Confronting Systemic Racism: Perspectives from WWU Students and Alumni of Color

Protest with a protester holding up a sign saying RACISM IS A VIRUS.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020
6:30 to 7:45 p.m.




Check out this video to watch the Confronting Systemic Racism: Perspectives from WWU Students and Alumni of Color.

The ongoing turmoil set off by the horrific killings of George Floyd and many others has created a value crisis for our nation and a clear-eyed reckoning with the long history of systemic racism in our country. Perhaps like never before, a plurality of Americans are recognizing that these are not isolated events attributable to racist individuals, but the predictable result of structural injustice embedded in many of our society’s institutions in addition to law enforcement, including healthcare, housing, employment and education. Identifying the systemic inequities that permeate our communities and in our institutions is a vital first step toward rectifying injustice but many are wondering how to confront these structures to create lasting change.

Western Washington University is proud to present an exclusive webinar conversation with distinguished alumni of color, Confronting Systemic Racism, on Wednesday, September 16 from 6:30—7:30p.m. This panel discussion will be moderated by KING-5 news anchor Joyce Taylor (’84), and features Academy Award-winning filmmaker TJ Martin (’05), Vini Samuel (’94), the first Indian-American woman mayor in the U.S., and Jesse Moore (’05), communications strategist and former speechwriter for President Obama.

For more information about Western’s efforts to address our own systemic change, please visit our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion webpage.  

I also invite you to consider supporting the Western Stands for Racial Equity Fund.


Joyce Taylor

Joyce Taylor ('84) is best known for her work as an Emmy award-winning journalist and as the anchor of “KING-5 Morning News” and "KING-5 Evening News" in Seattle. During her 30-year career, Joyce has covered the stories of heroes, presidents, policymakers, entertainers, athletes, activists and hundreds of people who make up our communities and affect our daily lives. She serves on the resource council of Seattle’s Rainier Scholars, a rigorous 11-year academic program for talented students of color. Joyce was recognized as one of Western Washington University’s “100 Outstanding Alumni of the Century” and is a 2013 recipient of the "Larry 'Go Vikings!' Taylor Alumni Service Award."


TJ Martin

TJ Martin ('05) is an Academy and Emmy award-winning director and editor. His works include the feature films "LA92", "Undefeated" and the Webby-nominated short film "My Favorite Picture of You".

In 2012, "Undefeated" won the Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary, making TJ the first director of African American descent to win an Oscar for a feature length film. 

TJ’s most recent film, "LA92", won the Emmy for “Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking.” Comprised solely of archival footage, the film explores the days of civil unrest that occurred in Los Angeles, California after the acquittal of four police officers who were captured on video beating African American motorist Rodney King. TJ is currently finishing a feature length documentary on Tina Turner with HBO and Universal. 

TJ was born and raised in Seattle, and graduated from Fairhaven College at Western Washington University where he studied American Cultural Studies. 


Vini Samuel

Vini Samuel ('94) became the first female mayor of Montesano, Washington, a position to which she was elected in 2015, becoming the first female mayor of that city and the first Indian-American woman ever to be elected to a mayoral position in the United States.

Vini was born in Kerala, India and moved to Juneau, Alaska at age six. She received her bachelor’s degree from Western Washington University in 1994 and her law degree from Seattle University in 1997, after serving as the National Vice-Chair of the American Bar Association/Law Student Division.  Vini has served as a columnist for The Daily World; chaired the Grays Harbor Democrats; was awarded the Maggie Award as Rising Star from the Washington State Democrats; served on the Montesano City Council from 1999 to 2006; was a national delegate in 2008 for Barack Obama; and served on the Alumni Board of Western Washington University. In 2017, Vini received the Distinguished Alumna Award for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. She now serves on the WWU Foundation Board of Directors. 

Vini owns her own law practice in Montesano, where she focuses on estates and domestic and real estate litigation. 


Jesse Moore

Jesse Moore ('05) founded Common Thread Strategies in 2016 to elevate discourse and drive change on divisive issues. Specializing in message development, speechwriting and communications strategy, Jesse is a veteran operative at the intersection of national politics, criminal justice reform and media. As a former White House Speechwriter and Associate Director for Public Engagement, Jesse directed entertainment partnerships for President Obama while staffing White House task forces on 21st Century Policing, Criminal Justice Reform and My Brother’s Keeper. Jesse blends deep experience in bridge-building, facilitating deep reform and helping leaders and organizations tell stories that compel action. 

Since launching Common Thread, he has served clients ranging from Kamala Harris and Stacey Abrams, to the NBA, NYPD, Carnegie Hall and Pivotal Ventures. He is a frequent political commentator on MSNBC and a board member at both Equal Justice USA and Rock the Vote.

At Western Washington University Jesse served as AS VP for Diversity and VP of the Black Student Union. In 2017 Jesse received the "Young Alumnus of the Year Award."