Social justice is the ability people have to realize their potential in the society where they live.
Social justice in our generation is becoming a bigger and bigger part of our lives. As we move through college, we have the chance to be exposed to different ideas and issues that we may find ourselves supporting. Just on the UNH campus we have walks to show support for stopping violence against women (Take Back the Night, TNH article about the walk) and to raise awareness about suicide prevention (Out of the Dark). We hold open discussions and offer lectures about HIV/AIDS prevention, LGBTQ+ rights, and sexuality. And just by walking around campus you can hear students speak passionately on any number of social justice issues from abortion to gun control and more. Over the past week, I’ve exposed myself to several opportunities to become more aware about the social justice issues of HIV/AIDS prevention, disability, and food justice. Since one of these opportunities happened off campus, I’ll start with the opportunity I was given on campus.
This Thursday, UNH Health Services held a screening of Dallas Buyers Club (see synopsis here and the trailer here) that was followed by a discussion with Fred Walters of the Houston Buyers Club and AIDS Response Seacoast. This events was held as a part of the GYT- Get Yourself Tested Event going on through April 30th (information here). I went into this event having already seen the film and discussed with my my mother and brother. My mom, who was in her late teens/early twenties during the height of the AIDS epidemic, shared her feelings about the film. She was working in fashion advertising at the time and lost many friends due to the disease. Going into the discussion that followed the film with these second hand feelings, I was able to relate better to the stories of Fred Walters who founded the Houston Buyers Club, which closed last year. The stories were touching and inspiring as Walters told us about how his Club gained the trust of local physicians and all of the work they did to change the stigma around nutritional supplements being used in HIV/AIDS treatment. I left this event feeling inspired and more informed than I had previously been.
Another event that I attended, as the only UNH representative (which was an accident), the Lead4Justice conference at Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts. . The one day conference offered a variety of workshops on topics such as gender and sexuality, spirituality, disability, food justice, and other issues. I attended workshops and disability and food justice. In the disAbility workshop, as it was called, held an interactive lecture on the stigma around disability and putting the ability into this term. We discussed person first wording and the Best Buddies and Active Minds programs, which we have on our campus as well! In food justice, the discussion was on the difficulty of getting fresh food in low income areas and the existence of food deserts in areas close to our homes. The workshop was lead by Stonehill’s Oxfam group, which is another org that you can find right here at UNH!
While events like these can either be hard to find or at times when, especially at this time of year, when you’d rather be outside with friends they are incredibly mind opening. Check out organizations like Best Buddies, Active Minds, Oxfam, and UNH Health Services. And make sure to check out Wildcatlink for social justice events around campus, you may just find your passion!