On October 5, the Liberal Arts Diversity Committee at the Alexandria Campus hosted its annual Dr. Joseph Windham Series on Race Relations panel discussion for students, faculty, staff and the community. More than 100 people attended the event to discuss this year’s topic, “Community Policing.”
Panelists included NOVA sociology student Essayas Abebe; City of Alexandria Police Chief Michael Brown; Jean Kelleher, director for the City of Alexandria Office of Human Rights; and Professor Cynthia Lum with the Department of Criminology, Law and Society at George Mason University. Professor Nicole Hindert (AL) moderated the discussion.
Hindert opened the event, describing Windham as an activist and an amazing person and educator. She added a discussion on community policing and race relations is a must-have conversation considering recent police-involved shootings in America in the past few years.
“We do these discussions every year because this was important to Joe on and off campus,” Hindert said during her welcome. “We also have a student voices event in his honor because he always wanted to hear from his students. This is a very timely topic because we see it in the news. We thought it was important to talk about this.”
The panelists answered prepared questions and answered questions from the crowd. Abebe stated that improving community policing and the relationships between minority communities and law enforcement is a joint effort.
“The reality is it’s not just the police. It’s the responsibility of the community as well. It’s a two-way street,” he said. “We need to come together, and we need to say something because we have to communicate and get this done.”
Kelleher added that she thinks relationships are important on a personal and professional level. She also said education on the history of racism in this country and continuing to educate people on their jobs is one way to help improve relations between law enforcement and the community.
“I think relationships are important in every aspect of life,” Kelleher said. “Also, education is the key. We need to provide an objective education on our history for our children. And we should be learning something and receiving education about this on our jobs as well.”
For this year’s discussion, Windham’s daughter and son – Savannah and Cameron – were in attendance. Windham was a history professor at NOVA who passed away in December 2014. He was an activist and an advocate for education for all. Windham is remembered as a leader who lived and taught with passion and purpose. Every year, the Alexandria Campus hosts the Dr. Joseph Windham Series on Race Relations and a student voices conference in his honor.