For the next few days, Boston College will continue its celebration of Social Justice Week, a five-day series of events hosted by the AHANA Leadership Council under the guidance of co-directors Angel Jehng, CSOM ’16, and Monica Azmy, A&S ’15.
In 2007, the United Nations General Assembly declared Feb. 20 the World Day of Social Justice. After the day began globally in 2009, BC has been one of the numerous universities to adopt the day, using it as an opportunity to highlight national and local issues of social justice. The AHANA Caucus previously hosted one World Justice Day, but this year decided to expand the day to a week-long event.
“The idea for a whole week actually came about because everyone was really interested and passionate about bringing these issues to the larger BC community as well,” Azmy said. “This led to AHANA C aucus’s photo campaign on Facebook and organizing a week for different student groups, both those who have representatives in Caucus and other groups committed to social justice, to host events and allow students to see what’s happening on campus in a unified manner.”
This year, the events of Social Justice Week have been planned around the phrase, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” which was initially written in 1963 by civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail. The AHANA Caucus has collaborated with various clubs on campus, including the Caribbean Culture Club and Haitian Association, BCVC and Global Health, BC Ignites, GlobeMed, Charity Water at Boston College, R.E.A.C.T., FACES & CAB, as well as the 23 culture club representatives and two co-directors making up the Caucus. Each group is working to highlight and expose the issues pertaining to the communities and cultures they are representing. The clubs will host various events throughout the week, including film screenings, guest speakers, and open panels.
GlobeMed, for example, chose to focus on the social justice issues impacting its partner organization, Chinmaya Organization for Rural Development in India.Yesterday’s event featured a golden toilet. The co-presidents of GlobeMed, Maggie Bennett, A&S ’15, and Nathalie Lavoie, A&S ’16, visited last summer and were struck by the various health and social justice issues that stemmed from open defecation. The two hope to raise awareness of such conditions with those at BC.
“Open defecation poses a really serious health risk and we were both really lucky to have been and sort of seen what that looks like, in person,” Lavoie said. “It’s just one of those social justice issues that people don’t talk about. Open defecation is seriously a problem for dignity and health and all of these other things, so I think the golden toilet is sort of making that spoken about.”
The two explained that although health sanitation issues may not be as glamorous as other social justice concerns, these problems are just as serious and need to be exposed in order to be addressed. In bringing their golden toilet to campus, the group hopes to spark a conversation, inviting students to join them in their quest to bring more toilets to areas in desperate need, such as those they encountered in India.
“I feel like BC is social-justice-oriented in a particular way, you know?” Bennett said. “And we want to kind of break out of that … very comfortable way, and really get involved in meaningful social justice issues.”
Along with sanitation issues, the Social Justice Week’s events cover topics including the impacts of the Haitian earthquake of 2010, the roles that race and diversity play at BC, the ecological impacts of the bottled water industry, and sex trafficking. All topics discuss will attempt to connect back to King’s words from Birmingham. The week will conclude on Friday, the World Day of Social Justice, when various student groups will be tabling activities around campus to try to get others involved.
“We hope to highlight that awareness has been controlled by media and that all injustices are simply that—unjust and incomparable to each other based on severity and need for media attention,” Jehng said. “We hope to bring awareness to social injustices because awareness can lead to action.”
Featured Image by Arthur Bailin / Heights Editor