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Tools for Change

Social Justice Symposium addresses awareness, advocacy and activism

Published Feb. 9, 2015
Story and photos by Derek Poore

DeShaunya Ware

MU student DeShaunya Ware listens to speakers at the fourth annual Social Justice Symposium Feb. 7, 2015, at the MU Student Center.

One of the most important messages that social justice advocate Airick Leonard West relayed to the Mizzou student audience was this: have a plan. 

West was a featured speaker at the fourth annual Social Justice Symposium in the MU Student Center Feb. 7. He said that all community organizing should begin with sitting down with all sides of a debate and getting first-hand information.

“You have to be able to understand it from their perspective,” West said.

West’s words were well-received at one of 18 workshops held during the one-day conference, which featured topics including high school students organizing in Ferguson, Missouri, cultural awareness and LGBTQ activism.

It featured speakers like West, a Kansas City Public Schools board member, and Payton Head, newly inaugurated Missouri Students Association president who is working to make Mizzou a more inclusive campus.

Two Mizzou students, Jennifer Pagan and Naomi Daugherty, led one of the workshops at Mizzou’s Multicultural Center. It examined ways to mobilize to “effect change, build solidarity and produce advocacy for all communities.”

“It’s important to raise the consciousness of many people,” said Daugherty, an MU senior who led the group MU4MikeBrown, “because we want to bring people to have solidarity in ourselves.”

Pagan, an MU senior studying women’s and gender studies, said the symposium is important “if MU wishes to claim a title of being a progressive campus.”

Pagan added that the symposium needs to get bigger in the coming years, and that Mizzou should invest even more in fostering discussion and change in social justice issues.

Echoing West, Pagan said she has learned that to truly effect change, she must avoid only speaking out about issues, engage other community leaders and have empathy for everyone affected by social injustice. “Social justice means love,” she said.

The MU Social Justice Symposium is organized by the departments of Residential Life and Student Life and sponsored by several student and campus offices.

View more event photos on Flickr.


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Last updated: Aug. 15, 2017