Fisk University’s New Social Justice Institute

Ilyasah Shabazz

Like the rising of the legendary phoenix, this is the story of rebirth; the launch of Fisk University’s Social Justice Institute. As indicated in a recent article in the Tennessee Tribune the Social Justice Center is actually the relaunching of the historic Race Relations Institute under a different name.  This historic think tank was created in 1942 to encourage social scientists, religious leaders, educators, government officials, and other notable figures to offer research and discussion on racial parity.  It also created a standard method for holding a national dialog on race. 

Rel DowellIt was in this spirit that acclaimed filmmaker and Fisk University graduate Rel Dowell, as a part of events around the University’s new Social Justice Institute Celebration previewed his acclaimed documentary “Where’s Daddy,” to an overflow crowd.   “Where’s Daddy?” released in February 2018 examines America’s child support system and its specific effects and consequences to black families, with an emphasis on the experience of fathers as participants in the system. Attentive crowd whereThe film also examines legal challenges, social implications, cultural issues and the emotional impact of navigating the child support system as an African American father. 

As a second component of Social Justice Institute’s opening the University held a symposium on “social justice, social change,” which featured award-winning author Ilyasah Shabazz, the daughter of Malcolm X.  The author of four award-winning novels, Shabazz urged the crowd to “fight injustice and to build the bridges need to improve this city and the nation.” Medal of Freedom Recipient During this portion of the program, the University also presented the Social Justice Medal of Freedom to Dr. Charles Kimbrough.  Kimbrough was recognized for his work in fighting injustice and for his work with the NAACP in addressing civil rights in the African-American community.

When fully operational the Social Justice Institute will house three academic programs: AA, BA, and MA in Social Justice.  More importantly, said Fisk University Provost Vann Newkirk, “the Institute will create the change leadership needed to transform conditions in this country.”