Jahmila Joseph’s career has been guided by a passion for civic engagement, from her time working for Brooklyn Borough President Carolyn Greer to her role counseling New School alumni seeking careers in government to her appointment to the president’s cabinet for DC37, New York City’s largest municipal labor union,.
That passion was nurtured at Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts.
“Academia, civic engagement, activism, critical thinking, and the ability to forge strategic partnerships—these are the tools that all of us use in social justice,” Joseph, a Lang grad, said to a packed house at The New School’s University Center last month. “They’re the tools that Lang has helped us sharpen.”
Joseph (’06) was one of the many alumni who praised her alma mater during Lang’s Dean’s List and Student Award Ceremony, an event that also served as the culmination of the college’s 30th anniversary.
Joseph joined several Lang alumni in reflecting on their academic experience and giving out awards to outstanding graduating students. Among them were alums highlighted in The New School’s #Lang30 campaign: Brittany Charlton ’07, a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital, and Phil Silva ’04, an environmental planner, advocate, and educator.
The evening kicked off with remarks from Stephen Lang, son of Eugene Lang, the founder of his namesake college. Reading from a speech his father gave at the dedication of Eugene Lang College 30 years ago, the younger Lang said, “For me, for my family, this is an awesome, incredible, and deeply sentimental occasion.”
Again invoking his father’s words, Stephen Lang added, “Our hopes for Eugene Lang College and its transcendentally important mission rest with administrators who will give it direction, teachers who will give it drive, and the students who will give it purpose.”
Joseph is one of those students. Highlighting the importance of social engagement, she cited DC37’s recent participation in the #fightfor15 march, a national demonstration demanding an increase in the minimum wage, in New York City.
“When a single mother like mine is flipping burgers and making $16,000 a year, and the CEO of McDonald’s is making $8 million, and the Feds are giving them a $100 million annual tax break, something ain’t right,” she said. “When women are making 82 cents to every dollar made by their male counterparts for doing the same job, something ain’t right.”
She also dished out advice to students embarking on their professional careers.
“You will be challenged, feel deflated, win, get your ass whooped, and everything in between,” Joseph said. “But everybody here is going to end up doing something in which they can say, ‘I’m doing what I feel is right.’ I want you to always carry that with you.”
Finally, she stated her one wish for Lang—the institution that fostered her passion for social justice.
“If I had one wish for Lang, it would be to continue to build on what we have before us, continue to create this space,” she said. “There are not many spaces in this city, in the country, in the world where you can celebrate your activism. That is special; that is unique.”
Check out the most popular stories from our #Lang30 campaign:
#Lang30: Lang’s Own Renaissance Man: André Singleton has served as a personal assistant to director Spike Lee, danced in carnivals in Brazil, spent a semester at sea, started a widely read blog, launched a humanitarian-driven T-shirt line, and traveled to 29 countries. “I’m a Lang grad, so I can’t compartmentalize very well,” joked Singleton, who also happens to be a cancer survivor.
#Lang30: A Foreign Correspondent on the Front Lines of Conflict: For Borzou Daragahi, it’s been a busy decade, as he’s covered wars in Iraq, Russia [It’s actually the war in Ossetia, which is technically part of Georgia], and Lebanon. Through all of his experiences, Daragahi has relied on his ability to challenge assumptions and uncover the truth—lessons he learned, in part, at Lang.
#Lang30: Poised for Stardom: Through a combination of talent and perseverance, Jillian Hervey, a Lang graduate and frontwoman of the experimental soul/R&B duo Lion Babe, has managed to break through the music industry’s concrete boundaries and build a promising career.