Mary Breunig of the Niagara Social Justice Forum committee was recently interviewed by Brock Press and discussed the forum’s history, current organizing for the upcoming 2011 forum and what the committee is looking for in regards to workshop proposals for the 2011 forum. Check out the full article below.
Brock Press: Brock University’s Local Newspaper
Issue date: 10/26/10
By Katherine Gottli
To promote social justice and change through a series of workshops and seminars in an institution of higher learning is pertinent, to say the least. However, it is easy to talk about an important issue and to get excited about promoting social change, yet if there is no action plan and manageable goals set to accompany said talk, what is the point? Discussion needs to be the initial step that leads to positive and constructive action in order to see change and growth in our community.
The Niagara Social Justice Forum (NSJF) understands this concept, and is currently looking for students, organizations, faculty and community members to offer their time and expertise to conduct seminars or workshops, performances, exhibits or information tables to facilitate social justice and change, and offer participants who attend the NSJF the tools to go back into the community and put the change into action. The NSJF is a day-long programme in its fifth year of existence, and hosted by the Brock University Social Justice and Equity Studies Graduate Program.
The idea of the NSJF is based off of the World Justice Forum (WJF), according to Brock University Recreation and Leisure Studies professor Mary Breunig, the WJF is an international event hosted by The World Justice Project in which prominent international leaders in a variety of disciplines come together to educate and inform individuals, and promote action-oriented programs to take back to their respective communities. While the NSJF does not exist on the same level, it has the same goals in mind.
Breunig has been a committee member on the NSJF for the past three years, and describes her it as her “favouritest” committee to be a part of. “It’s this really trans-disciplinary group of people,” she said. “Our membership on the committee is OPIRG – the Ontario Public Interest Research Group at Brock – students in the Social Justice and Equity Studies Graduate Program, students from other programs, faculty across the University, librarians. So we’re a whole mix of people, and – I would say – very high functioning in the way that we operate.”
In the years that she has spent on the committee, Breunig has seen a diverse number of workshops and seminars presented at the NSJF. In the past, community members from Fort Erie who were opposed to the proposed Fort Erie Racetrack presented a comprehensive slide show explaining the negative effects that Racetrack proposed, including environmental and noise pollution as well as land issues. There have also been presentations from Aboriginal groups from the community and even as far as Ottawa, as well as seminars discussing the rights of Migrant workers, specifically healthcare and pay related issues.
The one concern surrounding the forum in the past, however, was how “academic” it was. “Last year there were a fair number of academics,” Breunig said. “One of the concerns was that too much of it was too similar to what the rest of the university is doing.” To combat this, the forum this year has been dubbed with the tag-line “Revolution/Rebellion”, and, according the Breuning, the committee is trying to get groups who would be more interested in conducting more experiential and interactive workshops.
Any student can attend the NSJF, as well as send in a proposal to facilitate some aspect of the forum. The whole event is free, and with last year’s attendance being 150, the committee is hoping to expand further this year, and eventually see the NSJF grow past the confines of a university on top of a hill.
The online version of this story can be found at: http://media.www.brockpress.com/media/storage/paper384/news/2010/10/26/News/Revolutionrebellion-3949823.shtml