Press Release

Pace University to Kick-Off Social Justice Week on October 29

Posted
October 25, 2023
DJ Henry Mural.

Westchester County District Attorney Miriam E. Rocah will be one of the featured guest speakers participating in Social Justice Week

Pace University on Sunday, October 29 will kick-off its annual Social Justice Week across its three campuses – in lower Manhattan, Pleasantville, and White Plains. In its fourth year, the week features events that adhere to values of equity and justice while engaging the campus community in learning activities and dialogue centered on the issues of social justice.

During the summer of 2020, Pace alumni, students, staff, and faculty, in consultation with the Henry family, conceptualized Social Justice Week to honor DJ’s life and acknowledge the connections between his story, racial injustice, and other examples around the country. DJ was a student on Pace’s Pleasantville Campus and a member of the football team. On October 17, 2010, Pace's Homecoming weekend, DJ was shot and killed by a Pleasantville police officer.

"We at Pace are committed to upholding the legacy of DJ Henry and advancing the cause of social and racial justice," said Pace President Marvin Krislov. "Social Justice Week is our opportunity each year to introduce a new generation of students to DJ’s story, and to encourage open dialogue and proactive steps within our community for positive change.”

DJ's family founded the DJ Henry Dream Fund to carry on his legacy and passion for youth sports. To learn more about DJ, visit the DJ Henry Dream Fund, view this video from the DJ Henry Dream Fund, view this video from CBS News, or read this social media post.

Held to coincide with DJ’s birthday, October 29, Social Justice Week is a community-driven effort that understands that DJ’s story cannot be told accurately without acknowledging how it is connected to the history and present-day reality of racism, inequity, and injustice. The week aims to create brave spaces that challenge forms of oppression, and to create a starting point from which meaningful dialogue and action can be fostered for the entire Pace Community.

The week will kick-off with a digital memorial of DJ Henry on all three of its campuses. Curated by the Pace Community and the Henry family, the images displayed were selected to illustrate the life and lasting impact of DJ’s life and death. Throughout the week, there will also be original programming of more than 40 events focusing on a broad range of topics.

On Thursday, Nov. 2, at The Elisabeth Haub School of Law, a discussion will be held by Westchester County District Attorney Miriam E. Rocah and a panel of experts. The discussion will focus on the conclusion to the independent reviews of the police-involved shooting deaths of DJ Henry and Kenneth Chamberlain, Jr.

"Social Justice Week is a special tradition that is unique to Pace University,” said Jeff Barnett, Ph.D., vice president for student affairs and dean for students. "It epitomizes and reinforces our commitment to the institutional values of centering the student experience and becoming an antiracist university. Social Justice Week helps foster education and advocacy for our students, faculty and staff, and the greater community."

Additional events during Social Justice Week include discussions on social justice for women in sports, a presentation of CBS 48 Hours "Defending DJ," which delves into the circumstances surrounding DJ Henry's death; a reading of literary works by student writers from the Writing for Diversity and Equity in Theater and Media program; an overview of the 51+ year history of Title IX; a walking tour exploring the history of slavery and resistance; a conversation addressing the issue of food insecurity, and a presentation that highlights the impact of unconscious white socialization on classroom decisions, particularly those affecting students of color.

A full schedule of events is available.

Director of Residential Life at Pace University in Pleasantville and Dyson Adjunct Professor Vinnie Birkenmeyer recently published an op-ed in The Journal News calling on state and county lawmakers to propose legislation — DJ’s Law — requiring specific training for law enforcement about best practices in different moving vehicle situations. At the time of DJ’s death, Birkenmeyer was a senior at Pace University and was serving as the president of the Student Government Association.

“I still count it as one the most pivotal moments in my life, and a large part of why I went into working in student affairs on college campuses — seeing the impact decisions made during tragedies can have on young adults and wanting be part of that support network,” Birkenmeyer wrote in his op-ed. “In the last 13 years I have been proud of the work done to keep DJ’s memory alive at Pace through the dedication of permanent structures to honor DJ on our Westchester and New York City campuses, telling DJ’s story in various venues, and most notably through the adoption of the annual DJ Henry Social Justice Week.”

“Pace University is committed to providing transformative experiences for our diverse student body, and our students display remarkable passion for diversity, equity, and inclusion,” said Stephanie Akunvabey, Ed.D., chief diversity officer at Pace University. "I admire the initiatives undertaken by the Pace Community during Social Justice Week and eagerly look forward to actively listening, engaging, and learning from the diverse array of events.”

About Pace University

Since 1906, Pace University has been transforming the lives of its diverse students—academically, professionally, and socioeconomically. With campuses in New York City and Westchester County, Pace offers bachelor, master, and doctoral degree programs to 13,600 students in its College of Health Professions, Dyson College of Arts and Sciences, Elisabeth Haub School of Law, Lubin School of Business, Sands College of Performing Arts, School of Education, and Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems.

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