Suffolk shines light on social justice
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This year’s April Fool’s Day was no laughing matter for the students who attended the 10th annual Social Justice Summit sponsored by Suffolk University’s Office of Diversity Services.
The summit lasted from 9 a.m. until 5:15 p.m. in the Sawyer Building and was composed of five different workshop blocks with three workshops per block and a keynote speech by Dr. Amer F Ahmed. The purpose of the event was to educate and open a discussion with students about the issues faced in society today.
“This is definately something we need to keep doing,” said SGA president-elect Daniel Gazzani. “It’s on of our missions here at Suffolk to promote diversity and culture exchange. I couldn’t be more proud to be a Suffolk student in moments like this.”
The keynote speaker Dr. Ahmed spoke on the topic of “Living A Life Committed to Social Justice.” He described how he uses hip-hop and spoken word in his activism, opening his speech with a poem he wrote in college. It focused on how the world is metaphorically and literally divided into a grid, and how one day he hopes to see the grid disappear. He also spoke about how messages can be encoded in rap and hip-hop songs, and showed A Tribe Called Quest and Busta Rhymes performing a medley of Award Tour, Movin Backwards and We the People from the 2017 Grammy’s.
“What they say in this song,” Dr. Ahmed said, pointing to the screen, “took me 200 pages of writing in a dissertation.”
He also used this performance to address the divide between marginalized communities and the people trying to help them. He said the problem is that people go in and use these big words, but the people there don’t care about the words, they care about how things are going to get fixed which is why rap and hip hop are good platforms to spread social justice awareness; they say it simply.
Dr. Ahmed was also on a panel comprised of men of color who focused on “Exploring the Difficulties Faced in the Pursuit of Higher Education and a Career.” He was joined by Suffolk professor Dr. Robert Bellinger, Associate Dean of Students Shawn Newton, Suffolk Alum Ian Pineda, and Nathan Roman, a McNair Academic and Research Adviser, on the panel. One of the questions was how they choose their careers.
“I didn’t think about my career until I was getting my doctoral,” said Dean Newton. He realized he only had two educators in his school career that looked like him, and he wanted to change that for the next generation of students.
“I’m really enamored that I’m a part of this panel,” said Suffolk senior and applied legal studies major Fredson Sossavi, a moderator for the panel. “The speakers were amazing. It’s an honor to be in the room with such amazing people and I really look up to all of them.”
Other presentations covered a variety of topics covered by a variety of people. Suffolk’s Reverend Amy Fisher presented on the topic of women in religion, looking at the New Testament in the Bible, the Qur’an, and the Tanakh, which is the Jewish Bible and stands for the Torah, Nevi’im (or prophets), and Ketuvim (or writings). Fisher examined the positive and negative placement of women in each religion, citing many verses for each.
Students could attend presentations on issues familiar and foreign to them.
The organizers also worked to make sure the environment was inclusive for all genders. To sign up, participants had to enter their pronouns, so they could be printed on their nametags. Michaela Hallion, a junior English major at Suffolk who presented at the summit, thought this was an extremely important detail because the forum was based on social justice.
“It just normalizes people who may need to say, ‘I use they, them, theirs pronouns’ or who even may need to say, ‘I use pronouns that really don’t align with what [I] look like,’” Hallion said.
Hallion also thought the Social Justice Summit was a success in educating and inspiring the people who attended, so that they can implement this new knowledge around campus and in their everyday lives.