Social Justice Lecture Series
In 2004, the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice organized the annual Social
Justice Lecture Series as a means of bringing nationally- and internationally-recognized
social justice activists to the Southeastern community.
Social justice means a recognition of human dignity and human rights, and that all people should be afforded the ability to access the necessities of life and be guaranteed the opportunity to pursue their aspirations. Social justice activists devote their work to raising awareness of critical issues facing our society.
The Social Justice Speaker Series has been supported by a variety of organizations at Southeastern, including the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences (AHSS), the Lyceum Arts and Lectures Committee (AL), the Student Government Association (SGA), the Southeastern Sociological Association (SSA), and Reconnect Student Sustainability Organization.
The initial speaker was Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking and The Death of Innocents, and advocate for the abolition of the death penalty. For more information about the work of Sister Helen, visit her blogsite at www.sisterhelen.org or the Death Penalty Discourse Network at www.dpdiscourse.org
In 2006, Morris Dees, co-founder and Chief Trial Counsel for the Southern Poverty Law Center, spoke about the right to be free of racial oppression. The Center is internationally known for its tolerance education programs, its legal victories against white supremacists and its tracking of hate groups. For more information, visit www.splcenter.org.
The Speaker Series featured two presenters in 2007, Sakura Kone and Medea Benjamin.
Sakura Kone, representing Common Ground Collective, spoke about the recovery and redevelopment of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. He has assisted with distributing aid, establishing a community health clinic in the Lower Ninth Ward, and advocating for the continuing needs of people in New Orleans as the coordinator of media and events for the organization www.commongroundrelief.org
Medea Benjamin is Founding Director of Global Exchange, a membership-based international human rights organization dedicated to promoting social, economic and environmental justice around the world. She has struggled for social justice and human rights in Asia, the Americas, and Africa for over 25 years ( www.globalexchange.org). She also co-founded Code Pink, a women's peace group that has been organizing creative actions against the occupation of Iraq. Since the tragic events of 9/11, Ms. Benjamin has been organizing against a violent response. She traveled several times to Afghanistan, including with a delegation of 9/11 families, to highlight civilian casualties caused by the US invasion. She helped bring together the groups forming the coalition United for Peace and Justice www.codepink4peace.org
On November 6, 2008, Allan Johnson addressed the issues of patriarchy and gender inequality. He is a writer, teacher and public speaker working to address issues of privilege, oppression, and social inequality. He received his Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Michigan in 1972. He taught for 30 years and now devotes his time entirely to writing and public speaking on issues such as patriarchy and male privilege, the dynamics of gender inequality in families, schools, and workplaces, sexuality and relationships between women and men, and the dilemmas of manhood and fatherhood. Dr. Johnson has written numerous books, including: The Forest and the Trees: Sociology as Life, Practice, and Promise, The Blackwell Dictionary of Sociology, Privilege, Power, and Difference, and The Gender Knot: Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy, the latter which has been used in Southeastern’s Sociology of Gender course (www.allangjohnson.us).
In 2009, the Social Justice Speaker Series again featured two individuals Omar Freilla and Diane Wilson. Omar Freilla is founder of Green Worker Cooperatives, an organization dedicated to bringing worker-owned and eco-friendly manufacturing jobs to the South Bronx in New York. Green Worker Cooperatives incubates these types of employment opportunities in response to high unemployment and decades of environmental racism. They don’t have the luxury to wait for new alternatives; therefore, they’re creating them. They believe that in order to address our environmental and economic problems we need new ways to earn a living that don’t require polluting the earth or exploiting human labor. For more information, visit www.greenworker.coop.
Diane Wilson, a fourth-generation shrimper, began fishing the bays off the Gulf Coast of Texas at the age of eight. In 1989, while running her brother's fish house at the docks and mending nets, she read a newspaper article that listed her home of Calhoun County as the number one toxic polluter in the country. She set up a meeting in the town hall to discuss what the chemical plants were doing to the bays and thus began her life as an environmental activist. Threatened by thugs and despised by her neighbors, Diane insisted the truth be told and that Formosa Plastics stop dumping toxins into the bay. Her work on behalf of the people and aquatic life of Seadrift, Texas, has won her a number of awards including: National Fisherman Magazine Award, Mother Jones's Hell Raiser of the Month, and the Louisiana Environmental Action (LEAN) Environmental Award. An Unreasonable Woman, her storty of the struggle against the polluters of the Texas Gulf Coast was Diane's first book. Her most recent book is HOLY ROLLER: Growing Up in the Church of Knock Down, Drag Out; or How I Quit Loving a Blue-Eyed Jesus. www.chelseagreen.com/authors/diane_wilson
In November 2010, Ann Williams Cass was the first featured speaker of the program, discussing "Immigration and Secure Borders: Dispelling the Myths". She is the Executive Director of Proyecto Azteca, a self-help housing program based in San Juan, Texas, inspired by the late Caesar Chavez. She has been an activist and organizer in Texas since the 1980s. She brings a wealth of experience and knowledge in community and economic development issues on the South Texas border related to housing, health care, immigration and education. For more information, visit http://www.proyectoazteca.com.
The November 2010 program also featured a panel discussion with Ted Quant, Jacinta Gonzalez, Dennis Soriano, and Jacob Horwitz, discussing "The Streets Will Not Be Silent: The Story of the Congress of Day Laborers and the Fight for Justice". Ted Quant is the Director of the Twomey Center for Peace Through Justice at Loyola University in New Orleans. The Twomey Center works to shape social justice consciousness and take action on issues of workers’ rights, racism, poverty, and justice. Jacinta Gonzalez and Dennis Soriano of the Workers’ Center for Racial Justice in New Orleans fight theft, prejudice and the other unjust structural realities with which Latino immigrants struggle daily. Jacob Horwitz is a community organizer for the Workers’ Center. For more information, visit: http://www.loyno.edu/twomey and http://www.nowcrj.org.
Concluding the November 2010 program was Jesse Diaz, Jr. presenting "Confronting the Two Faces of the Immigration Rights Movement in the Context of the Immigration Industrial Complex." Jesse Diaz Jr., along with Hernandad Mexicana Transnacional, advocates for immigration rights through campaigns against anti-immigrant hate groups and other repressive actions toward the immigrant community. He is a founder of the Placita Olvera Working Group that organized the 2006 Gran Marcha and Gran Paro Americano 2006. Jesse is currently teaching Sociology at the University of Texas-Pan American.