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Spelman Speaks

Spelman Speaks Series

Spelman College has a strong tradition of working as an active agent in movements for social justice and equality. This series seeks to highlight the ongoing work of HBCUs with meaningful and impactful intersectional analyses and conversations steeped in social justice.

During these 60-minute town hall style discussions faculty, students and well known alumnae will be in dialogue with local leaders and community members about the ways in which the collective can work together to continue the fight for civil rights.

The series was developed in response to social unrest following the death of George Floyd and other victims of police brutality and will address discussions topics pulled from a joint letter developed by faculty and staff in support of the Black Lives Matter Movement.


Spelman Speaks: Examining Systemic Injustices in the Criminal Justice System

Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020 | 5 p.m. - 6 p.m.

  • Zoom meeting.

Opening music by the Spelman College Glee Club performing, "Children, Go Where I Send Thee," arr. Dr. Kevin Johnson. Watch the live performance here.

Spelman Speaks seeks to interrogate and challenge the complex social web engineered by systemic and structural racism. As a historically Black women’s college, we are perfectly positioned to offer scholarly commentary, insights and analyses that address this current moment of social unrest.

As we focus on systemic injustices within the criminal justice system, we join the nation and world in an outcry to reform criminal justice policies and practices that negatively impact the lives of black, brown and marginalized bodies. The unlawful use of deadly force against one of our own students, Taniyah Pilgrim, calls us to seek reform within the culture and structure of policing. As we prepare future lawyers and scholars, we seek to better position our voices in the corridors and chambers of our justice system. We seek to reveal and respond to the often invisible plight of women within correctional institutions throughout this country. Spelman speaks seeks justice within the criminal justice system.

Panelist Biographies

Jayne Middlebrooks Morgan, M.D, C'84

BLM2-Panelist_MiddlebrooksJayne Middlebrooks Morgan, M.D. is a cardiologist and the clinical director of the Covid Task Force at the Piedmont Healthcare Corporation in Atlanta, Georgia. Within this role she is developing ongoing community outreach in conjunction with the Division of Diversity and Inclusion between Piedmont and the African American community it serves. Additionally, Dr. Morgan will be analyzing the science and data from Piedmont and nationally, surrounding the disproportionately negative impact of Covid-19 on minority communities. Ultimately, the goal is to identify methods, as well as areas of improved triage, screening, and algorithms for the overall outcomes management of disadvantaged populations positive for Covid-19.

Previously, Dr. Morgan was the director of innovation at Piedmont Healthcare, Inc. where she set the vision, trajectory, and strategic scaling opportunities, as well as developed partnerships and stakeholders to progress these goals. In doing so, the program recognized close to a 50% success rate (the national average is less than 10%) following the addition of an external investment of $23,000,000.00 for one project within the Accelerator, and the signing of the first ever licensing contract from an external stakeholder for yet another project.

Dr. Morgan, prior to this role, served as the director of cardiovascular research and research development at Piedmont, the chief medical officer of the American Chemistry Council, the CEO of Forty Million Beats, LLC, the world wide director of the Cardiorenal Drug Development program at Solvay Pharmaceuticals, and an assistant professor of Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. Dr. Morgan currently serves as the president elect of the Southeastern Life Sciences Association (the single largest biotech association in the Southeast), co-chair of the Health and Human Services Conference 2022, founding board member of MedTech Women, co-chair of the BioScience Leadership Council at the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, Board Member of the American Heart Association/Atlanta Chapter, Board Member of the national diversity and inclusion team at the American Heart Association, the National Board Member of The American Heart Association Technology Team, the Regional Board Member of The American Heart Association Health Equity Committee, Board Member at Botanical Sciences, and is an active member of BioMed Investors Network.

Dr. Morgan, a native Atlantan, completed her B.S. degree at Spelman College (Atlanta, Georgia), medical degree at Michigan State University (East Lansing, Michigan), internal medicine residency at George Washington University (Washington, D.C.), and both her cardiology and pacemaker fellowships at Mount Sinai Medical Center (Miami, Florida).

Ashley Adams, Equal Justice Initiative Staff Attorney

BLM2-Panelist_AdamsAshley Adams, Equal Justice Initiative staff attorney, earned a B.A. from Vanderbilt University in 2008 and graduated from the University of Tennessee College of Law in 2011. Prior to joining EJI in 2017, she was assistant public defender and district court supervisor for the Tuscaloosa County Office of Public Defender, represented indigent clients as a trial attorney with Jefferson County Public Defender’s Community Law Office in Birmingham, Alabama, and conducted civil litigation as an associate attorney at Gaines Gault Hendrix, P.C., in Birmingham.


Cassandra Kirk, Chief Magistrate Judge

BLM2-Panelist_KirkCassandra Kirk is the first-ever chief magistrate judge appointed by the Governor and elected by the people to serve Fulton County. Tasked to create Fulton’s newly independent Constitutional court, Kirk emphasizes transparency, accountability and advocates to empower litigants. Judge Kirk has over 25 years of legal experience as a jurist, prosecutor, defense attorney, civil litigator and administrative director. Additionally, she has spearheaded the creation of two accountability courts: Juvenile Drug Court and Misdemeanor Mental Health Court and served as a judge in three of the four constitutionally-required courts in Georgia. Her mission is to inform, engage and empower our community.

