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Statement on Racial Justice: December 2020 Update

June 2020 Statement

During this time of widespread suffering and elevated outrage at the racial injustices of our society, the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University is expanding our commitment to racial justice. As educators and researchers, our work can have positive impacts on developing strategies and solutions for addressing embedded issues of racism, and we must hold ourselves accountable for how our intellectual and practice-based actions manifest our commitments to eliminating barriers to racial equality. We encourage all members of our SPPUA community, including students, faculty, staff, alumni and community partners to embrace antiracist practices and principles. Given the deep legacy of racial injustice embedded in our culture, our institutions, our communities, our economy, our educational systems, and many of our policies, we must acknowledge that when we are not actively resisting structural racism we are inadvertently perpetuating it. We must reflect on how we, as individuals and with our institutional affiliations, may have played a role in shaping the injustices embedded within our society, and on what we can do as we act in this moment. Anti-racist leadership requires continual recognition and active resistance to racism in all its many forms and structures.

With so much work to be done, our SPPUA community has multiple ways to contribute to the societal changes that are needed. Our work focuses in the interconnected areas of employment, housing, climate, energy, economic development, health, public safety, ethical public management, non-profit management, data analysis, educational access, food security, community-based economics, and urban planning. All of these areas create opportunities to address racial and social inequalities. We look forward to developing and supporting collaborative efforts to expand the ways we engage with the world, including how we train our students, how we design our research, and how we interact with our community partners.

With courage, compassion, and commitment to strive for a more just and resilient future.

In solidarity,

Jennie Stephens

December 2020 Update

With appreciation for the dedicated contributions from so many students, faculty and staff, the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs (SPPUA) and Northeastern University’s Human Services Program are committed to taking action to advance racial justice. We, the SPPUA Racial Justice Working Group, drafted this communication to share updated details about recent initiatives. As we continue to expand our efforts to transform our practices, processes and policies to increase awareness of and proactively address racial disparities in both our on-campus and off-campus communities, through our work as an ethical and antiracist policy-focused educational organization, we invite you to join us in this collective work and we welcome ideas, suggestions and engagement.

SPPUA Racial Justice Working Group – The SPPUA Racial Justice Working Group, open to students, faculty and staff meet bi-weekly to plan, design, strategize and advance our collective efforts and check in on racial justice work across the university. 


Fall 2020: Racial Literacy Course – Several of our faculty have played an instrumental role in the university-wide Racial Literacy course (Professors Ted Landsmark, Matt Lee and Rebecca Riccio). Recordings from each session are available here.

Spring 2021: PPUA 5390 Seminar in Black Leadership (T/F, 9:50-11:30). Professor Ted Landsmark. This course enables students to conduct in-depth studies of transformative black leaders in a wide range of fields. Focuses on black leadership in the political arena as elected officials, leaders of pressure groups, leaders of protest organizations, cultural leaders, black nationalist organizations and feminist/womanist groups, and as advisers to political parties and presidential administrations.

Spring 2021: HUSV 2355 Race, Identity, Social Change, and Empowerment (T/F, 9:50-11:30; M/R, 11:45-1:25 [tentative]). Professor Matt Lee. This course examines racism, racial identity, and theories of social change and racial empowerment primarily within the U.S. context. Highlights different ways in which racism and racial privilege have been experienced by different racial communities, more specifically at the micro-, meso- and macro-levels.

Spring 2021: Post-Pandemic Design: Creating Equitable, Healthy and Resilient Places (Myra Kraft Open Classroom, Wednesdays, 6 to 7 p.m.). Professor Ted Landsmark. COVID-19, the Black Lives Matter movement, and destructive fires and hurricanes in 2020 have illuminated the impact of increasing socioeconomic disparity, structural racism and climate change on our country. What is the role of urban design and development in confronting these issues?

Fall 2021: PPUA 5390 ST Race, Energy Policy, and Energy Justice. Professor Shalanda Baker.


21-Day Racial Justice Challenge – Professors Matt Lee and Rebecca Riccio co-led this three-week event that challenged Human Services students and alumni to develop habits of integrating racial consciousness into their everyday lives.

Student Activist Open Classroom Session – The second session of the fall 2020 Myra Kraft Open Classroom featured six student activists who shared their experiences on the front lines of the converging crises looming over their generation in a panel facilitated by Professor Rebecca Riccio. The recording is available here.

