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The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Social Justice Summit highlights education, representation, liberation at Suffolk

Feminista+Jones+gives+her+keynote+address+to+Suffolk+students+and+staff.
Leo Woods
Feminista Jones gives her keynote address to Suffolk students and staff.

For the first time since 2020, Suffolk University hosted its annual Social Justice Summit as a culmination of Ram Inclusion Week in Sargent Hall on March 3.

The event, organized by the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion, highlighted research and creative works by Suffolk students and featured a keynote address by award-winning author, advocate and activist Feminista Jones. 

Ahria Ilyas, a senior and Diversity Peer Educator for CSDI, was the primary organizer of the summit and took inspiration from other social justice summits she had attended in the past to create the event.

“I wanted to be very inclusive of how social justice could be expressed; visually, through arts, through research, but also through workshops and lectures,” Ilyas said. “I wanted to give the opportunity to folks in the Suffolk community to express their passions when it comes to social justice work.”

The event began with a lunch in the Keches Room of Sargent Hall before breaking into two workshop sections. The Rev. Amy Fisher, the university chaplain, led a workshop on diversity and religion focused on the appropriation of religion and how to combat it at Suffolk. Dr. Joyya Smith, the vice president of Diversity, Access & Inclusion at Suffolk, led a racial healing circle workshop that allowed students to discuss their experiences with their ethnic and racial identities.

Smith encouraged students to “be a support system for each other” at Suffolk.

After the workshops, students gave oral exclamations, ranging from research they had conducted to spoken word poetry and speeches.

Daniel Fox, a senior law major, president of the Queer Student Union and a former News Editor at The Suffolk Journal, gave a presentation about the importance of Transgender representation in media, highlighting the depictions of gender-diverse characters in film and television and how they could improve.

“Media representation allows for youth to explore and discover their gender and sexuality, and humans want to see themselves in media. Not being alone in their identity and struggles allows youth to be themselves,” Fox said. 

Prescesh Morrison, a sophomore and president of SU Neurovariety, gave a speech about her experience with neurodivergence as a Black woman, showing the thought process that goes into each aspect of her day.

S’corra Thimas and Hanan Tuffaha, president and vice president of Unspoken Feelings, read poems centered around their unique experiences with race.

Hana Wallen, a Suffolk sophomore, gave a presentation on her research into the way artificial intelligence technology reinforces discrimination against minority communities, particularly BIPOC and LGBTQ+ people.

Following the oral exclamations, students showcased their research centered around social justice in a gallery walk. The projects ranged from the liberating power of access to mental health resources to the way American sports demonstrate and reinforce racism through blacklisting.

The summit concluded with Jones’ keynote address, where she spoke about intersectionality, activism and creating communities centered around social justice. Jones used quotes from female Black authors, including Dr. Anna Julia Cooper, Dr. Angela Davis and Lorraine Hansberry, to promote discussion and explore the themes of social justice. 

In discussing Davis’ quote, “To understand how any society functions you must understand the relationship between the men and the women,” Jones emphasized that the binary definitions of men and women were a result of cultural imposition and colonization, forcing oppressed groups to adopt the colonizer’s views on what society should look like. 

“When [we] really look at the history of what these interactions between men and women have been and the oppression there, we start to see a pathway to liberation for everyone,” Jones said. “However you want to express yourself, however you choose to exist, just do it.” 

She encouraged students interested in social justice causes to embrace that conviction but cautioned that it can become overwhelming and lead to burnout when dedicating all of your time to championing a cause, especially for individuals with marginalized identities.

“Never forget your why. Why are you doing this, what is the end goal, what are you trying to do? And make sure you never forget who you are. It is very easy to lose yourself in [social justice],” Jones said.

Following the event, Ilyas spoke about how the summit gave her renewed confidence in the future of social justice work at Suffolk.

“It reinforced in me, and I have always known this, that Suffolk students are probably the strongest and bravest students that I have ever encountered in my life,” Ilyas said. “I think that there’s such strength and eloquence in the way that every single person articulated themselves in terms of their passion around social justice.” 

Ilyas urged students interested in social justice work to go to the CSDI office to expand their education and awareness of causes, in addition to conducting research on their own online.

Follow Leo on Twitter @leowoods108.

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About the Contributor
Leo Woods
Leo Woods, Photo Editor | he/him

Leo is a senior political science major with a minor in journalism from Clinton, Connecticut. He has photographed political events, protests, performing arts groups and documented Boston Pride for the People for the History Project. Outside of Suffolk, Leo is an avid Dungeons and Dragons player and podcast listener. After graduation, he plans on attending law school and working in politics.

Follow Leo on X @leowoods108

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Social Justice Summit highlights education, representation, liberation at Suffolk