Social Justice is a hot topic everywhere these days. There are so many stories breaking out of people who are rising up to overcome insurmountable odds to stand up for justice and individual or national rights. In the wake of events like Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, some people may even say we are entering into a new era of civil rights activism.
This striving for justice isn’t just being played out in D.C. or overseas, it’s being taken up by young people, like the group of high school students who marched from Garfield High School in Seattle to protest injustices and police brutality against young, under-privileged African-American males.
It may seem at Northern Michigan University that we are far removed from these kind of issues or problems, but that is quite the opposite.
Leslie Larkin is an associate English professor and co-chair of the President’s Committee on Diversity.
“It’s critically important for students to understand how everything they do, including the learning they do at this university, is in a social context that’s radically unequal,” Larkin said. “Your education isn’t complete unless you have some kind of awareness of that inequality.”
At NMU we also have a few clubs whose focus is to bring issues of social justice to students and actively seek to bring Northern students into something bigger than themselves.
Last year, the Social Justice Committee (SJC) at NMU held “An Evening of Class” modeled after Oxfam Hunger Banquet, which is an interactive immersion experience where participants get randomly chosen to represent income groups that exist in the real world. The program actually won “Diversity Program/Project of the Year” at the Student Leadership Banquet.
Arika Egan, President of the SJC and senior philosophy and physics major said their mission is to create action and awareness in the NMU community.
“The goal is just to spark conversation among Northern students and Marquette community members,” Egan said.
“Last year it was hunger awareness so we did events around food creation, consumption and competition. We wanted to talk to people about how to be more food efficient, so we took a look at how different cultures interact with food.”
This year, the Social Justice Committee’s theme is the criminal justice system and capital punishment.
They are using these topics as a springboard and framework for conversations that will be held on campus through different speakers and events.
These will give students and community members an opportunity to participate in this conversation.
“We are part of the community that enriches the conversation that happens at Northern,” Egan said. “So hopefully people come away from our events saying, here’s a way of thinking I haven’t ever experienced before.”