In a collaboration between the Brandeis Undergraduate Student Union and the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life, ’DEIS Impact presented its fifth annual “Festival of Social Justice.” It runs from Jan. 28 to Feb. 7, with a collection of all sort of events, workshops, etc. that explore social justice not only on campus, but around the world.
It engages the campus community to discuss what social justice really means and what students can do to make their own impact. On Tuesday, Feb. 2, an event called “Supporting Youth-Led Social Justice Organization” was held in the International Lounge of Usdan. Not as many people showed up; however, you could tell that the speakers were ready to share some important information. It was panel style, with Bethlehem Seifu Belaineh ’16, a member of the ’DEIS Impact Steering Committee, as moderator. There were four speakers on at the table, Boston Black Lives Matter leader Daunasia Yancey, Student Union President Nyah Macklin ’16, Khadijah Lynch ’16 and Heller students Christian Perry and Rima Chaudry.
Though the title of the event was to focus on the funding of social justice organizations, a lot of the discussion focused on measures surrounding the Ford Hall protests last semester. Students sat in at the Bernstein-Marcus administration building of Brandeis University with a list demanding racial equality in a letter outlined to President Lynch. Some of the demands included a 10 percent increase in the number of full-time African American faculty at Brandeis, a curriculum that would have more racial awareness and an appointment of a vice president of diversity and inclusion. Their demands were eventually addressed by the administration and came to an agreement.
The most intriguing part of the panel had to do with Lynch, who was one of the leaders of the discussion. During the summer of 2014, she made a tweet from her personal Twitter account about police violence. She said she was so frustrated with what was going on that she had to speak her mind. Once she had tweeted it, she said she got a message from someone instantly saying that they were going to write an article on her. Everything got blown out of proportion, and Lynch said she was receiving all types of messages, from death threats to journalists asking for comments on what she said. Lynch and her fellow panelists reiterated the statement, especially in regard to the Ford Hall protests that Brandeis University “says it supports social justice but is run by white supremacists who don’t do what the college stands for.”
One essential question that was asked near the end of the panel was how do organizations such as Black Lives Matter receive funding? One of the main debates was on wealthy white people who donate money to Black Lives Matter groups. These people, according to the panelists, are similar to the Brandeis Administration who say they support social justice groups, but when push comes to shove, really don’t. However, a majority of the panelists said that they would accept their money. Students certainly should make an effort to come out to some of the ’DEIS Impact events, as this panel was highly informational.