By Teresa Johnson
For The Diamondback
The Rev. Jesse Jackson closed out the University of Maryland’s second Social Justice Day on Monday by highlighting the history of the civil rights movement across the world and the importance of voting.
“This week we commemorate 50 years since Dr. King was assassinated, 100 years since [Nelson] Mandela’s birthday,” Jackson said on a day when social justice advocates gave speeches and held panels discussing criminal justice reform and other social justice issues.
Jackson, a civil rights activist who ran for president twice in the 1980s, stressed how important it is for university students to register and vote in future elections during his keynote address in Memorial Chapel.
“We need every student who lives in College Park to register to vote in College Park,” he said. “Vote where you live, vote where you get your mail, make something happen.
“You look at Maryland and they have a unusual opportunity to learn, to labor, to love, to live, to build, to grow.”
Throughout the day, panelists and other speakers such as opening keynote speaker Peter Neufeld, a civil rights lawyer and the co-founder of the Innocence Project, a non-profit legal organization that seeks to exonerate wrongly convicted individuals, discussed how social justice cuts across different areas including economic development, immigration and creating healthy communities.
“The day will be filled with important conversations about the criminal justice system and wrongful convictions, broader impacts on our society stemming from mass incarcerations and efforts to help create more bias-free policing,” said Kim Nickerson, the assistant dean for diversity, equity and inclusion at this university. “In the middle of hate incidents, race incidents … [university] President [Wallace] Loh pulled the campus together and said, ‘We should have more active dialogue around diversity, inclusion and community.'”
In May, black Bowie State student Richard Collins was fatally stabbed on this campus while waiting for an Uber. Sean Urbanski, a white former student of this university, has been charged with murder and a hate crime in Collins’ killing.
Claudia Allen, an English graduate student, said she appreciated the university for being proactive about social justice issues and added that social justice is a personal passion of hers.
“I just like the idea of an institution [that] just kind of intentionally [says], ‘We want to get involved in social justice issues, we want to get involved in community development civic engagement,” Allen said.
Junior broadcast journalism major Kaliah Hobbs said she saw civil rights activist Rep. John Lewis speak at this university in October and was moved by his speech. She said it was just as important to her to hear Rev. Jackson speak on Monday.
“People think the civil rights movement was so long ago, but there are people that are alive and speaking here that were alive and speaking when that was occurring,” Hobbs said. “I think it’s important that we go to remind ourselves how far we came and how far we have to go.”