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Eastern Unity Wing Organizes Social Justice Week

Published on March 22, 2017

Eastern Unity Wing Organizes Social Justice Week

Actors from GTC Dramatic Dialogues perform in “Strange Like Me,” a series of skits about gender, race and LGBTQ issues. The skits kicked off Social Justice Week festivities.

Leaders and student ambassadors of the Intercultural Center, Pride Center and Women’s Center at Eastern Connecticut State University organized a series of events for Social Justice Week from March 6-10 to raise awareness and educate students about social issues that impact Eastern’s campus and society as a whole. Social Justice Week programs allowed students, faculty, and staff to embrace and learn about relevant themes such as diversity, inclusion, integrity and community responsibility.

Award-winning poet and political activist Denise Frohman discussed with students her journey of self-exploration and self-identity in an event titled “Poetry Knows Me.”

“The ultimate goal of Social Justice Week is for students to understand and challenge their own role when social injustices occur, placing an emphasis on how the Eastern community can support marginalized groups that are present on campus,” said Unity Wing Coordinator Starsheemar Bryum. The Unity Wing is composed of the Intercultural Center, Women’s Center and Pride Center. “The Unity Wing embraces all identities and uses intersectionality as a tool for cooperative effort that promotes social togetherness while creating an environment of social responsibility.”

On March 7 students attended “Reel Talk,” an event sponsored by the Women’s Center. The event involved the viewing of the documentary “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry.” The documentary tells stories of the personal struggles that women have faced over time and their connection to broader social constructs and concepts such as race, class and sexuality, with the goal to inspire men and women to advocate for gender equality and human rights.

At a poetry slam in the Student Center Café, students volunteered to perform their work, then shared a photo op with Denise Frohman.

Social Justice Week continued with a two-part poetry event on March 8 during a University Hour, professional poet Denise Frohman discussed the process of finding herself through the power of poetry. Frohman uses her poetry as a platform for identity expression and explores issues of race, sexuality and social change. “Poetry is a powerful tool to address social issues and create change,” said Frohman. “Poetry is about discovery and learning. Poetry keeps me honest and accountable and I like to believe that I try to do that in my personal life as well.”

Frohman also addressed how she has used poetry to express her experience as a woman of color. “I left high school with the perception that Latino and Latina writers didn’t write anything special because I didn’t see myself reflected in poetry and literature that I learned throughout my public education,” said Frohman. “Poetry has helped me explore my identity and raise my political and social consciousness.”

The second part of the poetry event included a performance of poems by Frohman as well as an opportunity for student poets to share their work at an open night. The poetry slam was centered on the themes of identity expression and social justice.

Art Munin, dean of students at University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, gave a talk titled “Color by Number” that delved into the facets of institutional racism.

Social Justice Week also provided students with the opportunity to participate in a self-defense program. The event, titled “Impact Personal Safety,” taught students tools and skills to defend themselves against verbal, physical and sexual violence. The 20-minute session focused on teaching students interpersonal skills and strategies to prevent assault and showing them how to recognize and confront oppression.

A conversation of bystander intervention followed the personal safety training. “Students Fight Back: Your Response Matters” focused on learning to trust your intuition when it comes to personal safety.

Social Justice Week provided a new and unique approach to discussing and advocating for gender, racial and LGBT equality, providing students with an inclusive environment to learn about what they can do to encourage social change and explore their own identities.

Written by Jolene Potter