About two weeks ago, I received another email message. It wasn't from a student asking for a letter of recommendation or from a colleague with interest in meeting to discuss an academic program. Instead, the email came from a university administrator with a special request.
They asked me to provide a virtual lecture on February 20th, the United Nations’ World Day of Social Justice. Unfamiliar with the event but aware of my booked schedule for the coming weeks, I contemplated passing on the opportunity. Then I did some research.
February 20th is the World Day of Social Justice. The United Nations brings political leaders, youth groups, social organizations, and other coalitions together to discuss challenges and draft solutions to inequalities across several sectors. This year's theme is "Overcoming Barriers and Unleashing Opportunities for Social Justice."
Instead of replying right away to the administrator, I waited. Equipped with more information, I finished my work day, talked with my wife, and then slept on the lecture idea. The following morning I went out to gain fitness through a run and returned with an answer.
Does that happen to you? When lacking clarity, does sleeping, talking, or exercising help to clear your mind? The downtime in a hot shower, yoga practice, silent prayer, or meditation session often stirs clear thinking to initiate creativity.
The day after I received the email request to lead a virtual talk on the World Day of Social Justice, I agreed. Last month's lecture on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. left me wanting to continue the discussion. Social justice causes did not begin or end with the civil rights movement.
To start the virtual lecture, I begin with one of the many possible definitions of social justice. I wanted the audience to have a mutual base for the phrase that describes internal and external approaches to addressing inequalities. Social justice involves individuals and communities with more concerns than fears to solve a problem.
Google headlines, open a social media app, talk to a friend on the corner, and you will see and hear a plethora of problems. Challenges in the US, India, London, and Antigua fit the lenses of my audience and made it into the presentation’s slides.
In the US, Florida Governor DeSantis is leading a push to remove Black history curriculum from schools. Rallies and protests are popping off throughout the state to stop his plea to conservative constituents.
A woman riding a scooter in New Delhi succumbed to her injuries after being hit and dragged to death for over five miles. Social justice advocates took it to the streets, demanding improved roads and increased penalties for traffic-related crimes.
In London, 1,633 women filed sexual assault cases against the police force. Activists are also seeking justice.
You don’t have to go anywhere to find an issue worthy of social justice. Think about a concern in your backyard. Education, healthcare, criminal justice, LGBTQ+, and employment conditions are causes for you to consider joining or supporting.
In my talk, I shared how World Day of Social Justice is about creating awareness, internalizing reflections, and responding through actions. We must continue to educate ourselves and others. We must also consider how to do more in our current roles to support societal shifts.
Everyone’s contribution will not be the same. See a less than two-minute clip of an explanation from my virtual public talk.
At the end of the talk, I urged students and faculty to join social justice initiatives on the campus, in the surrounding community, or anywhere they call home.
Sometimes silence is compliance, and other times it is strategic. Supporting a movement does not mean you must blast perspectives on social media or through another public outlet. In many instances, it is doing the work without the spotlight.
Working in the dark with increased intentionality to impact inequality produces light in members of oppressed communities.
What will you do differently to join or support a social justice cause? That's the question I asked students and faculty in the virtual cloud of my lecture, and now I am presenting it to you. Don't worry. I ask myself some version of this question every day.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, or keep it to yourself. Either way, let’s do the work!