Educator, activist and entrepreneur Jamila T. Davis, Ph.D. has been appointed Community Practitioner in Residence by the Center for Community Research and Engagement at Seton Hall University.
Commonly known as “CCRE”, the Center for Community Research and Engagement has mobilized University resources to “develop creative solutions to community problems” for nearly 25 years. One of its founding directors, Professor Roseanne Mirabella, began her work as an undergraduate student at Seton Hall in the early 1970s, doing an internship with Unified Vailsburg Services Organization under the supervision of Dr Emma Quartaro – an internship that emerged, along with many other community service initiatives at the University, the call to service of the then president, Bishop Fahy, and the “relevance” of community members by Seton Hall.
All Seton Hall undergraduates are required to contribute 10 hours of community service, although many chose more; much of this service, along with the additional work of students and faculty, is coordinated by CEMR in conjunction with community partners in the neighboring towns of Newark, Irvington, East Orange, West Orange, Orange, South Orange and Maplewood .
“CEMR was founded on Seton Hall’s recognition of our responsibility to our neighboring communities and our obligation to prepare its students for leadership positions in the community,” said Mirabella, who was previously Special Assistant to the Commissioner. of New York State Social Services before returning to Seton Hall to teach in the Department of Political Science and Public Affairs in 1995. “We are deeply honored to welcome Dr. Davis to the Center for Research and Development. he community engagement and believe in his stature, experience and commitment to racial healing and social justice will reap untold dividends for our surrounding communities as well as our students. “
Social Work Professor Juan Rios with Resident Practitioner Jamila T. Davis and Angelo Pinto, Esq. teaching Introduction to social work
“I am truly honored and extremely proud to be a part of the Center for Community Research and Engagement,” said Davis. “And I look forward to practicing engagement scholarship which I know from experience has the power to make real changes in life, learning and circumstances.”
Currently working with principal investigator Ijeoma Opara of the Yale School of Public Health on “The Dreamer Girls Project”, a preventive intervention study for young black girls in Paterson, New Jersey funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, Davis uses her real life experience and redemption story to create a platform to connect and empower others.
Among other community initiatives, at Seton Hall, Davis will lead a social justice certificate program with Angelo Pinto, Esq. of Until Freedom; Seton Hall professors Juan Rios and Kelly Harris; Professor Bahiyyah Muhammed of Howard University; LaKeesha Eure, director of the Office of Violence Prevention and Trauma Recovery in Newark, New Jersey and the South Orange Community Care & Justice program.
The Certificate Program in Social Justice will last for eight weeks and will bring together members of surrounding communities, police officers and credible messengers from those communities to learn from each other and a program that historicizes the context of the black and urban experience in America. The certificate program, which is later to be offered to Seton Hall students as a credited course, will also seek to empower its participants as stakeholders and agents of change in pursuit of social justice and equity.
“As a society, we have to tear down the doors of racial oppression,” said Mirabella. “They have wasted generation after generation of talent, wit and the literal life of black and brown people in America. We have no intellectual capital to waste in this country. What if we don’t stop acting like this? if we did, I fear retaliation from the voiceless and the souls of those who could and should have done more. This social justice certificate program is just the start – there is real work to be done and at Seton Hall we have the power, the will and the means to do it. ”I thank Jamila T. Davis for joining us and using her deeply lived experience to help us take this next step.
Dean Georita M. Frierson of the College of Arts and Sciences added, “As a clinical health psychologist, I can tell you that the research on these topics is quite solid. Whether we are talking about the effect of race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status on a number of chronic diseases, the health disparities and psychological distress that accompany systemic biases have adverse consequences on the life and bodies of black men and women in America. I had the pleasure of seeing Dr. Davis give a guest talk for an introduction to the Social Class of Work. As she spoke, I watched the class with great attention as they told her story. They were moved, and I felt like they had received a perspective, in human terms, that they might not otherwise have received. It’s an important thing in education – and who knows, maybe the beginning of a bridge has been built. “
Jamila T. Davis, Back Story
A self-taught multimillionaire at the age of 25, Davis bought, rehabilitated and sold distressed properties in the exclusive and, at the time, predominantly white enclave of Alpine, New Jersey. His clients included celebrities, rappers, and a number of NBA and NFL players.