Northeastern University Student-Athletes for Equity Coalition – The Social Impact Lab is advising this newly launched effort among student-athletes to promote racial equity in athletics and make grants to support local nonprofit organizations.

Northeastern Students4Giving – This Social Impact Lab program has awarded its fall 2020 grant of $5,000 to Sociedad Latina for its efforts to address the disproportionate impact of Covid on communities of color in Boston.


Faculty Workshop on Integrating Racial Justice into the Curriculum – Professors Matt Lee and Gavin Shatkin organized and ran a summer workshop to guide faculty on rethinking how to leverage their identity in the classroom, to facilitate challenging conversations, and expand their syllabus and curriculum to be more inclusive in terms of content, evaluation and teaching strategies. The school is planning another racial justice workshop with an external facilitator for all faculty and staff in January 2021.

SPPUA Advisory Committee – Two new members of the SPPUA advisory committee, Atyia Martin, CEO and founder of All Aces, Inc., and Greg King, managing director of TSK Energy Solutions, are providing insights and guidance on the development of antiracist leadership trainings within SPPUA.


NUPD Community Advisory Board – Professors Shalanda Baker and Rebecca Riccio are serving on the Northeastern Police Department Community Advisory Board, which has been established to review and make recommendations on NUPD policies and protocols, particularly as they relate to issues of racial equity.

Presidential Council for Diversity and Inclusion – Professor Ted Landsmark is a member of this group focused on expanding the impact of university-wide efforts.

Faculty Senate’s Working Group on Diversity and Inclusion – Professor Ted Landsmark is a member of this group which will be presenting to the faculty senate in January 2021.


Cluster Search on Social Justice and Racial Justice – Professor Shalanda Baker is chairing this search.

Chair of Africana Studies Faculty Search – Professor Ted Landsmark is serving on this search committee.

Racial Justice and the Built Environment Faculty Search – Professor Gavin Shatkin is serving on this search committee.

Humanities Faculty of Color Conference – March 2021. Professor Ted Landsmark is working with a multi-university group to plan this Mellon Foundation-funded on-line conference for humanities faculty of color throughout the region, sponsored by the New England Humanities Council and the CSSH Humanities Center.


Voter Engagement – Professor Ted Landsmark is collaborating with colleagues from the Law School and Political Science on anti-voter suppression research work from North Carolina and Arizona into the Georgia Senate run-offs in January 2021. Professor Landsmark also co-chaired the University’s Voter Engagement working group, which registered over 1000 students, and he worked with the City of Boston to make Matthews Arena a polling place.

Advancing Antiracist, Feminist Leadership – Director Jennie Stephens’ new book Diversifying Power: Why We Need Antiracist, Feminist Leadership on Climate and Energy provides inspiring examples of antiracist, feminist leadership linking climate and energy with economic justice, housing justice, health and transit equity. The foreword of the book was written by Professor Ted Landsmark. Professor Stephens makes frequent media appearances, including podcasts, blogs, and articles, catalogued here.

Energy Justice – With support from multiple external foundations, Professor Shalanda Baker has expanded her work supporting frontline communities addressing energy justice issues by co-founding the Initiative for Energy Justice. Professor Joan Fitzgerald is an expert on and regular contributor of articles on equity and urban climate action.

Urban Affairs Association (UAA) – SPPUA holds an institutional membership in UAA, while Professor Thomas Vicino is chair of the Board and president of the UAA. For half a century, UAA has had a deep commitment to social justice and diversity, equity, and inclusion. Some recent activities include:

  • Issued two formal statements (here and here) about these commitments (to racial and ethnic justice, in particular), and then issued a subsequent statement on concrete, action items to fulfill these commitments, including a community survey.
  • The association recently launched a second, peer-reviewed journal, The Journal of Race, Ethnicity and the City, along side its flagship journal, The Journal of Urban Affairs.
  • Developed programming on a monthly basis to engage the membership with webinars, panels, and conversations to support professional development for colleagues during the global pandemic, with a particular focus on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. These resources are open to our community and provide excellent supports for key constituencies.


As we look ahead to 2021, we welcome ideas and engagement to expand our collective impact in advancing racial justice.


The SPPUA Racial Justice Working Group including Joan Fitzgerald, Ted Landsmark, Matt Lee, Rebecca Riccio, Gavin Shatkin and Jennie Stephens

Photo by James Eades

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