The Source had the privilege of connecting with Roc Nation Managing Director, Dania Diaz, who is at the forefront of organizing the upcoming Annual Social Justice Summit, a collaborative effort between Roc Nation and the United Justice Coalition. Set to take place on Dec. 1 at the Javits Center in New York, the summit promises to be a pivotal event with a diverse lineup of speakers and thought-provoking discussions.
In conversation with The Source, Diaz spoke about the Summit, it’s evolution, what attendees can expect, and more.
The Source: Can you provide an overview of the United Justice Coalition’s Annual Social Justice Summit and the goals it aims to achieve, especially in relation to social justice issues?
Dania Diaz: The United Justice Coalition’s Summit this year will engage thought leaders, policymakers, activists, artists, students and experts across industries in conversation and dialogue about our criminal legal system in an effort to improve it and achieve greater fairness and justice for all.
Too often the development and application of laws and policies adversely impact marginalized communities, and in order to fix these inequities and flaws, we need to understand the root causes, and also learn from examples and models that work.
In addition to thought provoking conversations on stage, we will provide attendees with opportunities to network with one another and with the 60+ nonprofit organizations working in the social justice space. All of these elements are designed to help the community in attendance become more educated and inspired to take action in order to advance justice in their own communities.
The list of confirmed speakers for this year’s summit is impressive. What criteria were used in selecting these speakers, and what do they bring to the table in terms of addressing social justice challenges?
For each panel conversation, our goal is to bring experts to the table who can collectively provide a well rounded perspective on the topics that will be discussed. We look to bring in perspectives from federal and state branches of government, policy and academic leaders, national and local organizers, people with lived experiences, and other subject matter experts.
How has the UJC Summit evolved since its inaugural event in July 2022, and what impact has it had on attendees and the broader community?
The UJC Summit has grown in scale and size, as well as in the experiences that will be offered to attendees. We will be at the Javits Center this year, and expect over 5000+ attendees from across the country. In addition to panel discussions and spotlight conversations on stage, we will expand the exhibition area for nonprofit organizations from across the country so that nearly 60+ will be able to share their important work and engage participants.
We will also have a merch area where books written by some of our speakers and moderators will be sold, multiple networking areas, a small cinema for content relevant shorts, live podcasting segments, as well as an art gallery and concessions.
The positive feedback from all who participated last year cemented our conviction that this is a convening that the public values, and so with that the Summit will only get better and better each year. We are extremely excited to expand and deepen the experience for all on December 1.
The summit offers a wide array of topics, from civic engagement to probation and parole laws. Can you elaborate on the importance of these topics and how they contribute to the overall mission of the summit?
The mission of the UJC Summit is to educate, inspire and empower attendees to take action in order to advance fairness and justice in our criminal legal system. By better understanding how important facets of the system works, from police contact to post incarceration, and how these facets intersect with race, culture, economic status, religion, age, and identity, for example, we can begin formulate a more critical understanding of what needs to improve at every level and what we can do to make it better, across local, state and federal jurisdictions and communities.
In addition to the speaker sessions, the summit features on-site stations for legal information and networking sessions. How do these elements enhance the attendee experience and contribute to the summit’s goals?
The expansion of the non profit exhibition area, which includes dozens of justice reform organizations and more networking areas allows attendees to make connections that can strengthen their collective work. Too often we are siloed or feel like we don’t know where to begin to take action. One of the goals for the UJC Summit is to create a space of learning, interaction and action. Whether it’s a district attorney and a law student, a victim of violence and a mental health professional, a community leader and a judge, a formerly incarcerated individual and a prospective employer – an artist and an activist…the opportunities to learn and to network are vast!
The inclusion of an art gallery, art, short films, and books by speakers is an interesting feature. How do you believe storytelling and art contribute to the mission of the UJC Summit and its activism?
Everyone has a unique story and a unique way of listening, feeling and communicating. When we engage more of our senses – either through art or film or writing – we start to develop deeper connections with the content and the stories that we are interacting with. Bringing in art and short films and literature into the fold this year allows us to connect to the creative energies of those who might have otherwise gone unnoticed – that is why we will be exhibiting artwork from individuals who are incarcerated, as an example. We hope that everyone in attendance will find something or someone that will inspire them to learn more, share information, and take action. And we hope that everyone will join us on December 1 at the Javits Center. As a reminder, the event is free and open to the public!