Social Justice Alliance allows students to speak up

Several factions band together to form forum

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Mary Stempky

Mr. Ken Barlow ’82 addresses students during the Social Justice Alliance Forum that took place during a recent flex period.

Mary Stempky, Reporter

Emotions run high. Individuals speak their minds. Eager hands rise to provide a new perspective on the topic just introduced. This is the atmosphere of the second meeting of the Social Justice Alliance Forum.

According to Mr. Ken Barlow ‘82, vice president of community relations and diversity, the Social Justice Alliance Forum was formed from a partnership between several factions. “The group was actually birthed out of a collaboration of faculty, staff, parents and students who had some diversity training. There were some faculty, staff and parents who attended a diversity workshop and then there were some students who also attended a national diversity workshop came together plus some students who were dealing with some social justice topics particularly as it relates to peaceful protests,” Barlow said.

These many groups coalesced into one group with a mission.

Senior Brittney Levingston said while that while the school’s goal is for its students to be fully educated, social justice issues are not often discussed in the classroom. “The Social Justice Alliance (Forum’s) mission is to give the (school) community the opportunity more well-rounded and more aware socially aware politically aware of things that are going on round them that may not affect them directly but affect other people in this community,” Levingston said.

Senior Keshaunn Tompkins-Barnes shared a different perspective regarding the group’s mission.

According to Thompkins-Barnes, he believes that the mission of the Social Justice Alliance Forum is to provide participants a chance to talk about issues not commonly discussed and see how these issues can be dealt with. “(The Social Justice Alliance Forum’s) goal communicate and change the way society thinks,” Tompkins-Barnes said.

The mission must come from an understanding of social justice.

Levingston, Tompkins-Barnes and Barlow shared their thoughts on social justice’s meaning and importance.

According to Levingston, she believes that social justice is vital because of the training she has experienced. She said that she believes in her role as African American female, she  can’t go without recognizing what divides people. “I have gotten the opportunity at (school) to start building a foundation for me to change that in society,” Levingston said.

Thompkins-Barnes said that he believes social justice is important because without it people would find it hard to receive such justice. “It allows those who normally wouldn’t be able to voice their opinion and it allows those who don’t normally listen to get into the conversation,” Tompkins-Barnes said.

Barlo said that he believes that social justice  connects to service work. He said that service addresses the immediate need of a situation and social justice deals with the deeper need. “Social justice is addressing the root of any social difficulty in our community,” Barlow said.

Those who fight these issues may be called social justice warriors. Thompkins-Barnes and Levingston shared their views on this term.

According to Thompkims-Barnes, a social justice warrior is someone who fights for those who do not have a voice. He believes that a social warrior makes sure that he gets his point across. “(Social justice warriors) influence others to be motivated to speak up,” Thompkins-Barnes said.

According to Levingston, she believes that the term social justice warrior sometimes is used as an insult. She said that when she is labeled with this term it should merely mean that she stands up for her beliefs. “To me, (social justice warrior) means I am doing the best I can for as many people as I can,” Levingston said.

This term may scare people of from getting involved in social justice issues. Also sometimes conversations about these topics can become tense. Barlow offered advice on how to approach these interactions.

According to Barlow, he believes that if you are going to have conversations about difficult topics it is important to make clear how people will communicate with eachother. “It is important to establish the guidelines that you are going to speak by,” Barlow said.

The Social Justice Forum operates on guidelines foe discussion called community norms.

These guidelines may draw people to the club.

Barlow, Levingston and Tompkins-Barnes shared that they would encourage students, faculty and staff to get involved in the forum.

According to Barlow, he invited every person, adult or student to join the forum. He said that he  dis this so they can be heard. but also listen. “I think that’s the important thing we can all speak, but we can all listen,” Barlow said.

Levingston said that she believes she would encourage everyone not just student to join the forum. She said she believes the forum needs diverse opinions. “Be willing to speak your mind,” Levingston said.

Tompkins-Barnes said that he would just encourage others to come and sit in on the forum. He said hear what the forum has to say. Tompkins-Barnes said, “(The Forum) talks about alot of different topics. If you come and interact with us. You don’t even have to talk, you can just listen. You will learn alot about different situations that goes on in our society.”