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[WEBINAR] Free Speech and Black Lives on Campus - PEN America
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[WEBINAR] Free Speech and Black Lives on Campus

An online event hosted by PEN America’s Campus Free Speech Program.

The murder of George Floyd and the recent protests against police brutality and systemic racism have galvanized a national call to conscience regarding the persistent challenges of racism and anti-Black violence in the United States. With reverberations ringing throughout college and university communities, this webinar will offer a candid discussion of the challenges and opportunities related to free speech on campus, and how these intersect with efforts to address racism and make higher education more equitable.

Join PEN America as we bring together perspectives from faculty, administrators, and students to discuss the urgent need to confront racism on campuses, the power and pitfalls of speaking out, and the ways that allyship across academia can be supported and solidified.




Neijma Celestine-Donnor is the director of Bias Incident Support Services at the University of Maryland. Celestine-Donnor leads efforts on responding to hate and bias through trauma-focused response and support, training and education, and data collection and distribution. Celestine-Donnor holds a master’s degree in social work from the University of Maryland, is a licensed clinical social work supervisor, and is currently completing her JD at the University of Baltimore. She also has years of experience within the field of trauma services. Celestine-Donnor is an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland and is an experienced trainer and facilitator. Celestine-Donnor’s areas of interest include racial and identity trauma, and promoting diversity and inclusion through a trauma-informed lens.

Dr. Shardé M. DavisDr. Shardé M. Davis is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication and a faculty affiliate of the Africana Studies Institute and the Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy (InCHIP) at the University of Connecticut. Davis attended the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) and conducted undergraduate research through the Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program. Her work was awarded the Steven H. Chaffee Undergraduate Research Award from the Department of Communication. Davis earned her BA in communication and feminist studies as well as her MA in communication at UCSB. She later moved to Iowa City, Iowa to finish her Ph.D. in communication studies and a doctoral certificate in gender, women’s, and sexuality studies at the University of Iowa.

Jael KerandiJael Kerandi was born in Nairobi, Kenya, and moved to the United States when she was 18 months old. She is the youngest of five children. Kerandi is a rising senior at the University of Minnesota — Carlson School of Management. She is majoring in finance and marketing with minors in leadership and business law. She is currently interning with Microsoft in the finance department. Kerandi is passionate about creating a better world for future generations. Kerandi currently serves as the undergraduate student body president and also serves as the student director of Athletic Relations. She has a deep love for football but enjoys watching almost all sports. She also enjoys babysitting, fitness (specifically weight lifting), and baking. As a fun fact, Kerandi is double-jointed in her shoulders and doesn’t use an alarm clock to wake up.

Dinaw Mengestu

Dinaw Mengestu is an Ethiopian-American author of three novels, most recently All Our Names. His debut novel, The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears, won the Guardian First Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and was a New York Times Notable Book of 2007. His novel, How to Read the Air, published in 2010, was the winner of the 2011 Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence. He was a 2012 MacArthur Foundation Fellow and recipient of a “5 Under 35” award from the National Book Foundation. He was included on The New Yorker’s “20 Under 40” list in 2010. Mengestu is director of the Written Arts Program at Bard College. He has held the Lannan Chair of Poetics at Georgetown University and taught at Brooklyn College. He serves on the advisory board of Warscapes, an independent online magazine, and was a National Book Awards judge. He is also a journalist whose work includes reporting from conflict-affected regions of Africa and has appeared in such publications as Harper’s, Granta, Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, and The Wall Street Journal. He joined the PEN America Board in 2016.

Joy Melody Woods

Joy Melody Woods is a doctoral student studying interpersonal communication in Moody College of Communication’s Department of Communication Studies. She holds an M.A. in educational policy and leadership studies with a concentration in sociology of education from the University of Iowa and a B.S. in political science from Texas Wesleyan University. Her research interests lie at the intersection of health equity and interpersonal communication. Woods is particularly interested in how Black women communicate with their healthcare providers when they are not believed or given equitable care. In theoretical terms, she studies constructs such as cultural communication, disclosure and privacy management, and anger communication. Woods is a native of Fort Worth, Texas. When she is not busy with school or advocating for health equity she is reading, trying to reach her goal of 100 books for 2020. 


Jonathan FriedmanJonathan Friedman is the program director for Campus Free Speech at PEN America, where he oversees PEN America’s advocacy, analysis, and outreach in the national debate around free speech and inclusion in higher education. He served as lead author on PEN America’s 2019 report, Chasm in the Classroom: Campus Free Speech in a Divided America, and on the production of its digital Campus Free Speech Guide. Friedman holds a Ph.D. in international education from New York University, and he has previously received awards for his teaching, research, and leadership.