University of Southern Indiana

Mandela Social Justice Day

Nelson Mandela Day logo

The mission of the Nelson Mandela Social Justice Day and Speaker Series is to raise dialogue at USI around current issues of human and civil rights, public service, and activism through diverse, dynamic, nationally, and internationally known public intellectuals and academics.  We aim to augment each speaker’s visit with a day of educational opportunities for the USI community.  In these activities we hope to commemorate Nelson Mandela, an internationalist educator, activist, and champion of human and civil rights.

Nelson Mandela was a South African Nationalist, a democratic socialist, an anti-colonial freedom fighter, an anti-racist activist, and a political prisoner for a third of his long life.  He was imprisoned for his efforts to liberate South Africans from apartheid, racism, and colonialism.  In addition to fighting in these struggles, he also played a crucial part in reconciliation efforts and the recreation of South Africa as an inter-racial democracy.  His legacy is inspirational to those who seek a world in which social justice reigns, and human rights issues guide our leaders to create better societies.

During the spring 2022 semester the Liberal Arts Equity, Diversity and Inclusivity Committee is partnering with the Nelson Mandela Social Justice Committee to host an event on February 24.

11 a.m. Panel Presentation
Click here to see the presentation.
Technology and Social Justice: How Access Impacts Everything led by Dr. Susan Ely
Join this facilitated discussion on how technology can create more equal access for underrepresented groups and give voice to diverse perspectives.

12:30 p.m. Presentation & Discussion
Click here to see the presentation.
Asian American & Pacific Islander Tristate Experiences   
Hear from those in the AAPI community about their experiences in our community and region.

Simon Tam Headshot

3:00 p.m. Featured Speaker: Simon Tam
The Song of Change

Click here to see the presentation.

When Simon Tam started an Asian American dance rock band called The Slants, he didn't realize that he was starting a movement around freedom of expression and discussions on identity. The band flipped stereotypes with their bombastic live shows and community activism. But when Simon applied to register a trademark on the band's name, the government dragged him all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States.

This is the story of an indomitable spirit who so believes in the idea of justice that they're willing to risk everything along the way for the dignity of self-identity. This is a raw look at our legal system with unflinching honesty and offers timely insights on freedom of speech, how to connect with others we disagree with, and the power of music.

Gripping, funny, enlightening, and ultimately uplifting, Simon's story proves that no obstacle is too difficult to conquer --as long as you have a little heart and a lot of rock n' roll. Presented with guitarist Joe X. Jiang.

Simon Tam believes that apathy is not compatible with love. He works to change the culture by transforming systems with an equity framework. Simon may best be known for winning a landmark case in 2017 that helped expand civil liberties, unanimously, at the Supreme Court of the United States (Matal v. Tam). He is the founder of The Slants, one of the first all-Asian American dance rock bands in the world, and co-founder of The Slants Foundation, a nonprofit organization that is pushing the boundaries of what is possible for arts, activism, and civic engagement. Learn more about our speaker.

Previous Presentations

Visit the Previous Mandela Social Justice Day Speakers page.

Why a Social Justice Day and Speaker Series?

The annual Nelson Mandela Commemoration is a speaker series that directly addresses social justice issues that affect the local or national community. As USI expands its student population, questions of diversity will come into an even starker relief on campus, and this series aims to address some of those issues, helping to prepare students to live wisely in a diverse, global community.

Committee Members 2021/2022

Co-Chairs: Denise Lynn (History) & Elissa Mitchell (Social Work; CSJE)


  • Pam Hopson (Multicultural Center)
  • Joy Howard (Teacher Education)
  • Wendy Turner (Social Work)
  • Cesar Berrios Chavarria (Multicultural Center)
  • Ben Luttrull (University Communications)
  • Veronica Huggins (Social Work)

Contact Dr. Del Doughty


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