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Social Justice Academy Taking on Mass Incarceration This Spring

By Zenebou Sylla ‘22

Emerson’s Social Justice Academy this year is highlighting the conversation around mass incarceration and abolition, hosting a variety of events that will run through March 8. 

On Friday, March 5, at 3:00 pm, the academy, offered through the Intercultural Student Affairs office, will present their keynote speaker, Raymond Santana of the Exonerated Five, in conversation with Keyon Sprinkle, a Boston-area exoneree, to share their experiences of wrongful incarceration and the paths that they are on now.

The Exonerated Five were five Black and Latino teenagers who were wrongfully convicted of assaulting and raping a white woman in Central Park in 1989. All were exonerated in 2002 after a man serving a life sentence in upstate New York confessed to the crime.

Clarisa Carrillo ‘24, a student worker with Intercultural Student Affairs, said in a video that she is excited about the events and to be a part of the Social Justice Academy team this year.  

Their goal is to expand students’ knowledge in identifying and addressing systems of oppression so they can take appropriate action to bring about social change.

“We have so many exciting events planned and educational events that really dives into mass incarceration, abolition, and just really let us see what people are going through in this country right now and what we can do to help,” said Carrillo.

Typically, the Social Justice Academy would have a half-day of workshops capped off with a keynote speaker. This year, due to the pandemic, they are offering a number of panels and screenings via Zoom. Anna Feder, director of the Bright Lights Film Series, also curated a list of films that touch upon issues of mass incarceration and social justice for the academy.

Some past discussions included talks on intersectional feminism with a former vocalist, performer, Maimouna Youssef, who spoke about her Afro Indigenous identity and history. Another previous topic was hip-hop artivism with Chuck Creekmur, the founder of 

This year’s academy has already offered events centered around the Emerson Prison Initiative, and a book club discussing Angela Davis’ Are Prisons Obsolete?.

Jalyn Cox ‘21, also a student worker at the Intercultural Student Affairs office, said the events are an opportunity to bring about positive change.  

“It’s just an incredible way to show up, learn more, and learn what we can do,” said Cox.

To see a full list of upcoming Social Justice Academy events, and learn how to join, visit EmConnect.

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