Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Examining Social Justice in a Post-9/11 World

By: Camilo Mejía 

This past Friday marked 14 years since the September 11 attacks, an event that drastically changed the course of American foreign policy and led to a series of US military interventions throughout the Middle East. The event also changed many aspects of our lives, from people's right to due process, to widespread state surveillance, to the relationship between law enforcement agencies and the public. The Social Justice Table, a network of social justice organizations working to create social change in Miami-Dade County, in partnership with the Institute for Civic Engagement and Democracy (iCED) at Miami Dade College, hosted a panel discussion to consider all the changes that have taken place and to explore community-centered approaches that address national security while preserving people’s right to privacy and redress grievances.

The panel discussion was preceded by a service component organized by iCED and largely driven by Miami-Dade College students who collected non-perishable items and assembled a PB&J sandwich line. The non-perishables were donated to Stand Down, a national organization dedicated to eradicating homelessness in the veteran community, while the PB&J sandwiches were donated to the Miami Rescue Mission, a local shelter serving the greater homeless community since 1922.

“Having a service component to benefit charity groups is a good thing,” remarked Scot Evans, professor at the University of Miami School of Education and Human Development, “… but having a service component followed by a discussion looking into why there is a need for charity is even better.” 

The panel discussion that followed offered participants an overview of foreign and domestic policy changes resulting from the 9/11 attacks, looking into the rationale behind the US invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq in the context of international law, and the change in state vs public relationship as contextualized by the Patriot Act and other domestic policy changes.

Then the audience got to hear about the first-hand experiences of a local organizer who has been active in the Occupy movement in Miami and other social justice movements, such as the March Against Monsanto and the People’s Climate March. The panelists challenged participants to imagine ways to address safety and security concerns while protecting people’s right to organize and demand positive social change, and the moderator encouraged the audience to join local social justice initiatives.

As always, participants were invited to regroup at a local venue for some unstructured social networking after the panel and group discussions. Around 20 Social Justice Table partners shared food and drink and continued exchanging ideas and information at the social hour.

The next Social Justice Justice Gathering will take place on October 12 at Catalyst Miami, and will provide an opportunity for social justice partners and allies to contribute to the People’s Climate March, happening on October 14, by making signs and banners for the march while enjoying food and drink during our unstructured networking time.

For more information, contact Camilo Mejía at camilom@catalystmiami.org.

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