About 300 people attended the second annual Bay Area Social Justice Forum at Holy Names University, where keynote speakers, workshop leaders and community activists encouraged participants to continue their work.
"The day was everything the planning committee had hoped it would be!" said Sister Susan Wells, SNJM, director of the university's Center for Social Justice and Civic Engagement. "The spark of hope generated by so many people gathered together and committed to understanding some very complex social justice issues is what has inspired Holy Names University to make this an annual event. We continue to plant seeds of hope and we know that when participants left for the day, they left energized and empowered to be People of Hope, Agents of Change!"
Sponsored by the university and 10 co-sponsors, including the Global Solidarity Team of the Diocese of Oakland, participants ranged from college students to seasoned veterans of social justice work. Representatives from several groups, including JustFaith, the Oakland-based Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Companions in Ignatian Service and Spirituality, Oakland Catholic Worker and Bread for the World, offered information on their organizations.
Brisk business was conducted at the tables staffed by SAFE California, where petitions to place an initiative on the ballot that would replace the death penalty with a life sentence without the possibility of parole in California were offered. The signature drive was in its last five days.
Holy Names President William Hynes welcomed participants to the daylong activities, which included two keynote addresses and seven workshops — participants could attend two — on topics ranging from human trafficking to safe water to immigration.
"Social justice is a long tradition in the Catholic Church," Haynes said, noting his own attendance, at the tender age of 22, as a foreign correspondent at Vatican II, during which he witnessed an encounter between Dorothy Day and a group of gypsies.
She opened her patent leather coin purse, he recalled her saying, because "they asked."
The morning's keynote speaker, the Rev. Daniel Groody, CSC, spoke on "Dying to Live: The Theology of Migration." The Holy Cross priest is an assistant professor of theology and director of the Center for Latino Spirituality and Culture in the University of Notre Dame's Institute for Latino Studies.
"Migration is in our genes," Father Groody said. "It is also in our spiritual genes."
More than 200 million people are migrating, he said. "This is the age of migration," he said, and while such migration changes things rapidly it creates not only a lot of chaos, but a lot of opportunities.
He called on participants to gain a better understanding of why people are migrating, and to consider the theology of migration.
"To just look at this in terms of civil law," he said, "is to look at it too narrowly."
The day's second keynote speaker, Jack Weinstein, regional director of Facing History and Ourselves, spoke about educating students for civic participation. Such an education, Weinstein said, goes beyond teaching major names and dates and history, but involves case studies to help students develop their own problem-solving skills.
"The teacher's job is to help them complicate, not simplify, their own thinking," the veteran educator said.
Weinstein cited examples of using historical case studies from the Holocaust and the Civil Rights Movement, for example, in the classroom.
In a workshop on immigration, the Rev. Deborah Lee, director of the Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights, and community organizer Francisco Herrera led a group of about 20 participants through an exercise that placed them in groups to play the roles of undocumented workers, documented workers, citizens and enforcement agents in an exercise to help them gain understanding, at times uncomfortably, of the forces at work in each group.
Next Front Page