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Made in America: Our Gun Violence Culture Part IV

Boston, MA—On Thursday, April 25, Emerson College will host the last public panel discussion in its four-part Made in America: Our Gun Violence Culture series with media partner WGBH. The fourth panel, titled “The Cultural, Social, and Economic Underpinnings of American Violence,” will explore economic inequalities that lead to violence; how communities affect the socialization of young people; the impact of laws and sentencing for juvenile defenders; and programs and policies that bring about change and provide opportunities. The panel will take place from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. at the Jackie Liebergott Black Box Theater, located in the Paramount Center, 559 Washington Street, Boston. The event is free and open to the public and is first come, first served. For more information, visit

The panel will be moderated by author and assistant professor of Writing, Literature and Publishing at Emerson, Kim McLarin, who appears regularly on WGBH-TV’s Basic Black. The panelists for the discussion are Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services Edward Dolan; Boston NAACP President Michael Curry; Director of the Youth Advocacy Division of the Committee for Public Counsel Services Josh Dohan; Programming Director of Roca Inc. (a Massachusetts-based nonprofit that works with high-risk youth) Dana Betts; and Director of Health Equities Programs at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Neil Maniar.

Emerson College President Lee Pelton, who announced the creation of the College Presidents’ Gun Violence Resource Center and the panel series in January, remarked on the importance of keeping a spotlight on gun violence. “Gun violence is a health crisis for our nation—one that is having a devastating effect on the lives of our young people in particular,” he said. “I hope these initiatives, aimed at engaging the academic community in thoughtful debates and discussions, will help bring about positive action on this critical social issue.”

Biographies of panel participants

Michael Curry, President of Boston NAACP, was elected in November 2010 to the Boston Branch, and since then, has reestablished a relationship with Boston’s business community and is working to support local diversity initiatives. The Branch has become increasingly engaged in state legislative issues and has begun to launch several campaigns aimed at addressing local issues, including education quality, violence, economic development, and health disparities. Recently, Curry also launched the inaugural Boston NAACP’s Summer Job – Pipeline to Leadership Program, where youth receive a stipend to support the NAACP’s activities, participate in meetings and receive training in the critical areas for effective leadership. Curry was raised by a single mother, Mahalia Curry, in the Lenox Street Projects and then on Quincy Street in Roxbury—both communities overwhelmed by drugs, gangs, poverty, and unemployment.

Edward Dolan, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services, was appointed Commissioner in May 2012 after serving as its Deputy Commissioner for 14 years. During his tenure at DYS, Dolan’s leadership and commitment has been critical to shaping the direction of the Department to a focus on positive youth development. A strong advocate for implementing reform practices that reshape and strengthen the juvenile justice system, Commissioner Dolan has more than 30 years of experience in criminal and juvenile justice issues and an extensive background in public administration, finance, social policy, and urban planning. Commissioner Dolan’s vision for the work of the Department of Youth Services is to promote unwavering pursuit of positive change in the youth in our care and custody. Through his vision, DYS is committed to creating and owning bold and effective strategies to impact the life trajectories for these youth, foster the improved quality of life for their families and support efforts that make our communities safer.

Joshua Dohan, Esq., Director of the Youth Advocacy Division of the Committee for Public Counsel Services, became a public defender in 1988 and joined the Youth Advocacy Division (YAD) at its inception, as its first staff attorney in 1992 and assumed the role of Director in 1999. Dohan is on the Board of Directors of Citizens for Juvenile Justice and is President of the Board for the Youth Advocacy Foundation. He is a founding Member of the Equal Justice Partnership, a member of the LeadBoston class of 2001, a member of the Institutional Review Board of both Children's Hospital and Tufts University, a member of the Massachusetts Probation Advisory Board, and a member of the Community Advisory Board of the Institute on Race and Justice. In 2001, the Youth Advocacy Division became the first Juvenile Defender organization to win the Clara Shortridge Foltz award for outstanding achievement from the National Legal Aid and Defender Association. In 2011, Massachusetts was recognized by the MacArthur Foundation as a Champion of Change for creating YAD, the first statewide juvenile defender department in the country.

