The countdown to commencement has begun, and this year I am pleased to announce that in addition to our 6,800 graduates, we will be honoring Cal State East Bay alumnus and anti-slavery activist Justin Dillon (’92, Psychology) with an honorary doctorate of humane letters.
After graduation, Justin landed a career as a professional musician in San Francisco. An article about human trafficking in The New York Times caught his attention and he found himself wondering what he could do to make a difference. Making the connection to his profession, Justin thought about how he could use music to call attention to this important human rights issue.
In 2008, Justin directed “Call + Response,” a documentary which shared stories about the global slave trade. His involvement led to an invitation by the CNN Freedom Project to focus on the issue of child slavery in Haiti. A second documentary, “Common Dreams,” featured Justin accompanying musician and actor Common on a trip to meet children living in heartbreaking situations and the people working to improve their futures.
Following the success of these two films, Justin created the web-based nonprofit Slavery Footprint which allowed individuals to see how the modern slave trade connects to goods used in their everyday lives. The Slavery Footprint website and mobile app, created in partnership with the U.S. State Department, were praised by President Barack Obama in 2012 on the anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and today have seen 30 million visitors. Most recently, he wrote what he calls a "self-help” book, “A Selfish Plan to Change the World,” which illustrates how the ability to make change lies in all of us.
I look forward to hearing Justin address our College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences commencement ceremony and hope to see many of you as we celebrate our newest graduates during the celebratory weekend.