This November, Sankofa: the Black Student Union along with the help of the Race and Racism Coalition will host an educational forum connecting the events happening in Ferguson, Mo., to the everyday lives of students at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.
The on-campus event, titled “Hands Up: the Social Justice Forum,” will be held Wednesday, Nov. 19 at 7 p.m. in the Vandervort Room of the Scandling Campus Center. The event will focus on holding a dialogue around acknowledging a pervasive, systemic racism while also exploring the meaning of privilege, who has privilege, who does not have privilege, and what having or not having privilege means for a person’s future.
“Hands Up: the Social Justice Forum” coincides with Mosaic N.Y.’s “Hands Up: Performing Solidarity” performance, which took place on Wednesday, Nov. 12 in Bartlett Theatre. Mosaic N.Y. is a student theatre troupe that performs works that promote dialogue, develop community, celebrate diversity, and encourage the active pursuit of social justice. In addition, a “Hands Up” poster campaign has also begun on campus and students will have the opportunity to join the campaign at the forum.
The “Hands Up” dialogue takes place following the Aug. 9, 2014, shooting of Michael Brown, 18, who was shot on a street in suburban St. Louis by Officer Darren Wilson, setting off civil unrest and protests in the ensuing months.
Just as the Mosaic N.Y. performance responded to the events happening in Ferguson, “Hands Up: the Social Justice forum” will encourage HWS students to analyze their own privilege and understanding of it. Sankofa and the Race and Racism Coalition will call students to critically reflect on who has privilege on our campus, where certain groups have privileges and how we all can break down the barriers between groups, says event organizers.
Facilitating the “Hands Up: the Social Justice Forum” are: Olivia Dudo’15, Dominque Miller ’15 and Afrika Owes ’16. Miller and Owes are the co-presidents of Sankofa: Black Student Union.
Miller says the “Hands Up: the Social Justice Forum” will largely be about taking action.
“This forum is about awakening people to the injustices of racism in all spheres of our lives. After the educational portion of the forum, there will be a “privilege check” activity for all attendees to partake, and finally the forum will finish with a “take back” activity in which students will take back the places of privilege and inequality at our institution,” Miller says.
Owes says the activity will assist in keeping the conversation going, so it does not get lost or forgotten once the event is over. “Our goal is to interactively educate people on the injustices that are occurring in our society, as well as on campus,” Owes says.
Dudo hopes many in the HWS community will attend the event. “We hope that all students will come out and join us, as we start a dialogue to make real change in campus community.”