Dana Betts, Director of Programming at Roca Inc. (a Massachusetts-based nonprofit that works with high-risk youth), began her career at the organization eight years ago as a Roca Youth Worker. Today, as the Program Director, she oversees program implementation for Roca's highest risk males, ages 17-24 years old. Roca's mission is to help disengaged and disenfranchised young people move out of violence and poverty. Roca has designed and administers a cognitive-behavioral intervention model, enabling young people to move toward outcomes of economic independence and living out of harm's way.

Neil Maniar, PhD, MPH, Director of Health Equity Programs at the Brigham and Women's Hospital, addresses a wide range of critical public health problems by focusing on the root causes of disparities associated with these outcomes. The goal is to improve the lives of Boston’s residents by creating healthier and safer communities. Before joining Brigham and Women's Hospital, Maniar developed the Youth Violence Prevention Program in the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and founded and co-chaired the Massachusetts Coalition for Youth Violence Prevention. In addition, Maniar also serves on the Advisory Board of the State Street Foundation Youth Violence Prevention Funders Learning Collaborative and on the Expert Advisory Board for the Safe and Successful Youth Initiative (SSYI). An important component of the State Street Foundation YVP Collaborative effort is to evolve a shared leadership model. An Advisory Committee of agency, business, and thought leaders provides insight into youth violence prevention and serve as Collaborative Ambassadors to the greater community. A leadership team comprised of co-chairs and content experts identify how best to operationalize and support key strategic actions. Members of three working groups – Family Supports and Mental Health, Workforce Development and Education, and Youth Development and Mentoring – engage in learning and dialog to determine those strategic actions. Maniar is also on the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Public Health Association and the Full Frame Initiative. 

Moderator: Kim McClarin, Assistant Professor in Writing, Literature and Publishing at Emerson College is the author of the critically-acclaimed novels Taming It Down (1999), Meeting of the Waters (2001), and Jump at the Sun (2006), all published by William Morrow Inc. McLarin is also co-author of the memoir Growing Up X with Ilyasah Shabazz. Jump at the Sun was chosen as a 2007 Fiction Honor Book by the Massachusetts Center for the Book. The novel was also nominated for a Hurston-Wright Legacy Award and selected by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association as a 2007 Fiction Honor Book. Her new memoir, Divorce Dog, will be published in 2013 by C&R Press. McLarin's nonfiction writing has appeared in The New York Times, Glamour, The Washington Post, Slate, The Boston Globe, The Root and other publications. She is a former staff writer for The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Greensboro News & Record, and The Associated Press. Previously, McLarin has taught at Northeastern University and Fairfield University. McLarin appears regularly on the Emmy-Award winning show Basic Black, Boston's long-running television program devoted to African-American themes, which airs weekly on WGBH-TV. She is a member of the board of PEN New England and Boston Day and Evening Academy.

More information about Emerson’s pledge to America on gun violence: In a message to more than 1,700 college presidents, Emerson President Lee Pelton announced the establishment of the College Presidents’ Gun Violence Resource Center and to date, nearly 300 presidents have joined him to make a pledge to President Obama to lead discussions about America’s culture of gun violence.

About Emerson College

Located in Boston, Massachusetts, opposite historic Boston Common and in the heart of the city’s Theatre District, Emerson is the only four-year private college in the United States devoted to teaching communication and the arts in a liberal arts context. The College has 3,453 undergraduates and 837 graduate students from across the United States and 50 countries. Supported by state-of-the-art facilities and a renowned faculty, students participate in more than 60 student organizations and performance groups, 14 NCAA teams, student publications, honor societies, television stations including the Emerson Channel, and WERS-FM, the nation’s highest rated student-run radio station. Emerson is internationally known for its study and internship programs in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., the Netherlands, China, and the Czech Republic. For more information, visit

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