National Civil Rights Museum and Just City Host Virtual Symposium on Criminal Justice Reform

Panelists include leading national changemakers in social justice space

Memphis, TN, Jan. 06, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The National Civil Rights Museum and Just City are hosting a virtual symposium, Journey to Justice, to highlight critical criminal justice reform work that’s being done throughout the country and to demonstrate how much work remains to be done. The 90-minute virtual event consists of three Journey Stops, or panel discussions, and includes a keynote by award-winning attorney and clemency champion Brittany K. Barnett.

The partnered event with Just City provides a platform for thought leaders to present research, share stories and perspectives on today’s pressing social issues, as well as the history that has led us to this point.  The complementary work of both organizations will serve as a unique backdrop for this important conversation.

“Justice has been an issue in this country for centuries,” said Veda Ajamu, the museum’s Director of Community Engagement and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Iniatives. “The Journey to Justice symposium is not only to bring awareness to the continued injustices in the criminal legal system, but also to offer a call-to-action. We have brought together an esteem group of individuals in the criminal justice space, including those directly impacted, to share their perspectives, life experiences and recommendations.” 

The symposium focuses on how this system impacts families and society, how it continues to hinder returning citizens and juveniles, and what we must do to ensure opportunity, progress and safety for everyone.

  • The first panel is Journey Stop I: Roots of an Unjust System with Megan Ming Francis, a political science and public policy professor at University of Washington, Duane Loynes, Rhodes College urban studies and Africana studies professor, and Sarah Lockridge-Steckel, CEO and founder of youth empowerment organization The Collective.
  • The second panel is Journey Stop II: Pandemic, Policing and Prosecution with panelists Demetria Frank, diversity and inclusion director and professor at University of Memphis School of Law, Kevin Ring, president of criminal justce reform advocacy group FAMM, and Alex S. Vitale, sociology professor and coordinator of Policing and Social Justice Project at Brooklyn College. 
  • The third panel is Journey Stop III: Returning Citizens and Transforming Justice with directly impacted speakers Marcus Bullock who developed a mobile app to help keep families connect during incarceration through his company Flikshop, Topeka Sams who founded the Ladies of Hope Ministries and is an social justice advocate and talk radio host, and Robert Shipp who consults on violence and speaks on criminal justice reform.

The symposium features keynote speaker, Brittany K. Barnett, who has won freedom for a number people serving death sentences for federal drug offenses. She is the founder of organizations like Buried Alive Project and Girls Embracing Mothers.  Barnett has been named one of America’s most Outstanding Young Lawyers by the American Bar Association. She recently published a memoir of her personal experiences with the criminal justice system in A Knock at Midnight.

The virtual event also includes spoken word by Memphis poet Yolanda “Quiet Storm” Gates.  This event is free, however registration is required by January 8 to access the event platform on January 9. For information and to register, visit the museum’s website.


About the National Civil Rights Museum

The NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM, located at the historic Lorraine Motel where civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, gives a comprehensive overview of the American Civil Rights Movement from slavery to the present. Since the Museum opened in 1991, millions of visitors from around the world have come, including more than 90,000 students annually. The Museum is steadfast in its mission to chronicle the American civil rights movement and tell the story of the ongoing struggle for human rights.  It educates and serves as a catalyst to inspire action to create positive social change.  A Smithsonian Affiliate and an internationally acclaimed cultural institution, the Museum is recognized as a 2019 National Medal Award recipient by the Institute of Museums and Library Services (IMLS), the top national honor for museums and libraries.  It is a TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Top 5% U.S. Museum, USA Today's Top 10 Best American Iconic Attractions; Top 10 Best Historical Spots in the U.S. by TLC's Family Travel; Must See by the Age of 15 by Budget Travel and Kids; Top 10 American Treasures by USA Today; and Best Memphis Attraction by The Commercial Appeal and the Memphis Business Journal.

About Smithsonian Affiliations

Established in 1996, Smithsonian Affiliations is a national outreach program that develops long-term collaborative partnerships with museums and educational and cultural organizations to enrich communities with Smithsonian resources. The long-term goal of Smithsonian Affiliations is to facilitate a two-way relationship among the Affiliate organizations and the Smithsonian Institution to increase discovery and inspire lifelong learning in communities across America. More information about the Smithsonian Affiliations program and Affiliate activity is available at