Barnard Medal of Distinction Citation for Jimmie Briggs, presented by Prof. Janet Jakobsen at Commencement 2013.
Jimmie Briggs. Journalist and educator. Activist and humanitarian. The Man behind the Man Up Campaign, carrying a message to a new generation.
You didn’t become a doctor, in spite of early dreams and your parents’ wishes. Instead, you fell in love with writing, and during your first job in the Washington Post mail room, wrote a piece on politics and hip hop that led you to freelance music critic and news aid on the foreign desk. To New York, for a Village Voice fellowship, and then LIFE magazine, where your reporting on the Gulf War’s impact on children made the cover in November of 1995.
In the decades since—with the eye of a journalist, the perspective of a father, the values instilled at Morehouse College, and the compassion and determination that come from bearing witness to the many tragedies of the world—you have only deepened your commitment, making vital connections between war and domestic violence, and writing about issues often discarded by the media. With your innovative global initiative, the Man Up Campaign, you have mobilized young people in 50 countries to stop violence against the women and girls in their communities through sports, technology, and the arts. And because the communities differ, so do the tools: a graphic novel and school curriculum in Paraguay, a soccer tournament in Guyana to start a dialogue, murals in Minnesota to shed light on the issues. You have always been concerned with the bigger picture, with personal responsibility, with health and justice, with girls’ education, and with using this pivotal moment for change to envision a more sustainable world.
More than once, at the many conferences on feminism I’ve attended, someone from the audience has asked: “Where are the men?” And with conviction you have answered: present. On behalf of Barnard, the Center for Research on Women, and all whom you have imbued with a sense of possibility and hope. And on behalf of the graduates before you poised for greatness, thank you, Jimmie Briggs, for standing up when and where it counts.
It is my honor to present you with the 2013 Barnard Medal of Distinction and my pleasure to cheer you on.