On Sept. 22, Eastern participated in a campus-wide event for social justice. In the morning, students gravitated toward the gym for a fantastic Windows on the World featuring Tony Campolo, a notable Eastern alumnus. During the afternoon, students interacted with their peers, who lead various social justice groups in their passionate trek for developing more awareness of the nameless.
“These people are alive and need someone or something to get their voices heard,” sophomore and member of College Democrats of Eastern, Jimmy Conroy said.
For every club, there is a movement that has been stirring for a long time — a movement toward social justice. Like Conroy, the meaning and importance of social justice closely ties to the systemic oppression of people who are often viewed as outcasts in society.
For a group like Heart of Africa, senior and vice president, Iyenani Zabadi believes that social justice means educating people about the oppressed.
“People think that Africans are solely to blame, but… this has been a problem since the slave trade and colonization” Zabadi said.
Education on social justice has to be sought out in this society. Taking classes, sitting in on open discussions, and attending events like Social Justice Day can change the worldview of many individuals. Some students spoke highly of the importance of education about the American prison system. In criminal justice classes, for instance, students look to their professors to provide them with eye-opening information about prisons in America. Students learn that America’s motto for criminals is intended to be prevention, intervention, and then suppression. However, because of the lack of funding for the prison system, many Americans are put in prison for small crimes. This problematic contradiction fuels Eastern University’s Prison Ministry group.
However, even with education, many social justice issues get swept under the rug. Often people are aware of the issues happening, but do not do anything to stop them. Many people know that there are people in the city of Philadelphia who struggle with homelessness, but there are only three homeless shelters in the city.
“Do you know the average age of a homeless person? [it’s] Nine,” sophomore Shelby Kemp pointed out while overseeing the Youth Against Complacency and Homelessness Today (YACHT) table.
Students and faculty have the opportunity to be a part of amazing groups who do work to advocate for people who are often overlooked.
“Sometimes, we miss the mark– [we] become complacent– we know that these issues are going on. But we miss the mark of helping people,” senior Hannah Johnson said. Johnson is the co-president of Students Against Human Trafficking (SAHT). With co-leader, senior Marcy Andersen, the group works toward building awareness for a topic that is rarely addressed on Eastern University’s campus, in the United States, and throughout the world. To combat the silenced crime of human trafficking, SAHT is working to attend a “Walk Her Home” event in which there will be a marathon followed by an expert panel. The event will take place Oct. 7.
Each club on campus is trying to evoke action — action that seeks social justice. Further, students going into the social work field have made it their career mission to provide aid assistance, and even representation for all people.
“I am exhausted with silence. I am ready to create systemic resources for people who have been oppressed,” junior and social work major Mj Smith said.
After the social justice fair, students and faculty came together for a round table discussion about Eastern’s legacy of social justice. The day closed with a social justice- themed coffee house at Walton featuring poetry, music, and other student performances. The day left students wanting to take action for the people around them.
“Social justice is the way of love,” sophomore Suzi Staherski said.
A special thanks to BLAZE, Samantha Andersen, Kyra Gonzales, Kolette Hooper, and Refuge.