FAMU to host national forum – panelists include: Judge Greg Mathis, alumnus Anthony Dixon, Ph.D. & more


Updated: 12:04 PM CST




October 26, 2015

FAMU to Host National “Ban the Box” Forum

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) will host a national forum titled, “Ban the Box: Eliminating Barriers to Reentry” on Nov. 12 at 6 p.m. at the FAMU College of Law in Orlando, Fla.

The forum is intended to galvanize discussion in the academic community around ways for colleges and universities to get engaged in issues related to social justice and societal transformation. The forum will bring together panelists from a cross-section of professions, including academia, entertainment, law, and advocacy, from around the nation to discuss the ramifications of prematurely or illegally considering criminal background information in higher education and the workforce, and the role it may play in preventing rehabilitated ex-offenders from re-entering society as productive citizens.

Forum panelists 

Social activist and star of the award-winning show “Judge Mathis,” Judge Greg Mathis will join a group of nationally acclaimed academic and legal scholars, social activists, and community leaders in Orlando to bring awareness to one of today’s most important social justice issues. Judge Mathis is anational figure known for his advocacy campaigns for equal justice. His inspirational life story of a street youth who rose from “jail to judge” has provided hope to millions who watch him daily on his television court show. In addition, his weekly newspaper column brings social and political insight to readers throughout the country.

In his efforts to reach out to youth and ex-offenders both in and outside of the courtroom, Judge Mathis opened a community center in his hometown of Detroit and has assisted thousands of youth through his non-profit agency Young Adults Asserting Themselves (Y.A.A.T.), an agency that provides career, business start-up and job opportunities, as well as job training and college enrollment assistance.

The symposium will feature famed civil rights attorney Theodore “Ted” Shaw, the Julius Chambers Distinguished Professor of Law and the director of the Center for Civil Rights at the University of North Carolina. Shaw is one of the nation’s foremost civil rights litigators and has presented affirmative action cases before the U.S. Supreme Court several times during his accomplished career.

Alumni of FAMU

Anthony Dixon, Ph.D., FAMU alumnus and author of numerous books including “Up From Incarceration,” which chronicles his journey from prison to a doctoral degree, and Western Carolina’s Bardo Distinguished Professor Kofi Lomotey, Ph.D., who will discuss the role of higher education in providing reentry opportunities, will join Mathis and Shaw.

FAMU alumnus and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum; FAMU alumnus Umi Selah, executive director of the Dream Defenders; Sharon Ames Dennard, Ph.D., clinical psychologist, community activist, and business owner; and Judge Belvin Perry will round out the esteemed panel.

Mayor Gillum will discuss his administration’s elimination of the “prior convictions” box from Tallahassee’s employment applications. His strong and ardent support of this initiative led to the City of Tallahassee Commission voting to remove the question on city job applications that asks candidates if they’ve ever been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor. Gillum supported the measure because he believes that people who have paid their debt to society ought to be given a chance to become productive members of our community.
As a clinical psychologist, Sharon Ames Dennard, Ph.D., focuses on prevention, not just treating illness after the fact. She and her husband, Dana, have spent many years studying and implementing strategies designed to facilitate positive growth and development. As licensed psychologists in both Florida and Georgia, the Dennards founded the Aakhet Center for Human Development. Their evaluation of hundreds of children led them to develop an educational model that incorporates culture and innovative strategies to enhance proficiency in core academic areas and social development.

Umi Selah, formerly known as Phillip Agnew, cofounded the Dream Defenders, in response to the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012. The organization is committed to building a society free of all systemic forms of oppression by training and organizing youth and students in nonviolent civil disobedience, civic engagement, and direct action. Selah has been dubbed “one of this generation’s leading voices” under 30 and recognized by both EBONY Magazine andThe Root as one of the 100 most influential African Americans in the nation.

Orlando native and distinguished Judge Belvin Perry gained national recognition when he presided over the murder trial of Casey Anthony. Judge Perry served as chief judge of Florida’s Ninth Judicial Circuit before joining the law firm of Morgan and Morgan.

Societal transformation

Studies have overwhelmingly shown that employment is the most successful intervention in decreasing recidivism, in many cases showing that people who can find a job are more than twice as likely not to commit any additional crimes compared to formerly incarcerated people who remain unemployed. Access to education has also proven to be a great contributor to successful reentry.

More than 19 states and 100 cities and counties have passed “ban the box” laws. Also, momentum is gaining in Washington for similar legislation. Recently, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee voted unanimously to approve the bipartisan Fair Chance Act that would ban federal agencies and federal contractors from asking job applicants to disclose criminal background histories before making conditional job offers.

“Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and institutions of higher learning have a long history of being at the forefront of societal transformation,” said FAMU President Elmira Mangum, Ph.D. “FAMU has a 128-year legacy of providing access and opportunity for the underserved. It is a logical connection that the University would be at the forefront in helping to stimulate academic discourse about ‘Ban the Box’ and other issues of social justice.”

To register and learn more about the forum go to: bit.ly/famubanthebox


Media Contact:

Jimmy L. Miller

Vice President for Communications and External Relations



Kanya Stewart

Media Relations Coordinator



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