University welcomes investigative journalist, activist Jimmie Briggs

By Rebecca Rosman

immie Briggs has dined with the Bloods and the Crips on the east side of Los Angeles, covered the war in Afghanistan and witnessed the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. That is just the beginning.

Briggs ended his two-week stay on campus with a discussion Thursday night at Florida Avenue Residence Hall. During his first week, Briggs led nightly discussions at Allen Residence Hall, sharing his life experiences and the ups and downs of journalism and social issues, specifically gender violence and child soldiers.

Briggs wrote a book in 2005 titled, “Innocents Lost: When Child Soldiers Go to War” to promote awareness about child soldiers. Child soldiers are children, primarily ages 10 to 13 in parts of Africa and South America, forced into the country’s military, Briggs said.

Nathan Hilby, a freshman in General Studies, said he felt much more informed after hearing one of the lectures.

“It made me aware of what happens in other countries and how I can use my talents to help someone,” Hilby said.

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    Born in St. Louis, Briggs began his career as a music journalist for The Washington Post. Then he worked for Life Magazine as an investigative journalist. Traveling the world, his reports ranged from the plight of the homeless to gang violence.

    He has become an activist for these issues and is a United Nations Goodwill mbassador. Briggs has also worked with celebrities, including Ryan Gosling and Emile Hirsch, on various projects.

    Another social issue that Briggs discussed was gender violence, which he dedicated an entire night to during his stay.

    “Rape is a silent epidemic,” Briggs said. “Over 200,000 women and girls are raped each year in the U.S. alone. There needs to be discussions for change to happen here.”

    Briggs said he was happy with the male turnout in the audience during the discussion of gender violence.

    “It was inspiring to have so many men there,” Briggs said. “I hope it was the start of something not just a one off thing.”

    Briggs said his goal in coming to the University was to enlighten students about these issues and emphasize how they can help bring change.

    “I want them to know they can make a difference and have an impact on the world,” Briggs said.

    Christie Fox, senior in AHS, said she felt the impact Briggs was referring to.

    “He inspired me by making me want to do something,” Fox said.

    After his stay on campus, Briggs said he will carry a part of the University with him.

    “I’m very much re-energized by being in Champaign-Urbana,” Briggs said. “The students engage in conversations and are open to coming, thinking and listening.”