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An Evening at Emmanuel with Attorney Soffiyah Elijah

Campus Activist, Co-Founder of the non-profit We Are The Ones, and Emmanuel College student Adebukola Ajao ’16 organized a discussion on December 8 that brought together some of Boston’s leading social justice activists.

Attendees at the event were welcomed by Ajao who introduced Emmanuel College alumni and founder of Encuentro Diaspora Afro, Yvette Modestin.

Modestin highlighted Encuentro Diaspora Afro’s contributions to the Boston and Roxbury communities by working to empower high school aged students to see the beauty in their multiracial identities, and serving as mediators in interracial conflicts.

Before introducing the keynote speaker Modestin led the group in a libation that served to honor women of color who had been lost to police brutality in order to focus the group and encourage introspection.

Soffiyah Elijah, JD. currently serves as the Executive Director of the New York Correctional Association, and is the former deputy director of the Criminal Justice division of Harvard Law School.

Elijah began her speech by informing the group of her own experience with police brutality while serving as a Legal Observer at demonstration at the United Nations in New York City.

She spoke to the African concept of Sankofa: the idea that to know where you are, and where you are going, you must have an understanding of those who walked before you. Through Sankofa, women of color can better understand their own resilience and inner strength, for if it weren’t for the selfless acts of a courageous few — from the Queens of Ancient Egypt, to Harriet Tubman, to Rosa Parks — women of color would not have the opportunity today to demand their equality.

Elijah then spoke to new statistics which suggest that rates of incarceration for women of color have been decreasing, while the fastest growing incarcerated demographic appears to be Caucasian women. It was suggested that increased opioid circulation in the United States and the glamorization of prison life through TV shows such as Orange is The New Black, are responsible for this population shift.

Elijah ended by discusssing the recent successes in dramatically downsizing the imprisoned population in the state of New York, while condemning the Massachusetts Prison System for its abysmal population of ~130% capacity.

The conversation ended with an opportunity for participants to ask questions of Elijah, before a more personal networking opportunity afterward.

Devon Wright is a Staff Writer for The Hub. She can be contacted at

Posted by on December 16, 2015. Filed under Around Campus. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.