Social Justice Focus

TO DEVELOP leadership and understanding of social justice issues, 29 students participated in Lafayette’s first Social Justice Institute in late January.

“It made me aware of others like me that share similar passions for social justice issues,” says Jeremy Gagas ’15, religion & politics and philosophy major. “We all had our own unique backgrounds and identities, but we were connected because of our shared interest.”

The three-day event, sponsored by the Office of Intercultural Development, included workshops related to the belief that every person, regardless of race/ ethnicity, class, gender/sex, level of ability, or sexual orientation should have full and equal participation in society. During a day trip to New York City, they visited New York Foundling, Broome Street Academy & The Door, New York City Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center, Dress for Success International, and Action Against Hunger.

The group also developed plans for how it will take action after the workshop.

“I learned that change can start with me. If I make the step, others will see that and either ask me why so that I may enlighten them or congratulate me for being brave enough to tackle such big issues,” says Charnelle Pinkett ’13, American studies major with social justice concentration. “I continue to be an ally to those who need me. I won’t allow others to be unaware of issues in my presence.”

Reflecting on how social justice issues are handled in the student community, Gagas says most individuals are sympathetic, but sometimes in a group setting they may not openly share their views because they don’t want to be judged. “But when you see that there are others who care about similar issues, you feel more comfortable expressing yourself; it can have a domino effect.”

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