Under her leadership, the Magistrate Court created its first website; selected full and part-time judges in a public process; appointed the elected Superior Court Clerk as the Clerk of the Magistrate Court; provided mediation services at the North and South Annexes; implemented mandatory civil e-filing with a user-friendly Guide and File system; supported the Housing Assistance Center to provide navigation services to tenants in Landlord-Tenant cases; spearheaded Fulton’s first Misdemeanor Mental Health Court; successfully eliminated the Court’s 30,000 small claims case backlog; and was one of four courts nationwide awarded a grant from the National Center for State Courts to support a pilot project to simplify our high volume calendars.

Serving as a Juvenile Court judge, she spearheaded Fulton County’s first Juvenile Drug Court program, which was selected to participate in a nationwide learning collaborative. Judge Kirk holds certifications from the National Judicial College in Handling Small Claims Cases Effectively, Media Management and New Judges Basic training, as well as certification from the National Association of Counsel for Children as a Child Welfare Law Specialist and is a National Institute for Trial Advocacy teacher-trainer and lectures at Continuing Legal Education seminars.

Judge Kirk supports the community through service to Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., North Avenue Presbyterian Church (Elder) and the Boards of Directors of The Atlanta Resource Foundation, EduHousing, the Southern Advisory Committee to Children’s Rights, and Street Grace, a non-profit aimed at eradicating domestic minor sex trafficking. As a result of her commitment to the community and the legal profession, Judge Kirk received several awards and recognitions for service and leadership, including being named Judge of the Year (Rolling Out Magazine and Women Works Media Group), Woman of the Year (ACHI Magazine), honored with the Power of Leadership Award (Black I Am Power and Entertainment Awards) and being named one of Atlanta Business Journal’s Top 25 Extraordinary Atlantans. Judge Kirk received her B.A. from Williams College, and her J.D. from Washington and Lee University School of Law.

Taniyah Pilgrim, C'2021

BLM2-Panelist_Pilgrim Taniyah Pilgrim is a graduating Spelman senior from San Antonio, Texas. She is majoring in psychology with a concentration in mental health. Pilgrim is passionate about advocating for individuals suffering from all types of mental illness. Her work also involves the elimination of social/systemic injustice at all levels.


Julie B. Johnson, Ph.D. Choreographer, Educator, Embodied Memory Mapper, Dance Activist

BLM2-Panelist_JohnsonJulie B. Johnson, Ph.D., works in the intersections of creative practice and research, African Diaspora movement aesthetics, community interaction, and social justice. She is driven by the ways that dance can serve as a practice of inquiry, empathy, and empowerment. Dr. Johnson is on faculty at Spelman College in the Department of Dance Performance & Choreography and the African Diaspora & the World program. She is a co-founding editor of The Dancer-Citizen, an online, open-access dance journal exploring the work of socially engaged artists. Her creative practice, Moving Our Stories, uses participatory dance, embodied memory mapping, and interactive performance to amplify Black women and femmes.

Dr. Johnson is a 2020-2023 Partners for Change Artist through Alternate ROOTS, made possible by the Surdna Foundation. Her Idle Crimes & Heavy Work endeavor is a collaboration of Black women artists and researchers focusing on Black womyn’s experiences within the history of convict labor and incarceration through live interactive performance, workshops, video installations, and a forthcoming walking tour. This work developed in conjunction with her participation as co-director and choreographer in the Georgia Incarceration Performance Project - an archives-to-performance collaboration between Spelman College and The University of Georgia.

Dr. Johnson is a recipient of the 2019 Arbes Award, the 2019 Black Spatial Relics Residency Award; and the 2018-19 Hughley Artist Fellowship. She earned a Ph.D. in Dance Studies at Temple University's Boyer College of Music and Dance, researching meanings and experiences of ‘community’ in Philadelphia-based West African Dance classes.



Christine White, C'2000

BLM2-Panelist_WhiteChristine White is an advocate for radical inclusion and tangible social change. Attorney, MBA, political adviser, White builds bridges to align progressive strategy and build power for communities of color.

As director of Georgia Alliance for Progress, White facilitates funding a network of social impact and electoral organizations across the state of Georgia. For three years she has co-hosted a regionally syndicated, Emmy nominated TV show, "A Seat at the Table," produced by Georgia Public Broadcasting. On the show, White elevates issues of race, class, gender and politics facing Black women in America.

During her time as a prosecutor in Fulton County Georgia, White witnessed the horrific effects of poverty, drugs and unjust educational opportunities. In response, Christine continued to support local efforts to change policy, address inequity and serve marginalized communities. A proud graduate of Spelman College, White went on to earn an MBA from Georgia Institute of Technology, and a juris doctor from John Marshall Law School. She lives in Atlanta with her teenage daughter.