The University of Pennsylvania’s African-American Resource Center’s personnel coordinated with organizations all over campus to create the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Symposium, a near month-long array of social justice-oriented events.
“The last event in the series is our signature program, which is about how disenfranchised and marginalized groups have used the arts to address issues of social change and justice,” said Valerie Dorsey Allen, director of the African-American Resource Center.
To conclude this year’s symposium, AARC hosted “Culture and Consciousness: Arts and the Movement for Social Justice Program” last Friday.
“Each January, Penn and its neighbors work together to commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” Allen said. “This annual symposium reminds us of our interdependence and reaffirms our commitment to improving our communities through civility and service.”
“There’s been a gradual shift over the years, expanding the focus on social justice overall, as well as equality issues,” said Robert Carter, associate director of AARC. “This year, we captured the social issues that face our nation today — everything from the Occupy movement and how it relates to the Civil Rights Movement, helping single mothers, educational choice and employment discrimination against formerly convicted persons, to how young African-American men today can learn from older men and ending homelessness in America.”
The Christian Association and ARRC presented “Occupy and the Civil Rights Movement,” the first university discussion of its kind bringing together students, staff, community members and neighbors to talk about both movements in a spirit of open and honest dialogue. The event was held recently at the Christian Association meeting room.
The idea for the event stemmed from conversations with AARC and the Christian Association. AARC reported that many students of color sensed the importance of the Occupy movement but did not fully understand the movement’s relevance to the social justice issues they face today.
Several Christian Association affiliated students and staff who participate in the Occupy movement were eager to host a dialogue that would connect the relevance of Occupy to other important social actions.
“As a faith-based organization, we seek to fully live out the Gospel message; supporting others who seek to bring about social justice is an important part of what we are called to do,” said Rob Gurnee, executive director of the Christian Association.
Gurnee considered the event a natural fit with the Christian Association’s long history of activism and social justice.
“A forum that affirms the importance and broadens the understanding of both Occupy and the Civil Rights Movement helped to add depth and perspective to the Occupy Movement,” Gurnee said.
Participants heard from leaders inside and outside the University of Pennsylvania community. Panelists include Occupy the Hood speaker Jon Perez, AARC representative Eric Grimes and student activist Meghna Chandra.
Those familiar with the Civil Rights Movement had a chance to reflect on their memories and what they learned about creating social change. Jon Perez explained why the Occupy movement matters, especially for people of color.
Graduate student Miles Goodloe thought the event was informative and engaging.
“The event was great,” he said. “To have people from various demographics including age, ethnicity, activism and education was a beneficial experience that provided an eclectic amount of intriguing statements.
“I learned that the Occupy movement includes a lot of people who all have different desires that stem from the overall factor of money,” Goodloe added. “There has been a decrease in the appreciation of human life with an increase in desire of monetary benefits,” he said.
The Christian Association is a community of hospitality, service, advocacy and faith exploration that has been serving the University of Pennsylvania since 1891.
For more information about other events, call the Christian Association at (215) 746-6350.