As a Cal State, not many political and social events or organizations are offered on campus, as compared to UCs. However, on Friday, February 7, students were given the opportunity to learn more about social justice at the Social Justice Summit, hosted by the Office of Student Engagement.
The event started off with a light breakfast for all of the attendees. Attendees had muffins and coffee as they conversed with friends and networked with others before the event.
Once it hit 10:00 a.m., attendees were invited to make their way to the Event Centers B and C for the opening speeches. The first to speak was Jacob Chacko, the Assistant Director of Diversity and Inclusion. Chacko set the tone for the event by talking about the community guidelines the participants were expected to follow. He then talked about the intent and impact in terms of a toothpaste analogy.
“Your intent may be good, but the impact is still there. You can try to put the toothpaste back in, but it’s still there and it’s hard to put back in. Keep that in mind throughout the day, as it will be helpful in any social justice conversation,” said Chacko.
Afterwards, Chacko invited attendees to stand up and participate in the social justice lens exercise – which consisted of a few stretches and the opportunity to communicate with someone new.
“Oftentimes, this work can be lonely,” said Chacko. “Fighting against -isms can be isolating, and it helps to know that there are others who understand and know your story. That was the point of this exercise.”
Chacko concluded his speech by saying that the summit for Social Justice was held to allow people to share their stories and experiences in order to make informative knowledge more accessible in our community.
After Chacko’s speech, Ciera Hammond, Director of External Affairs, shared her experiences as a student leader. As part of the California State Student Association, Hammond advocates for students in the local, state, and federal levels. She is also the president of the University Honors Program at CSUSB.
“Social justice is equal treatment for all people regardless of race, gender identity, or sexual orientation. It is equity in education and opportunity,” said Hammond. “It is also a multifaceted issue and there are so many different avenues for everyone to get involved.”
Hammond says that getting involved can include advocacy and making sure your voice is heard, responding to the 2020 Census this year, being a leader and empowering others in your community, and voting out officials who do not stand for equality and inclusivity.
Hammond concluded her speech by asking attendees, “Why not you? What is stopping you from becoming a champion for social justice? Lead today, change tomorrow.”
The final portion of the welcome speeches included a land acknowledgment from Antonio Isabeles, advisor of the Native American Pacific and Islander Student Association. Isabeles informed participants that a land acknowledgment is a formal statement that recognizes the indigenous people of the land and that it is a great start to fighting the modern colonial process.
“Everywhere you go in this country, you are standing on indigenous lands. In today’s modern technologies, there’s no excuse to not take a second out of your Grand Canyon, Yellowstone or Mount Rushmore vacations to investigate and learn who the indigenous people of that land are,” said Isabeles.
After the land acknowledgment, attendees were sent off to start the breakout session workshops. These breakout sessions consisted of two waves of four workshops each. Attendees of the event were given the opportunity to decide which workshop they wanted to participate in.
One of these workshops, hosted by CSUSB alumni Evelyn Knox, was a conversation regarding impostor syndrome. Knox got her Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences and her Master’s in Counselling at CSUSB. She started her workshop by giving multiple definitions of what impostor syndrome was.
“As defined by Forbes, impostor syndrome is the act of comparing yourself to others and feeling like you don’t stack up. That can give birth to crippling self-doubt and result in negative consequences in business operations,” explained Knox.
Afterwards, Knox invited everyone to find a partner and answer some questions regarding themselves. Participants took turns asking and answering the questions provided, learning from each other’s experiences. Knox then revealed that the point of the study was to show that people with impostor syndrome are not alone.
“According to the Journal of Behavioral Science, 70% of the United States population has had experience with impostor syndrome on some level,” said Knox. “Millennials, especially have a lot of social pressure from social media that can help promote impostor syndrome.”
Knox then shared ways to overcome impostor syndrome. She said that owning your wins, allowing for failure, questioning the desirability of a perfectionist culture, rewriting mental programs of doubtful thinking, talking about your feelings, finding a mentor, and being your own booster are just a few ways to overcome impostor syndrome.
“I think this event is important because a lot of times, students don’t get the opportunity to express concepts within social justice and advocacy. They’re expected to just stick to the syllabus. A lot of the times, there’s no space to talk and explore identity pieces that are important to them. This is an extension of our education. Culture, advocacy, social justice, that’s how we get our education,” said Knox.
Chacko hosted one of these breakout session workshops which was about navigating through the many different ways people can identify themselves in today’s world.
“Looking at our different intersectional selves, we’re not just human, there are many various ways we identify, and it’s important to have this conversation, especially when students are trying to find a sense of belonging on campus. It’s important to have this a platform to have students start this conversation and reinforce their knowledge,” said Chacko.
After the two breakout sessions, attendees of the event were provided with a lunch of sandwiches and other goods. As people ate, discussions about the workshops ensued and people were able to communicate with more new people.
An hour later, attendees were then ushered back into Event Center B and C to participate in a group activity. The activity consisted of splitting into different groups to discuss the different -isms in today’s society. These included heterosexism, racism, ableism, and classism, to name a few. Facilitators of the event were assigned to different topics and encouraged the attendees to share their stories and experiences.
After the activity, guest speaker Mónica Ramírez arrived and shared her experiences with social justice. Ramírez is a co-founder of Alianza Nacional de Campesinas (National Farmworker Women’s Alliance) and she has been fighting for other people’s rights since age 14.
“The social pendulum has swung at a direction that has been harmful to many people in this country, and we are charged with making sure it swings back,” said Ramírez.
Ramírez shared stories of her clients and of immigrants who have been wrongfully harassed and killed for being different. She shared stories of children having to live in cages and people spending every moment of their lives fearing that they will be taken away from their families.
“Our country has criminalized immigration and migrations. A country that has been built on the shoulders and backs of immigrants criminalized by migration. Now we have people fearful of never seeing family again and don’t have the opportunity to fight for themselves,” said Ramírez.
Ramírez concluded her speech by thanking everyone in the room for attending the event.
“I applaud you and I thank you. You give me hope and you give me faith. You make me know that we’re not alone. You give me hope that the future is of tolerance, acceptance, and empathy. At the end of the day, we’re all human beings, no matter how we got here, and we all deserve to be treated with goodness and we all deserve to be protected by the laws of this country. Our humanity must be recognized and must be valued. You give me hope that we will swing the pendulum back to the side of good,” concluded Ramírez.
For those who were unable to attend the Social Justice Summit and are interested in learning more about social justice and leadership, the Office of Student Engagement has another event planned for the spring quarter. The LIT Institute: Lead, Impact, Transform event will be held on April 18, 2020, at the Center for Global Innovation (CGI) building on campus. Students can now register for the event via Coyote Connection.