MLK teach-in advocates social justice
Students came in waves from their classes to Illinois Wesleyan University’s Hansen Student Center on Monday, Jan. 18, to increase their awareness on three points of global importance. The event was part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Teach-In, which hosted three sessions: race and social justice, immigration and social justice, and globalization and social justice.
In the first session, Loretta Thirtyacre, of Country Financial, and IWU senior Kenneth Woodard, who interned at the McLean Country Urban League, challenged students to identify examples at IWU where students are knowingly or unknowingly disconnected from diversity.
Attendants reacted strongly to the concept of “flocking,” introduced by Thirtyacre. She described it as, “math majors hanging out with just math majors and cheerleaders only hanging out with cheerleaders.”
Thirtyacre also discussed the use of competencies, such as networking, calibration, sensitivity, positive expectancy and advocacy to introduce more opportunities for diversity on campus.
In the second session, Sonny Garcia, of the Central Illinois Organizing Project, and senior Monica Shah, who interned with the National Center for Refugees and Immigrant Children, explained the contradictions in the United States’ policy toward immigrants.
Garcia provoked listeners by asking why America allows freetrade of commodities with countries that are North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) signatories, yet is strict on excluding actual people from the same countries.
“People should be included because they are essentially human capital,” Professor of History Paul Bushnell said.
Shah explained the reality that many child immigrants face upon entering the United States, either because they have been forced to emigrate or because they are escaping pressures from gang and drug lords. She pointed out that these children should be granted protection from deportation.
“If you ask these children what would happen to them if they went back, many of them answer, ‘They would find me and kill me,’” Monica said. As attendants discussed the unpopular realities of child immigrants, many become more sympathetic to their cause.
There was a similar effect after the speeches of Professor of Political Science Ky Ajayi and junior Jessica Meyer, former president of IWU’s chapter of Amnesty International. Ajayi brought up the problem of large corporations offering pay raises for all workers while simultaneously depleting natural resources, human resources and human dignity, which eventually creates an inescapable “race to the bottom.”
In response, Meyer referenced the recent and potentially trendsetting event of Russell Athletic conceding to the outcry of organizations and university students, staff and faculty across America for the company to rehire the Honduran workers that were fired for attempting to unionize.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Day Teach-In not only educated IWU students about the issues surrounding international issues, but also encouraged them to speak out and challenge injustice.