By Allison Hector-Alexanderand Jason Vassell
Next week, Durham College (DC) students, employees and community members will engage in some courageous conversations on topics like power and privilege, mental illness and stigma, incarceration, climate change, poverty, homelessness and harm reduction.
It’s all part of DC’s first Social Justice Week, from Tuesday, Jan. 28 to Thursday, Jan. 30. This three-day exchange will encourage in-depth conversations to help students grow a better understanding of themselves and their communities, to develop greater empathy for others and to inspire them to consider where they can contribute to social justice in their own lives.
Social justice is about improving the well-being of society so that everyone benefits. It is rooted in the belief that each of us deserves equity in the distribution of wealth, opportunities and privileges. It is a lens with which all students — all citizens — should equip themselves.
What might surprise people is the ways in which social justice intersects with nearly every field of study, industry and community.
For example, when Yusuf Faqiri speaks on Tuesday night about his Justice for Soli campaign, his message will reach audience members differently based on their own experience and their program of study.
Faqiri launched the campaign after the death of his brother, Soleiman, or Soli as he was known to family and friends. Soleiman lived with schizophrenia. In 2016, he was being held in an Ontario prison awaiting transfer to a hospital. He never made it. Instead, he was killed during an altercation with correctional officers. No charges were laid against the guards involved and, three years later, his family is still fighting for answers and for justice.
The brothers’ story has implications for students in a diverse range of disciplines, some obvious — like addictions and mental health or like protection, security and investigations — and some less so.
Justice for Soli has drawn national media attention. How the campaign’s messaging has been shaped will interest public relations and strategic communications students. How journalists are covering the story is relevant to students from broadcasting and journalism. There are also connections for students in DC’s social service worker, practical nursing and paramedic programs, among others.
In preparing college graduates, we are striving to prepare professionals who go beyond the surface in their work. When faced with a problem to solve, we want them to ask, “Why does it exist in the first place? Who is benefitting? Who is affected or left out?”
The ability of graduates to navigate the world with a critical eye and creativity will be vital to their ability to strengthen our communities and achieving career success.
A social justice lens requires us to look at issues, situations and problems from different viewpoints, which is why everyone is welcome and encouraged to bring their voices to these courageous conversations. Visit durhamcollege.ca/social-justice for more information about DC’s Social Justice Week, including how to register for events.