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BC Social Justice Coalition Unites Many Issue-based Clubs Through Off-campus Advocacy

Boston College Social Justice Coalition (SJC) was started last fall when students from Charles Derber’s sociology class Peace or War: United States/Third World decided to form a group outside of class to facilitate further discussion about routes to peace and social activism among students.

“After taking Professor Derber’s class, we wanted to start a club connecting a lot of social justice groups and clubs on campus,” said Ryan Dowd, communications director of SJC and A&S ’16.

The mission of SJC, according to the group’s Facebook page strives to “[connect] individuals and groups to enable a community of advocacy and activism. We establish a supportive action-based environment, amplify the importance of social justice, and mobilize BC’s campus to take action.”

“The issues [that SJC addresses] are political ideologies, and listening to things that bother you in society and how you would go about making some form of social change, and turning awareness into action,” said Grace Quirk, outreach coordinator of SJC and A&S ’16.

“It’s one thing to be in a classroom and to learn about these topics and to think about them, but it’s a whole other thing to actually put what concerns you into action for positive social change,” she said.

SJC has weekly meetings on Mondays at 6 p.m. in McGuinn 413. The styles of the meeting alternate every week. Twice a month the group has “Coalition Forums” where it invites representatives from other social justice related clubs on campus to come and speak to members and to hold a discussion.

Student clubs and organizations that have come to SJC meetings include Students for Justice in Palestine, the BC chapter of charity: water, Climate Justice at Boston College, Global Zero of BC, and United Students Against Sweat Shops, among others.

“In our [Coalition Forum] meetings, we come together and share what each group has been doing, what we are working on, just keep each other informed, and try to create a cohesive family of people working on different social justice groups on campus that way we can mutually strengthen each other’s movements and actions through this network, and just be aware of what each other is doing,” said Nate Osborne, director of SJC and A&S ’16.

The other two meetings each month are called “Inter-generational Dialogues,” wherein social justice advocates and activists from outside of the BC community come and speak about the struggles and joys of their experiences to complement the classroom learning of the group and then hold a discussion with the group afterward.

At this week’s meeting, a representative from the American Friends Service Committee is coming to talk with the group about her time in Japan this past summer where she participated in a peace march in remembrance of Hiroshima and in a protest for nuclear disarmament.

Currently, the group has around 15 core members who attend its weekly meetings. However, SJC encourages anyone who is interested to attend and welcomes everyone to come to the meetings.

“Our meetings would definitely be interesting for someone who hasn’t been involved in social justice and who is looking to learn more about it,” said Katherine Quigley, secretary of SJC and A&S ’16.

“They are a good place for people who haven’t found their social justice calling yet and are interested in it, and also for people who do know exactly what they want to do in terms of social justice and want to get that message out there.”

SJC serves as a resource for students who have an interest in any variety of social justice issues. One way the group provides information to students is through an email newsletter that Dowd sends out every Sunday afternoon to the SJC Listserv with updates about the groups’ meetings for the coming week The newsletter also provides information about other on and off-campus groups’ social justice events, rallies, and protests that are happening on and off campus each week.

SJC strives to connect students with events in the greater Boston community.

“Our group is evolving to connect social justice groups on campus with what is happening in the greater Boston community,” Osborne said. “There are so many rallies and protests constantly going on in Boston.”

One upcoming rally that SJC encourages students to attend is the Global Day of Health Rally this Sunday, Oct. 26 from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on the Boston Common.

SJC is planning a big event for the upcoming spring semester called “Reorientation,” which will be a fair accompanied by a longer newsletter containing information for students and faculty and will serve as a way for underclassmen to learn about social justice resources on campus.

Professors who teach courses pertaining to social justice will be present to speak with students and to answer students’ questions, information will be available about the Faith, Peace and Justice minor in the College of Arts & Sciences, information will be available about which speakers are coming to campus, and all of the different social justice clubs and organizations on campus will have a table with representatives.

One major goal of the event is to build awareness among students, faculty, and the greater BC community.

“We want to merge awareness building and education aspects of social justice issues with the activism aspects—taking the education and putting it into action,” Osborne said.

Members of the SJC are looking to expand their club, and they encourage all students who are interested to join.

“One of our main goals right now is increased involvement from students and getting all the groups on campus that are focused on social justice involved. One appealing factor of our club is that since we are a new group we are open to what people’s ideas are,” Quirk said.

Featured Image by Edward Lea / The Press of Atlantic City, AP Exchange 

October 19, 2014

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