Social Justice Symposium gathers MU community to discuss belonging

This year’s Social Justice Symposium gathered a record number of participants at the MU Student Center.

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This year’s annual Social Justice Symposium on Jan. 26, put together by MU students and faculty, reached a record attendance of over 100 people.

The one-day conference was created in 2012 and it gathers members of the community to discuss and expand on one main topic. The theme chosen for 2019 was “sense of belonging.”

The day was divided into breakout sessions of 40 or 45 minutes. In each of these sessions, participants chose between three different speakers who had different levels of discussions: beginner, for attendants with little to no familiarity with the topic, intermediate, for those with some previous knowledge on the subject and advanced, for people who want to deepen their understanding on the theme.

The opening speaker of the symposium was Bini Sebastian. The MU Ph.D. student introduced the main theme and gave a few recommendations in order for participants to make the most out of their discussion sessions.

“If you know you’re one to be more quiet, I encourage you to take risks, be vulnerable and share,” Sebastian said. “Because that’s the way that we learn, especially with social justice work.”

Considering the sensitive topics being highlighted during the conference, participants had the option to go to the LGBTQ Resource Center or the RSVP Center for a safe space whenever needed.

During lunchtime, artists from the MU community gathered in the basement of the student center to showcase their social justice related pieces. The duo Brittani Savage and Jade Thompson, for example, were there representing their crafts and art company Crafting Love.

“In crafts, we don’t usually see a lot of people of color, let alone trans and queer people selling them or being a part of it,” Savage and Thompson said, completing each other’s sentences. “It brings us a lot of joy, a lot of love, and it does bring us closer to the people. That’s why ‘crafting love.’”

The annual event was put together by The Division of Inclusion, Diversity & Equity. Sophomore Brandy Williams, who is responsible for the logistics in the executive board of the symposium, said the preparations for the conference started at the beginning of last semester. The executive board of the symposium is responsible for reaching out to sponsors, participants and possible speakers.

“We make sure [the symposium] is interactive and actually interesting, and we make sure it’s not super surface level,” Williams said. “This year we had 180 people register, and a little over a hundred actually came out.”

With a positive turnout and a successful day of discussion, this year’s keynote speaker was Marshall Allen, an MU 2018 graduate who talked about diversity and inclusion. Sebastian introduced his session, expanding on the concepts of belonging once again.

“There’s this individual aspect of belonging that has to do with your own self-reflection,” Sebastian said. “How can we identify with a group when we don’t really know what we value and what we are?”

Edited by Janae McKenzie | jmckenzie@themaneater.com

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