Social Justice Leadership in Action

By Andrea Kalvesmaki, ELP Graduate StudentAndrea Kalvesmaki

Last week, I experienced social justice leadership in action. It was raw, it was real, and it provides a lesson for all universities in the face of rising rates of violence and vitriol toward students of color. Invited as visiting speaker for the David A. Clarke School of Law at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC), I was presenting on ways in which we can systematically interrupt the school-to-prison pipeline with professor Joseph B. Tulman, director of the Juvenile and Special Education Law Clinic and the Took Crowell Institute for Youth. Prof. Tulman and I were presenting a systems theory analysis regarding how youth and children can end up incarcerated, and how specific law can intervene and provide reinforcing feedback loops that keep young people out of the juvenile criminal system. It was then especially poignant to be interrupted, mid-presentation, to attend a press conference by the President of UDC regarding student Jason Goolsby, who was detained with a high school friend on the streets of DC for upwards of two hours because a woman called 911 to report she ‘felt uncomfortable’ about the boys’ presence outside of a local area bank. The bank in which Jason Goolsby, an exemplary first year scholarship Freshman at UDC, had an account.

As a student of educational leadership and policy, I was intrigued by how UDC addressed this situation, and especially how President Ronald Mason not only defended both boys (one of whom is not a student at UDC) and presented a call to action at the institutional level to ameliorate racial injustice. Dr. Julian Vasquez-Heilig has published my blog post on this event. Please visit Cloaking Inequity at