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New Activist in Residence Program Targets Social Justice

Yale Public Health Magazine, Yale Public Health: Fall 2022
by Fran Fried


The Yale School of Public Health’s U.S. Health Justice Concentration launched an Activist in Residence program in February.

Ijeoma Opara, MPH, PhD, assistant professor of public health (social and behavioral sciences), said the program aims to bring activists who are engaged in current social justice issues to Yale to advance their platform and provide students with the opportunity to work on social justice issues.

“As a public health school that is dedicated to advancing health equity through a social justice lens, it is essential that students and faculty are working collaboratively with activists and leaders in other sectors that intersect with public health,” Opara said. “This is how the most innovative and impactful public health work happens.”

The activist in residence will lead seminars, give talks pertaining to their work, and advise students. The inaugural program runs through February 2023; new activists will be brought in annually.

Veteran activist, attorney, and political strategist Angelo Pinto is the program’s first activist. Pinto, of Teaneck, New Jersey, is co-founder of Until Freedom, a social justice organization devoted to police accountability and criminal justice reform.

An NAACP Image Award winner who has been named to the Black Enterprise 40 under 40 and the Ebony Power 100, Pinto has devoted much of his adult life to the cause of justice. Among other things, he co-created a teach-in at Occupy Wall Street about the prison-industrial complex; co-founded Justice League NYC, which led mass demonstrations in the wake of Eric Garner’s death at the hands of the New York Police Department; and helped gain the release of rapper Meek Mill from prison.

This chance to work with a nationally acclaimed activist fits well within the larger curriculum of the U.S. Health Justice Concentration, which includes a class on Public Health Activism and Advocacy. “This is a pilot program,” said U.S. Health Justice Concentration Director Danya Keene, PhD, an associate professor of public health (social and behavioral sciences). “But if the program proves to be successful, we hope to secure funding and support to keep it as a central component of the educational structure of YSPH.”

Pinto said he first thought of the intersection of public health and incarcerated people when he worked with a medical malpractice law firm in his first job out of college. It’s a connection he wants to foster while at YSPH. He already sees some of the strengths the school has to offer: “a diverse student body—not just diversity in background and experience, but in areas I want to create change in the world. It creates a lot of intersectional points.”

“Coming to Yale and connecting with the School of Public Health, I certainly want to raise coalition-building, connecting with the professors across the landscape,” Pinto said. “Also, the students today are very savvy; a lot of them have experience being activists and organizers.” He said one of the goals of the program is to provide students with training in community organization and other skills to h 

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