Community Conversations Address Social Justice

community conversations serene quick

Galloway, N.J.  – Racism andsocial justice can be expressed in many forms.  Stockton faculty, staff and students shared their knowledge and experiences of systemic racism and hopes for social justice through a series of conversations and performances during the fall semester.

The goal of the Community Conversations and Collective Action series is to provide context to understanding systemic racism and promoting action to achieve social justice.

community conversations group“It is time to change the narrative of whose stories are told, and who gets to tell them,” Assistant Professor of Atlantic History Kameika Murphy said at the final session on “Promoting Social Justice: Changing Tomorrow Today.”

Murphy said she did not learn about the total African American journey until she was a graduate student.

“The challenge was not what was being shown, but that the narrative started with slavery,” Murphy said. “There was no other context. We need to see Black people as humans and not merely as the products of the process through which they were dehumanized.”

The series was coordinated by Interim Director for Academic Achievement Programs Nordia Johnson, who addressed the role of institutions in promoting social justice

“Justice is removing the barriers that perpetually create inequities so that all can have the same opportunities,” Johnson said. “In the context of higher education, it is looking at how we can support underserved, minoritized students such as those who comprise our Black and Latinx communities.”

megan coates drawingsThat involves looking at both risk and protective factors in students’ lives.

“If the protective factors are greater than the risk factors, a student is more likely to succeed,” Johnson said.  “What can we do to reduce the risk factors and enhance the protective factors?”

Overall campus climate and culture play a key role, risk and protective factors should be addressed within every domain of the institution’s climate. Campus climate affects every student, and therefore, must be addressed by the entire institution.

The first three sessions were presented virtually. The fourth session was held in the Campus Center Event room with a small audience of faculty, staff and students and streamed live for a larger virtual audience.

Student Serene Quick performed a dance to the song “Glory.”

Student Malikah Stafford read a poem “On Your Knees”  saying  “If you can only feel alive when someone else is dehumanized, something is wrong with you.

Student Megan Coates exhibited some of a series of 12 drawings she is doing on victims of violence, including Breonna Taylor and Tamir Rice.

malikah stafford“Martin Luther King, Jr. said he always marched in his Sunday best because of the visual it provided,” Coates said. “I want people to look at these drawings and see these people as humans, not as victims. I want people to ask ‘who is that?’ so their stories can be told.”

Student Jesus Barnes sung the song “Up to the Mountain” as the final session came to a close.

Johnson said the conversations and process of achieving social justice will continue. As she ended the series with an invitation for participants to engage in a powerful activity, Johnson asked students, faculty, and staff to “Make a personal declaration.”

“Think about what you do to promote social justice at Stockton and in your community,” Johnson said.

Donnetrice Allison, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Professor and Coordinator of Africana Studies, and Professor of Communications, said the next step is to putting ideas and suggestions into action.

“Each of us can be part of the process,” Allison said.

All four sessions were recorded and can be viewed on YouTube:

  1. Understanding Systemic Racism: The Anatomy of What We Face Today: Dr. Donnetrice Allison and Mr. Stephen Davis

The series begins with foundational education about systemic racism coupled with an exploration of research centered on the inequities faced by African American males in the education system.

  1. Understanding Systemic Racism: Signs & Symptoms of Racism: Dr. Zori Kalibatseva and Dr. Ana Rodriguez

This session explores the psychological impact of systemic racism, and will feature a study, which brings to light the racial and cultural experiences of first generation Latinx students.

  1. Promoting Social Justice: Dismantling Systems of Oppression: Dr. GorDan Reeves and Dr. Terri Carr

This session focuses on social justice and highlights ways in which we can bridge equity gaps in the areas of unemployment and the natural sciences.

  1. Promoting Social Justice: Changing Tomorrow TODAY: Dr. Kameika Murphy and Dr. Nordia Johnson

The series ends with a discussion of the role of history in promoting social justice along with a call to examine the responsibility of the institution to change the landscape of higher education using campus climate.

The series was hosted by the Office of Academic Achievement Programs, with key partners and speakers from the following areas: Africana Studies Program, Office of Residential Life, Psychology Program, Office of Student Transition Programs, Office of Career Education and Development, Office of the Dean of Students, Chemistry Program, and Historical Studies Program. Special thanks to the Social Justice Interns in the Office of Academic Achievement Programs: Danielle Combs and Alize Thompson.

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Diane D’Amico
Director of News and Media Relations
Galloway, N.J. 08205