Flores Forbes, AVP of Community Affairs, Shares 5 Things That Excite Him About Columbia’s Anti-Racism Work | Colombia

Encouraged by how quickly the university’s emergency loan fund has built up during the COVID-19 pandemic, Forbes has focused on addressing inequality and racism at Columbia and improving relationships with the community.

“People want to get more involved in the community. Well, it gets deeper,” he said of the task force that tackles everything from programs for those involved in justice to developing communication channels that encourage employees of color to share their experiences.

“It’s complicated to try to do that,” Forbes said, singling out Columbia’s historical ties to slave owners, and the profits they made from slavery. “But you have enlightened administrators.”

One of the task force’s major accomplishments to date is the development of the Community Advisory Board, which will support and expand community programs through partnerships across the university and with community leaders and organizations in Harlem and the United States. ‘Upper Manhattan. The council will work to support a thriving and equitable ecosystem in Harlem and Upper Manhattan through the effective use of technical assistance, health equity programs, loans, grants, education, training and other community programs.

#2 — Partnership with HBCUs

On February 24, 2022, the “Columbia and HBCU Partnership Diversifying the Research and Economic Development Model: A First Conversation” virtual summit provided an opportunity for scholars from across the university and the country to come together and work on some of the key issues faced by HBCU. Put together with years of work by Forbes and partners around the university, including Columbia Business School, Desmond Patton at the School of Social Work, Columbia Finance, Data Science Institute and Executive Vice President for Research, Jeannette Wing, participants addressed issues of community and economic development, engagement in research and innovation.

#3 — Edit 13

Forbes’ work on amending the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution – which currently allows slavery as long as the enslaved person has been convicted of a crime – is focused on education. He and Kendall Thomas, the Nash law professor, previously taught a course at Columbia Law School focused on critical race theory and are teaching another in the fall of 2022. While other movements focus on legal aspects of amending the Amendment, Forbes and his colleagues are more interested in helping introduce new professionals into the legal system who are familiar with critical race theory and the 13th Amendment’s exception clause.

#4 — Change the criminal justice system

Forbes is focused on working for justice in education, including expanding educational opportunities in prisons and providing education and rehabilitation support for the large number of people released from prison each year.

Its goal of changing the criminal justice system and supporting formerly incarcerated people is closely tied to both Amend the 13th work and projects across the university, which help formerly incarcerated people access and thrive in a safe environment. ‘Higher Education. Examples of these include the Business School’s Reintegration Acceleration Program, the Justice Lab, and the Center for Justice’s Prison Education Project.

#5 — CRT 2 Podcasts

Keep an ear out this spring for a new podcast focused entirely on critical race theory. Directed by law students from Forbes and Thomas, the podcast will feature eight episodes, each focusing on a distinct area of ​​critical race theory. Topics range from women returning from prison to color blindness in France. The podcasts will be available soon, pending some final touches from Forbes and Thomas. Watch this place!

Looking forward to

“I am always optimistic. I’m optimistic for myself about a lot of things,” Forbes said. “I survived a very difficult time in this country, and I think I will continue to survive without compromising what I truly believe.” He pointed to the cycle of backlash to black success that has occurred throughout American history, from post-Reconstruction Jim Crow to the response to Barack Obama’s presidency, but stressed that “I am optimistic about myself. I can’t talk about something I have no control over.

Regarding the work being done at Columbia, Forbes said, “There has to be a degree of honesty and focus. We keep moving forward. I think we are going to do some things. We’ve done a few, but we haven’t crossed the finish line yet.

For Forbes, the key point is that “It’s not about owing something to the community. I think you increase your value if you are able to do something to grow the community around you.


Flores Forbes, a New York resident since 1987, is the author of two books: Will you die with me? My life at the Black Panther Party (Simon and Schuster, 2006) and The invisible men (Skyhorse Editions, 2017). You can reach him at [email protected].

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