What Does Justice Look Like? A Conversation about Race, Justice, and Political Agency
August 27, 2020
We will explore whether justice is likely in the face of legislative barriers, challenge traditional notions of what is possible in American politics, and learn how democracy can be made stronger by those most marginalized.
THIRTEEN co-hosted an intersectional conversation about justice in the United States. We explored whether justice is likely in the face of legislative barriers, challenged traditional notions of what is possible in American politics, and learned how democracy can be made stronger by those most marginalized. The event included highlights from the recent PBS films Asian Americans and And She Could Be Next.
Our guests included Ángel Díaz, Counsel, Brennan Center for Justice, director and producer Grace Lee, and Vice Chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Board of Directors Karen Boykin-Towns, moderated by MetroFocus Host Jenna Flanagan.
- 6:30 p.m.: Introductions
- 6:35 p.m.: Presentation of film clips from And She Could be Next and Asian Americans
- 7:15 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.: Panel Discussion: What Does Justice Look Like? A Conversation about Race, Justice, and Political Agency
Karen Boykin-Towns, Vice Chairman, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Board of Directors
Karen Boykin-Towns has built a reputation as a visionary and strategic results-driver in complex business and government environments based on demonstrated success in the areas of policy, advocacy, communications, and proactive change management. Since concluding her impressive 22-year career at Pfizer Inc, she now serves as President/CEO of Encore Strategies, LLC. She was recently re-elected Vice Chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Board of Directors, the oldest and largest non-partisan civil rights organization in the nation established in 1909.
Ms. Boykin-Towns’ career at Pfizer spanned 22 years where she advanced quickly into executive management roles. She was recruited as a Senior Legislative Analyst based on her reputation for success in state government and held key leadership roles in public affairs, government relations, global policy, and human resources. Based on her positive impact driving change across the organization, in 2008 she was selected by Pfizer’s CEO to serve as its first Chief Diversity Officer. In this role, she successfully developed an integrated, global strategy resulting in internal progress and external recognition of the company’s advances in diversity and inclusion as a competitive advantage. Karen concluded her career as Vice President Corporate Affairs for their $34B Innovative Medicines business where she served as a member of the Senior Leadership Committee (SLC) that consists of the top 200 leaders in the 90,000 person global organization.
Karen is credited with numerous contributions at Pfizer that were instrumental in maintaining Pfizer’s brand integrity and ensuring the company’s global expansion during periods of industry consolidation, economic instability, and dynamic organizational restructuring. One of her key accomplishments involved preserving Pfizer’s brand reputation in spite of a controversial corporate decision to close the company’s headquarters in Brooklyn, NY, a historic landmark and cornerstone for the company and the community. Karen was also sought out to provide public affairs advocacy in response to proposed government legislation that threatened continued use of a multi-million dollar drug providing significant healthcare benefits.
Embracing her passion for policy and politics, Karen’s early career involved serving as Legislative Director then Chief of Staff to New York State Senator David Paterson, who later became the 55th Governor of New York In this role, she led strategy and execution of legislative efforts related to civil and human rights, community development, and environmental issues.
Ms. Boykin-Towns leverages her talent as a coalition-builder and social change agent through her active participation in various organizations. Along with her work with the NAACP, Karen serves on the boards of Visiting Nurse Services of New York (VNSNY), Brewster Academy, and past Co-Chair of the Business Council of New York State. She has been featured in Black Enterprise, Bloomberg Businessweek, PR Week, WWD, Ebony Magazine, Crain’s, African American Career World, Black Her, Network Journal, and Crisis Magazine. Savoy Magazine named her a “Top Influential Woman in Corporate America” in 2016 and in 2020 she was named “Woman of the Year” by Seeds of Fortune.
Karen holds an MBA degree from the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College of the City University of New York (CUNY), as well as a Bachelor of Arts degree from the College of Mount Saint Vincent. A mother of two girls, Karen is married to former State Assemblyman Darryl C. Towns and lives in Brooklyn, NY.
Ángel Díaz, Counsel, Brennan Center for Justice
Ángel Díaz is counsel in the Liberty & National Security Program. His work focuses on the intersection of technology with civil rights and civil liberties. He is active on issues related to policing and technology, as well as matters related to online speech and content moderation.
Prior to joining the Brennan Center, Díaz was an associate at Gunderson Dettmer, where he advised technology start-ups and venture capital firms on issues related to privacy, information security, and intellectual property. Díaz is a graduate of Berkeley Law and the University of California, Berkeley.
Grace Lee, independent director and producer
GRACE LEE is an independent producer & director and writer working in both narrative and non-fiction film. She directed the Peabody Award-winning documentary AMERICAN REVOLUTIONARY: THE EVOLUTION OF GRACE LEE BOGGS, which The Hollywood Reporter called ”an entertainingly revealing portrait of the power of a single individual to effect change.” The film premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival where it won its first of six audience awards before its broadcast on the PBS documentary series POV. Her previous documentary THE GRACE LEE PROJECT won multiple awards, broadcast on the Sundance Channel and was called “ridiculously entertaining” by New York Magazine and “ a funny but complex meitation on identity and cultural expectation,” by Variety.
Other credits include the Emmy-nominated MAKERS: WOMEN IN POLITICS and OFF THE MENU: ASIAN AMERICA, both for PBS; JANEANE FROM DES MOINES, set during the 2012 presidential campaign, which premiered at the 2012 Toronto Film Festival as well as AMERICAN ZOMBIE, a personal horror film, which premiered at Slamdance and is distributed by Cinema Libre. She has been a Sundance Institute Fellow, a 2017 Chicken & Egg Breakthrough Award winner, an envoy of the American Film Showcase (through USC and the U.S. State Department), and is co-founder of the Asian American Documentary Network. She is also an Executive Committee Member of the Documentary Branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Her work has been supported by numerous awards and artist grants from the likes of Rockefeller, Ford Foundation, Sundance Institute, UCLA, International Documentary Association and the USC World Building Institute. She is currently a producer/director on a five-part landmark PBS series THE ASIAN AMERICANS as well as AND SHE COULD BE NEXT, about women of color transforming politics and civic engagement.
Jenna Flanagan, Host, MetroFocus
Jenna Flanagan has been an Associate Producer and contributing reporter for WNYC's All Things Considered, local news since 2006. Prior to that, she worked for 3 years as a general assignment reporter for the WBGO news department and won a Garden State Association of Black Journalists award.
Her interest in journalism began in middle school when she attended a journalism camp at SUNY New Paltz at age 12. She wrote for her high school newspaper, and then, at Seton Hall, was on the staff of the college newspaper, The Setonian. After graduating from college with a B.A. in Communications in 1999, she began freelancing as a News Production Assistant and Engineer for 1010 WINS in New York City.
Jenna knew she wanted to be a full time journalist after the September 11th attacks.