Dionne Smith, Community Editor
Social justice is a very hard hitting, important, and sensitive topic to a lot of people. It can mean a lot of different things depending on the context, and has the potential to be limited, even though social justice can be done in many different ways. The second annual Social Justice Summit will help enlighten the people who attend of the various ways of social justice by connecting and participating in the community in various different ways.
“Doing something that gives you life, but also doing something that meets people where they’re at and elevates them, that’s social justice to me.” Says Anila Karunakar, the Coordinator for Multicultural Student Affairs. Karunakar is coordinating the Social Justice Summit after doing the first summit last year only a few weeks into her new position at USM. The first summit allowed her to begin planning for the second one this year, including how she wanted the summit to be set up. She hopes to touch on the broad theme of finding out what is out in the community and how to inspire change.
With this summit, Karunakar is hoping to show the students who is out in the community and who is helping people and doing acts of social justice. She also hopes that the people who will attend summit will be able to engage with each other about what different organizations are doing here in Maine, and to network with each other. One of the goals is that some students will be driven to sign up to help some of the local organizations after the summit, and to apply what they learned throughout the day.
There will be multiple local organizations in Maine that will be joining the summit, including some student run organizations such as, the League of Women Voters, Planned Parenthood for Northern New England, Queer Straight Alliance and many more. There will also be two speakers attending. Doctor John Bear Mitchell, from UMaine Orono will be giving the opening speech. The keynote speaker will be Shay Stewart Bouley, who is also known as “Black Girl in Maine,” who will also be holding her own break out session for students of color. Bouley has a blog that shows her activism and advocacy for social justice.
To go along with that, there will be fourteen break out sessions throughout the day. Some sessions will revolve around trafficking, social justice, the meaning of belonging, climate change, immigration and others. Karunakar is happy to have a wide variety of organizations attending and the large spectrum of topics from each break out session. The large variety should help broaden the perspective of what social justice looks like and ways that people can use their strength to support these organizations and the community.
“I’m so passionate about this area, and I want people who want to be there, to be there,” Karunakar stated. She expressed that she wants people ready to learn, ready to connect with like-minded people, and people that will want to get involved in local organizations.
She is hoping that by the end of the summit, it will help to inspire students to get more involved in the community and volunteer with some of the organizations that will be joining. She wants people to walk away knowing that there is continuity after the summit. Karunakar expressed that students could feel a sense of action and expression afterward. She would also love to work with students that have showed interest with certain organizations to invite them back on campus for a tabling or an event.
For Karunakar, this summit will help her plan out what she would like to see for next year when it comes time for the third summit. The feedback of those who attend would also be helpful so that she could hear some outside opinions on what she should do for next year. The Social Justice Summit should be a very progressive and enlightening experience for everyone who shall attend and help strengthen the community.
“It is my year and i put a blasted amount of effort into it.” Karunakar said.