Reflections on Howard University’s Panels on Race Relations

In spring 2021, as part of Alpha Kappa Delta (AKD)’s Anti-Racism Initiative, Beta chapter of D.C. received a $1200 award to sponsor a series of colloquia on systemic racism in the U.S. The funding went to produce three Zoom events that each highlighted different issues in discussing systemic racism: health disparities, policing, and structural racism. The intent of the overall program was to engage not only the Howard University community in the discussion, but also our counterparts at the other colleges and universities in the local DC/MD/VA (or DMV) area who have AKD chapters. To ensure this wider participation, each colloquium involved discussants from institutions other than Howard. All programs were also advertised to local AKD chapter representatives on Instagram, by email to sociology departments, and on Howard’s website.

The three different colloquia were organized as Zoom discussion panels that all followed the same format. The Chapter Representative welcomed participants to the event and described the AKD and Department sponsorship, before introducing the moderator. The latter for each session was a faculty member from Howard’s Department of Sociology and Criminology, who then introduced both the session topic and the discussants. Each session included a national expert on the subject matter, as well as a mix of professors and graduate students or recent graduates drawn from Howard and from local universities. The objective was not only to include participants beyond Howard, but also to make certain that younger, graduate and postdoctoral student voices were heard, as well as those of more seasoned professionals.

Each colloquium lasted two hours, with roughly 1-1.25 hours used for presentations and the remainder for an open discussion among the panelists, the moderator, and the audience. This colloquium was a three-part series on Critical Conversations: Key Issues for Discussing Race in America.

The first colloquium, on February 25 from 6pm – 8pm on Zoom, was titled, “Race, Pandemics and Social Response” moderated by Dr. Terri Adams-Fuller, Interim Chair, Department of Sociology & Criminology, Howard University, whose practical experience and research interests include emergency management, policing, and the impact of disasters on individuals and organizations.

The featured panelists were Dr. Henrika McCoy, Interim Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Student Service, Jane Addams College of Social Work, University of Illinois Chicago; Dr. Ivor Livingston, Professor, Dept of Sociology & Criminology, Howard University; Dr. Marie-Claude Jipguep-Akhtar, Associate Professor, Dept of Sociology & Criminology, Howard University; Ms. Denae Bradley, PhD Student, Dept of Sociology & Criminology, Howard University, and Ms. Tia Dickerson, PhD Student, Dept of Sociology & Criminology, Howard University,

This colloquium addressed the questions “How has racism affected current and prior responses to pandemics?” “What are the particular psychological as well as physical effects of the current Covid-19 crisis on people of color?” “What cultural factors affect treatment and recovery?” “What new approaches might be tried?”  The 25-30 people who participated over the course of the colloquium included a prospective Howard student, the grandmother of a current Howard student and members primarily from the Howard community.

The second colloquium occurred on March 25 from 6-8pm on Zoom was on “Race and Policing” and was moderated by Dr. Delores Jones-Brown, Visiting Professor, Department of Sociology & Criminology, Howard University; retired emerita professor from CUNY Graduate Center and founding director there of the Center on Race, Crime, and Justice, whose practical experience and research interest focuses on studying police-community relations as a legal expert (J.D.).


  • Charles Adams, Coordinator, Office of Undergraduate Research; Chair, Department of Behavioral Sciences & Services; and AKD Chapter Representative, Bowie State University, who researches policing and arrestee drug use.
  • Jennifer Cobbina, School of Criminal Justice, Michigan State University, who studies community responses to police violence.
  • Akiv Dawson, Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology, Georgia Southern University, who studies intersection of crime, immigration, and mass incarceration.
  • Mr. Evan Douglas, M.A. candidate in the Department of Sociology, The George Washington University, who reflects on his practical experience as a former D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer, and who is now working on new approaches to policing.

Some 30-32 people Zoomed in over the course of the colloquium, including a faculty member from Georgia Southern University, several faculty members from The George Washington Department of Sociology, representatives from DCSS, prospective Howard MBA and Sociology and Criminology graduate students, and students from George Mason University and Hood College.

The discussion came to focus on Black-White relations in the DC police force, on the difficulties of bringing about reform within police departments, and on the tensions felt by Black citizens trying to interact with or seek help from police departments.

The third colloquium on April 15 from 6-8pm on Zoom focuses on “Addressing  Structural Racism”  and was moderated by Dr. Marie-Claude Jipguep-Akhtar, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology & Criminology, Howard University, whose research includes race/ethnicity, gender, the life course, and “place” disparities in criminal justice and health.


  • Ivy Ken, Department of Sociology, The George Washington University, who studies the intersectionality of race, class, and gender, and labor market issues.
  • Judy Lubin, Founder and President, Center for Urban and Racial Equity (CURE), a Howard Ph.D., whose practical experience and research have focused on the promotion of equity for underserved and marginalized communities by looking at the intersection of racial equity, institutional change, public health, and policy advocacy.
  • Brittany Gatewood, Post-Doctoral Researcher for the Center for Educational Opportunities at Albany State University and a Howard University Ph.D., who studies social movements within carceral institutions as well as the political practices and tradition of resistance of Black women and their children.
  • Also invited was Dr. Benedict Ngala, Department  of Sociology, Montgomery College, who has done research in race/ethnicity/class and gender relations and globalization. (Dr. Ngala was unfortunately unable to participate, due to illness.)

The 23-26 people who participated included a faculty member from the University of Cincinnati, members of the DCSS and The George Washington University faculty, and, primarily, members of the Howard community, including an alumnus and a technician/safety officer/building manager in the Department of Chemistry.

The discussion had a strong positive note in its focus on initiatives to combat structural racism being undertaken by Black citizen NGOs.

By Sally Amankwah

Return to October 2021 Issue

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