Journey to Justice

Journey to Justice partnership with Bowie State University, Maryland, USA 

Bowie State University was founded in 1865, the oldest Historically Black College/University in Maryland and one of the ten oldest in the USA. It is a diverse university whose students and faculty staff represent many ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

Journey to Justice was approached by Bowie State University last year and asked if we might provide activities linked to social justice for a group of students visiting the UK during their Spring break 2024.

Martin Spafford liaised with the university and then collaborated with Journey to Justice volunteer Tamla Parris to organise a day of activities focused on UK and USA perspectives around social justice.

Martin leading the Spitalfields walk

These included workshops at Friends House, London, relating to Black British history and a walking tour in Spitalfields introducing the Bowie students to key historical events in the area, linked to Black British migration and class. 

Tamla with Aminta Breaux, the President of Bowie State University

On the day, March 19, 24 students, 3 professors, a Dean and the President of Bowie University came to Friends House and worked with Tamla, Tania, Martin, Pat and Mary from Journey to Justice. 

Workshops at Friends House

It was a highly stimulating and hugely enjoyable day. The quality of the discussions and everyone’s enthusiastic and thought-provoking participation in all the activities was really tremendous!

Here is the report on the Bowie State University website following our day with their students:-

‘Bowie State University students, along with a small group of faculty and staff, participated in a social justice workshop during a university sponsored, week-long alternative spring break trip to London. 

Students met with members of Journey to Justice, a local, anti-racist organization which focuses on addressing poverty, class systems and economic justice, who conducted a presentation outlining London’s history of prejudice and racism that stems from England’s historic colonization activities. Journey to Justice also explained how they use a combination of US and British history combined with studying global human rights movements and the arts to promote a more equal society.  

Tania talking to the students

“To me, it felt like a full circle moment,” said Roxan Rockefeller, a senior computer science major. “I think it’s really beautiful there is some protests in the United States that impacted British people as well.” 

Students learned about a range of topics, such as the historic presence of Africans in the British Isles, which dates back to the Roman Empire, how the non-white British citizens live in London, and just how much wealth has been extracted over time by England from its former colonies, which is estimated in the trillions of dollars.  

 “The conversation we had covered a lot of dark topics that affect a lot of people,” said Elijah Prince, a graduate student studying mental health counseling. “But it covered it in a way where it felt like there was a fight.  The major tie and connections between what we have on the European side versus what we have on the western side, I felt like what brought them together was the fight for justice and equity.” 

The presentation also included exercises that covered the history behind major, historic disturbances, such as the Brixton riots of 1985 and 2011, while drawing comparisons to similar kinds of racially based unrest in the United States.  

Following the workshop, students toured East London visiting neighborhoods that once served as sweatshops for wealthy silk weavers and battle grounds for labor disputes between business owners and workers centered around better pay and working conditions for laborers.’ 

Students & Staff, Bowie State University and Journey to Justice volunteers

Tamla, who was key to the great success of this event, wrote,  “Sharing UK stories of people, campaigns, struggles and achievements with Bowie students who laid alongside US equivalent stories was a 360° full circle moment that struck me in the moment. 

It took me back to the origins of Journey to Justice that started with Carrie Supple’s trip to the museum in Little Rock, Arkansas that ignited the spark for the idea that became Journey to Justice and especially the travelling exhibition. It was all about being inspired by the US Civil Rights Movement and finding UK equivalent stories. And there we were on the morning of the 19th, doing just that! Sharing our stories with our US counterparts.’ 

Tamla also reflected, ‘The other bit of synchrony was that Bowie State University was started by a committee that was made up of Quakers. It aligned with Quaker values and was funded by Quaker money. And of course, we delivered the workshop at Quaker HQ in UK. This was no coincidence though; the connection wasn’t lost on me when I made the suggestion in January to facilitate the workshop there.’ 

Friends House was indeed an ideal venue with its central location, its values and its past partnership and generosity towards Journey to Justice. 

Journey to Justice greatly looks forward to possible future partnerships with Bowie State University.

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