CHICAGO–(ENEWSPF)–December 15, 2015. As he graduates from Roosevelt University, sociology major, protest organizer and rap artist Richard Wallace has mixed emotions about life after college.
On the one hand, the Chicago native is sad to see an educational journey that has been inspired and motivated by his stepfather and father – both who died while he was a Roosevelt student – come to an end.
On the other hand, he believes his Roosevelt education has prepared him well to go out and make positive and lasting change in his community, nation and world.
“I sat in my car and I cried for a bit,” the University’s 2015 Matthew Freeman Social Justice award winner said recently as he reflected on a college journey that was both complicated and inspired by his father’s and stepfather’s deaths.
“At times it was almost as if they were talking to me, pushing me forward to complete my college degree,” said Wallace. “I knew I couldn’t make it through college by myself and they were giving me motivation to keep going and finish.”
The stepson of the late Black Panther and community organizer Mike Smith and son of the Rev. Doris Green who has worked with prisoners inside the Illinois Department of Corrections since 1982, Wallace understands the injustices of police brutality and mass incarceration of minorities better than most.
As a Roosevelt undergraduate, he has organized rallies seeking justice in the aftermath of the shootings of Trayvon Martin in Florida, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., Eric Gardner in New York’s Staten Island and most recently Laquan McDonald in Chicago, to name just a few.
However, he also knows it will take more than protest rallies to change the direction of the criminal justice system – and he believes his Roosevelt experience has given him the foundation to influence and contribute to just and humane policymaking and leadership for the future.
“Social justice has been at the core of my education at Roosevelt University. My sociology professors have been instrumental in encouraging me to analyze the issues and make positive contributions that can change our school-to-prison pipeline landscape,’ he said.
A lead organizer for the Workers Center for Racial Justice in Chicago, Wallace has spoken publically against mistreatment of African Americans at recent rallies in Chicago and other parts of the country. He’s also worked behind the scenes successfully lobbying state lawmakers to make legislative changes, including a Ban the Box initiative, which was championed by the Workers Center for Racial Justice. This initiative has made it illegal in Illinois for employers to require applicants to check a box if they are convicted felons.
“He has been thoughtful and reflective – a deep thinking activist who epitomizes Roosevelt University and its social justice mission,” said Heather Dalmage, professor of sociology and one of Wallace’s instructors.
“I think Richard Wallace is one of the brightest and best embodiments of the University’s social justice mission,” added Roosevelt Sociology Professor Leon Bailey.
As he continues to build a movement in Chicago that is questioning the motives of police, Chicago’s city hall and the criminal justice system, Wallace said he hopes to be a change agent that not only ferrets out corruption, but also ushers in new leaders who will advocate for policies that can help minorities obtain education and good jobs instead of relegating them to a path to prison.
“I’m at the end of my college journey now and am looking back with a sense of pride and humility on all that I’ve been able to accomplish as a Roosevelt University student,” added Wallace, who graduated Dec. 11 at Roosevelt’s Auditorium Theatre.
“Thanks to my Roosevelt education, I think the best is yet to come in terms of what I can do to make change for the better in our communities,” added Wallace, whose next education step will be to pursue a PhD in Sociology.