professor Meares held positions clerking for the Honorable Harlington Wood, Jr., of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and as an Honors Program Trial Attorney in the Antitrust Division of the United States Department of Justice.

Professor Meares has worked extensively with the federal government, having served on the Committee on Law and Justice, a National Research Council Standing Committee of the National Academy of Sciences from 2004–2011. Additionally, she has served on two National Research Council Review Committees: one to review research on police policy and practices, which produced the book, Fairness and Effectiveness in Policing: The Evidence (2004, Skogan and Frydl, eds.) and another to review the National Institute of Justice, Strengthening the National Institute of Justice, (2010, Welford, Chemers and Schuck, eds). In November of 2010, Meares was named by Attorney General Eric Holder to sit on the Department of Justice’s newly-created Science Advisory Board. And in December 2014, President Obama named her as a member of his Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

Professor Meares’s teaching and research interests focus on criminal procedure and criminal law policy, with a particular emphasis on empirical investigation of these subjects. Her writings on such issues as crime prevention and community capacity building are concertedly interdisciplinary and reflect a civil society approach to law enforcement that builds upon the interaction between law, culture, social norms, and social organization. She has written widely on these topics in both the academic and trade press. To this end, Professor Meares has been engaged in a number of action-oriented research projects in Chicago, Northern California, and several sites across New York State focused on violence reduction through legitimacy-enhancing strategies. Meares has been especially interested as of late in teaching and writing about communities, police legitimacy, and legal policy, and she has lectured on this topic extensively across the country to audiences of academics, lay people, and police professionals. Together with Tom Tyler, she directs the Justice Collaboratory at Yale Law School, which plays a central role, along with John Jay University and the Center for Policing Equity at UCLA in a new federal initiative to build trust and confidence in the criminal justice system. She has a B.S. in general engineering from the University of Illinois and a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School.

Screen Shot 2021-01-22 at 2.56.13 PM

Sam Fulwood

Sam Fulwood is Senior Advisor for the African American Research Collaborative.  Fulwood’s work at AARC has included research on messages that motivate young voters of color, rural voters, and voters in the South.

Dean Fulwood is the Dean of the School of Communication at American University.  He is also a nonresident senior fellow at the Center for American Progress where he formerly served as a reporter for ThinkProgress, as a Interim Vice-President, and as the former director and founder of American Progress’ Leadership Institute, a program to assist with the advancement of people of color in public policy.


Previously, Fulwood was a metro columnist at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio, the last stop in a nearly three-decade journalism career that featured posts at several metropolitan newspapers. During the 1990s, he was a national correspondent in the Washington, D.C., bureau of the Los Angeles Times, where he contributed to the paper’s Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of the 1992 Los Angeles riots.


He has also worked as a business editor and state political editor for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution; as an assistant city editor, business reporter, editorial writer, and Johannesburg, South Africa, bureau correspondent for the Baltimore Sun; and as a police, business, and sports reporter at The Charlotte Observer.  Fulwood is the author of two books: Waking from the Dream: My Life in the Black Middle Class (Anchor, 1996) and Full of It: Strong Words and Fresh Thinking for Cleveland (Gray & Company, 2004).


Fulwood earned a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Screen Shot 2021-01-22 at 2.56.35 PM

Jonathan Collins

Jonathan Collins is a Senior Advisor to the African American Research Collaborative.  Dr. Collins’ work at AARC has centered on education policy, including groundbreaking research for UNCF on student loan debt.

Dr. Collins is an Assistant Professor of Education at Brown University where his research focuses on urban school reform, local politics, race and ethnicity, civic engagement and deliberative democracy. His research has been published in Political Behavior, the Urban Affairs Review, the Journal of Urban Affairs, and Local Government Studies.  Dr. Collins is also a Non-Residential Democracy Visiting Fellow at the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation.


Dr. Collins holds both a Ph.D. in Political Science (2017) and an M.A. in African-American Studies (2012) from the University of California – Los Angeles as well as a B.A. in English (2011) from Morehouse College.