Sentenced to 12 and a half years in prison for mortgage and bank fraud in the era of “no doc” and “low doc” loans, Davis has “become an example.” A federal judge pointedly asked her during sentencing: “Why didn’t you stay in your own quarters?”
Certainly, cutting corners, Davis saw the fruits of her labor fade away and was left behind bars to live with the lessons of her rapid rise to wealth – and even faster from her ruin.
“It was more than difficult,” said Davis. “When I had money, I had more friends than I could begin to count. When I was incarcerated, all I really had was my family – and Sister Tesa Fitzgerald of Hour Children , a program designed by this Catholic nun to keep incarcerated women and their children together. I believed in her and what she did, so when I had the money I gave quite a bit of it to her and her program. I gave money to a lot of people and organizations when I had it, but when I was down it was pretty much just her who was always there. ” She continued, “She never gave up on me and encouraged me to move on – and do something positive with my pain and loss. I did. And in many ways, everything I do these days is just trying to be to others what Sister Tesa was to me. And now, ”she added,“ To be able to do that with one of the great Catholic universities in the country. It is simply a dream come true and a testament to the power of love, faith and Almighty God. “
Song of redemption
While in prison, with the help of Sister Tesa, Davis embarked on an intense journey of inner healing and restoration. Fortunately, she took notes. And from her personal discoveries and accomplishments, she has developed a self-help program designed to empower women in prison to heal, recognize their potential, and “get their dreams back”. This program has been adapted by a number of prison systems across the United States.
His book, Built to survive the storm, was also born out of this experience and has itself become the basis for a number of platforms for healing, trauma recovery, and social and emotional learning. These transformational workshops include the Shani Baraka Women’s Resource Center, an initiative of Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and the Office of Violence Prevention and Injury Recovery; and through its VIP Online Academy, as part of the East Orange, New Jersey Stand Strong Against COVID program, its Summer Work Experience Program, and the School District Summer and After School Enrichment Program. ‘East Orange for high school students.
The VIP Online Academy uses a “earn to learn” model where students are paid for their participation upon successful completion of the program. Using credible messengers, celebrities and accomplished professionals, the VIP Online Academy teaches specific social, emotional, professional and entrepreneurial learning as well as social justice and civic engagement. At East Orange, with the help of Seton Hall, the program recently successfully completed its second year, having introduced ‘Mental Health Peer Coaching’ as a way to empower students to help their fellow students. class to adjust to a return to class in the midst of the pandemic.
In addition to emphasizing professional and entrepreneurial skills, the program also included regular classes on civic engagement and social justice. In the first year, students took these courses and incorporated them into organizing a peaceful student-led protest demanding justice and the release of an unedited video in the case of Maurice Gordon, a unarmed black man who was killed by a New Jersey State Police officer. on the Garden State Parkway. The protest was featured in media across the United States, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Houston Chronicle, NJ.com and the San Francisco Chronicle, and internationally in Yahoo UK, Taiwan News and Nigeria Trending.
“There’s a world of difference between someone who believes they have a voice in this company and someone who doesn’t,” Davis said. “And that difference – with education – is everything.”
While incarcerated, Ms. Davis earned an associate’s degree in psychology, a bachelor’s degree in Christian education, and a master’s degree in African American ministry. Since her release, she has obtained a doctorate. in Philosophy with a specialization in Christian Life Coaching from Newburgh Theological Seminary & College of the Bible.
Davis has been featured on VH1’s hit shows “Love and Hip Hop” and “My True Crime Story”, BET’s CBS series “Pink Collar”, “Sister Circle”. Black company, “The Breakfast Club” with Charlamagne tha God, as well as The New York Times, USA Today, Forbes, and a myriad of other print, digital and audiovisual media.
Her tenure as a Community Practitioner in Residence began on September 13, 2021.