BSU: Sixth Annual Social Justice Alliance Symposium Addresses Inequities

6th Annual Social Justice Alliance Symposium at the University of Maryland's Samuel Riggs IV Alumni Center, Friday, Aug. 12, 2024. The event featured a panel discussion with Amanda Seales, Nikkolas Smith, Keshia Knight Pulliam and Leon Timbo hosted by Laura Coates.

(BOWIE, Md.) – A panel comprised of actors, musicians and other artists participated in a panel discussion on how they cope with and are impacted by social inequities at the BSU-UMD Social Justice Alliance’s Sixth Annual Social Justice Alliance Symposium held at the University of Maryland (UMD) last Friday.  

This year’s theme, Lift Every Voice: Artists for Social and Racial Justice, encompassed topics such as using the arts to address and heal from trauma, and pushing back against divisive narratives that occupy traditional and social media spaces.  

CNN’s Laura Coates moderated the panel discussion which featured Insecure alum and comedian Amanda Seales, actress and director Keishia Knight Pulliam, artist and illustrator Nikkolas Smith and R&B/Soul singer Leon Timbo. Bowie State’s Dr. Matasha Harris, is co-lead of the Social Justice Alliance. 

“It was very empowering to hear the panelists speak about the challenges that they face daily as artists,” she said. “They were open and transparent regarding the racism within the industry and spoke candidly about how they’ve been treated.” 

The program also featured awards and honors given to those who have contributed to the mission of the Social Justice Alliance. Bowie State’s Dr. Keadrick Peters, along with UMD’s Dr. Joni Floyd, were bestowed the Social Justice Alliance Excellence in Leadership Award which recognizes faculty, staff and administrators who, through their leadership inspire students to engage in anti-racist work in their communities.  

Bowie State’s Sydney Barnes and the University of Maryland’s Miriam Oke were given the Social Justice Alliance Student Impact Award which recognizes students who disrupt racism and white supremacy in their academic institutions, organizations and/or communities. Nikkolas Smith and Laura Coates were presented with the Social Justice Alliance Trailblazer Award which recognizes prominent national figures in the fight toward equity for all people.  

Steve Stephens II, who helped launch the Social Justice Alliance on Bowie State’s campus, received the Social Justice Alliance Founder’s Award. 

“To receive the Founder’s Award was great,” said Stephens. “I enjoyed having time to speak and give thanks and flowers to those who supported me during my tenure as SJA’s co-lead. Our team did a lot of great work during my time as SJA programming chair, then lead, for four years. Being able to sit with my colleagues and the Collins family, who I haven’t had the chance to interact with in a while, was simply amazing.” 

Bowie State University (BSU), in collaboration with the University of Maryland (UMD) and the Lt. Richard Collins III Foundation, developed a Social Justice Alliance to honor the legacy of BSU alumnus Lt. Richard Collins III and promote social justice on their respective campuses. Led by faculty experts from each university, the Alliance is addressing critical issues facing campuses, communities, and the nation by engaging students and communities to bring about social change. 

Lt. Collins was posthumously promoted to the rank of First Lieutenant by the U.S. Army.  He was murdered on the College Park campus in 2017 a few days before graduating from Bowie State.