December 3, 2020 FALL 2020

Natural Born Advocate

Roshawn Boyce ’95 shines a light on social injustices.

By Shirley Del Valle

Roshawn Boyce ’95 has always had a passion for social activism, and that passion ignited and flourished while she was at John Jay College. As a student, she joined her peers in protesting budget cuts and a tuition hike, taking part in student sit-ins and marches down 59th Street. “Protesting the tuition hike during the 1989-1990 academic year was one of my most memorable John Jay experiences. I was one of the students who took over North Hall and Haaren Hall,” explains Boyce. She credits the experience with kicking her advocacy gene into high gear. “John Jay is where I discovered my passion for social justice,” says Boyce. “It’s where I learned that you have to fight for what’s right.”

During her time at John Jay, Boyce also faced battles on a personal front. Her Sickle Cell disease took a toll on her energy level and her desire to participate in activities led to disagreements at home. “I was kicked out of my house at 19 years old because my mother grew tired of my debating her rules. I wanted to participate in fundraisers and marches, and mobilize others for Mayor David Dinkins’ campaign. And, she wanted me to stay home and rest,” says Boyce. “For a short period of time I was homeless and had to figure out where to live and how I was going to pay rent and buy groceries.”

With help from a friend, Boyce found a place to live, and worked multiple jobs, all while pursuing her bachelor’s degree at John Jay. “I knew education was the key to getting the career I wanted. So I got myself together, and began to focus on completing my degree.” She’s now working in Human Resources for the New York City Department of Education and while that takes up much of her time, Boyce still finds ways to advocate on behalf of others.

Serving as a Member-at-Large at the NAACP’s Brooklyn branch, Boyce has helped train the group’s youngest members—teaching them how to engage with communities, and run their elections, committees, and education programs. She also had an integral role in mobilizing NAACP members after the death of Trayvon Martin.

As a member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, one of the nine historically Black Greek Letter organizations that make up the national Pan-Hellenic Council, she works with communities on the ground level, assessing what their needs are and providing support. “Sigma Gamma Rho takes great pride in taking care of and uplifting communities. We want to help the next generation.”

When Sandra Bland, a Sigma Gamma Rho sorority sister, was found dead in a prison cell following a routine traffic stop in 2015, Boyce jumped into action. She helped raise funds for the investigation into Bland’s death, and spoke of Bland and the HBO documentary Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland, to every one she came across. “Soror Sandra Bland represented me. As black women, we understand our past and work hard to write our own futures. We are academically educated as well as historically educated. Yet horrific things continue to happen to us,” says Boyce. “Sandra Bland’s story is important to tell.”

Boyce, along with Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority—of which Bland’s mother and sister are also members—are working tirelessly to keep Bland’s story top of mind. “Our goal is to make sure everyone knows her name. At each meeting, in every discussion we have, to anyone we meet, we tell her story,” she says. “Sandra’s family still needs our support and I believe we still need to fight for justice in her case. If my years of advocacy work have taught me anything, it’s that you never give up—and I don’t plan to.”

Contents

President’s Letter

“We’re living through challenging times.” I’ve found myself writing, saying, and contemplating those five words countless times this year.

Campus News

CUSP Takes Center Stage at 2020 Davos World Economic Forum

In the Media

“YOU’RE SEEING MORE PEOPLE OF COLOR, more working class folks starting to find their voice a little bit more. That’s...

Breaking the Cycle of Intımate-Partner Violence

In Kingston, New York, NNSC’s new approach has significantly reduced the deadliest forms of intimate-partner violence. By Michael Friedrich

Measuring the Impact of Reform

The Data Collaborative for Justice evaluates the success of New York City’s Criminal Justice Reform Act.

On the Front Line

Despite the hardships and health risks, John Jay students, alumni, faculty, and staff continue to keep our communities safe throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. By Andrea Dawn Clark

Educating Through the Crisis

How John Jay students, faculty, and staff successfully transitioned to a distance-learning model. by Mary Anderson

Charting New Territory

Olivia Orta, Ph.D. ’07 blazed a path for John Jay alumni, being the first John Jay grad to earn her doctoral degree from Harvard. By Andrea Dawn Clark

Responding to the Call

Alumna Shawyn Patterson-Howard ’05 makes history as the first female Mayor of Mount Vernon, New York. By Andrea Dawn Clark

A Voice for Victims

Political Science Associate Professor Verónica Michel Explores Victims’ Rights in Latin America. By Shirley Del Valle

Donor Profile: Living with Integrity

Nasser J. Kazeminy, Chairman of the Ellis Island Honors Society, shares how he’s faced every challenge in his life with curiosity, compassion, and integrity. By Andrea Dawn Clark

Flashback -1984

Reverend Jesse Jackson, a potential democratic nominee for president of the United States spoke at John Jay one evening in...

Understanding the Legacy

John Jay students, faculty, and staff visit the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement and contemplate the unsettling history of race in America. By Andrea Dawn Clark

LEAP Forward

The newest student-success initiative that supports second-semester freshmen, through their sophomore year, with intensive academic advisement, experiential learning, and career-focused internships. By Mary Anderson

In Solidarity with El Paso

Through its ties with the University of Texas at El Paso and the El Paso Project, John Jay’s Latin American and Latinx Studies Department seeks to educate, encourage, and empower our Latinx community. By Shirley Del Valle

President
Karol V. Mason

Vice President for Public Affairs
and Strategic Initiatives

Laura Ginns

Chief Communications Officer
Rama Sudhakar

Senior Editor/Writer
Editorial Director

Andrea Dawn Clark

Writer/Editor
Shirley Del Valle

Contributing Writers
Mary Anderson
Michael Friedrich

Senior Designer/Art Director
Laura DeVries

Designer
Stephanie Birdsong

Copy Editor
Carey Ostergard

Photography
Arpi Pap
Andrea Dawn Clark
Gabriel Hernández Solano

Illustration
Victoria Stewart-Meyers