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Promoting social justice, equity, and inclusion among alumni and students

Posted in: Alumni News and Events

BAAC table at Homecoming

A new Montclair State Black Alumni Advisory Council will bring together Montclair State graduates who are of African descent in the Diaspora, connecting them to their alma mater and engaging them in preparing today’s students for academic and career success. Their inaugural gathering took place on campus during Homecoming 2021, providing an opportunity for alumni to come back to campus to reconnect with the University and with each other. Exciting plans are underway for a panel discussion with The Jersey Four to be held during Black History Month on February 16 and the first annual gala celebration on June 11. We invite you to join the group as they work together to pay it forward building and strengthening the network and supporting student success.

Mission
The Black Alumni Advisory Council was created to engage Black alumni in support of the Montclair State University mission of educational, institutional and overall university community initiatives, policies and activities that strengthen relationships with the Black community and promote social justice, equity and inclusion among alumni and students.

Forming the New Council
“Where we are today started at Montclair State,” says Joanne Bowman ’82, director of human resources at Columbia University, referring to the Black students she knew during her days as a college student and later as a young alumna. “I found myself wanting to reconnect with this network, to do something together, something bigger and more meaningful.”

Brenda Coleman-Caldwell ’78, an assistant director of human resources for New Jersey Turnpike Authority, felt the same way. “Joanne and I had kept in touch with a lot of people through the Black Alumni Association, but that organization was dissolved,” she says. In the years since, their idea of what an alumni organization could be began to change and grow.

They decided that it was time to have a conversation with their friend Greg Collins ’79, who also happened to be the newly appointed chair of the Montclair State University Foundation board.
“Brenda invited me to what I thought was a casual lunch,” Collins recalls with a chuckle. “Instead, she laid out their vision for the Black Alumni Advisory Council. I loved what I was hearing!”

“Now is the right time, given everything that has been happening in our community and around the world,” Bowman explains. “Change is coming to the surface, putting diversity and social justice front and center in our schools, churches and neighborhoods. There is a sense of urgency that we want to build on.”

With the tag line We’re Here and Engaged, the new Black Alumni Advisory Council will comprise 11 to 35 members representing African descent in the Diaspora. Bowman and Coleman-Caldwell will serve as the organization’s first president and vice president, respectively. The overarching themes of their work will be building networks and giving back.

Goals and Objectives
• To sponsor networking opportunities and events for Black alumni
• To develop an annual BAAC event at Montclair State
• To participate in Montclair State Homecoming activities
• To develop an annual fundraising initiative to support Montclair State and Montclair State University Foundation priorities
• To support EOF scholarships and other Montclair State Foundation endeavors
• To sponsor and/or co-sponsor an annual Black History Month event
• To engage the Montclair State community on issues that impact our Diaspora

Black History Month – The Jersey Four at Montclair State University – February 16

The Jersey Four

The Black Alumni Advisory Council is pleased to invite you to a special program developed for Black History Month. Join us for a panel with The Jersey Four, moderated by Jason Williams, Montclair State University Professor of Justice Studies, on Wednesday, February 16, at 5:00 p.m.

In 1998, Rayshawn Brown, Jarmaine Grant, Keshon Moore and Danny Reyes, known as The Jersey Four, were headed to North Carolina to go after their dreams of attending a four-year college and playing professional basketball. But their dreams ended when they became victims of a police shooting during a traffic stop on the New Jersey Turnpike. 23 years later, racial profiling continues as the cries for social justice get louder.

Over those 23 years, The Jersey Four have been actively committed to the work of social justice and community charity. They are examples of strength, growth, perseverance and survival. They have worked with major nonprofit organizations in the Tri-State Area, and today are officially incorporated with their own J4 Pass 2 Assist Foundation. They remain committed to giving back within their communities and fighting for social justice for all.

Seating is limited. Please register to reserve your space.

Jason Williams


Jason Williams is an Associate Professor of Justice Studies at Montclair State University. He’s a passionate activist criminologist deeply concerned about racial and gender disparity and mistreatment within the criminal legal system. He is co-editor of Black Males and the Criminal Justice System, Contemporary Ethical Issues in the Criminal Justice System, and A Critical Analysis of Race and the Administration of Justice.

He’s published various articles on returning citizens and incarceration, policing and race, gender, and social control, and the broader implications around racialized social control. He is a qualitative criminologist who engages in community-grounded approaches to research. His perspectives and research have been quoted by media outlets around the nation.

Save the Date – June 11, 2022 – First Annual Gala Celebration
More exciting news! The BAAC is currently working on plans for a gala celebration to be held on Saturday, June 11, 2022. Let’s join together to celebrate our community and enjoy dinner, drinks and dancing! More details to follow soon – so mark your calendar so you don’t miss out.

Meet the Council
Joanne Bowman ’82 – President
Brenda Coleman Caldwell ’78 – Vice President
Michael Burgess ’79
Antoinette Clay ’80
Greg Collins ’79
Diane Ryales Gipson ’80
Susan Blackwell Hargis ’76
Jeffrey L. Johnson ’83
Donna Teel ’80
Doreen Tucker ’83
Randal J. Yorker ’89

Questions
The Montclair State University Black Alumni Advisory Council is working to create opportunities to come together and build a strong, supportive network. If you would like to be a part of this group, please complete this brief survey. You can learn more, and join the online group in MONTCLAIRconnect, or contact Alyssa Zinola in the Office of Alumni Engagement at 973-655-5465 or zinolaa@montclair.edu.