The Spark of Social Justice

By Noel Chapman

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The last thing I would have wanted to do in high school was sign up to sit in a small room for two hours every Monday night and talk about heavy subjects like sexism, racism, or ageism.  However, this is exactly what the Pro Justice Team at Global Visionaries has committed to doing.

The Pro Justice Team, or PJ as it’s normally called, consists of eight high school students from a variety of schools.  PJ is a part of Youth Board, a program for second year students who have decided to continue to be a part of GV in different leadership positions.

PJ focuses on learning about and educating others regarding “cycles of oppression and privilege” as Tiffany Lumley, Assistant Program Manager, explained.  “They focus on a different ‘ism’ each week and break it down.  They learn ways they can fight that ‘ism’.”

I had to check this out and see for myself what it was that these high school students are learning about each week, and I was blown away by the material that they were actively paying attention to.

This past week PJ had Anita Nath come in and talk to them about the work that she is doing with Unite Here, an organization that helps hospitality employees find a voice.  Anita herself is a boycott organizer and is working with the Hilton and the Edgewater boycotts and marches.

I was stunned to hear these high school students making connections between this local issue and concepts like racism, sexism, and imperialism.  I mean, imperialism?!  Isn’t that something we all learned about once in history and quickly forgot after the quiz?  Apparently not to these PJ members; they were keenly listening to every word that Anita was saying.  I could see the wheels turning in their heads as they were identifying how the abstract “isms” that they have been learning about were actually happening in their own city.

The PJ members learn a language they can use to describe social justice issues around the world.  This is a language I did not come into contact with until college.  They are able to name specific forms of oppression, utilizing labels to take the first step in social change.  To read more about the use of language and naming see former GV intern Tim Takechi’s article.

Not only is the PJ team provided with this terminology, but they are given the opportunity to pass it on to the first year participants.  PJ is in charge of one culture night of the year in which they facilitate the sort of discussions and learning that they have been exposed to the whole year.  They also are in charge of a section of the first year participant’s retreat which has been said to be one of the most powerful parts.

If you want to learn more about what the PJ Team is or get involved in what they are doing you can check out Anita Nath’s work with Unite Here at www.unitehere8.org.  Unite Here even has a Facebook page under the name Unite Here! Local 8 where you can stay updated on the events that are happening in Seattle.

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