Just what is social justice? Maybe we should start as my professor in my “Social Justice and Transformation” class does by defining “Just what is an injustice.” Whether you start with your definition of social justice or your definition of injustice there has to be a merger of theory and practice. To this end, my cooperative this semester with professors and graduate students has started teaching a class on “Drama, Poetry, and Social Justice” in a High School in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Today we started our day off by speaking to a group of thirty five black youth about the program which starts next week. Because developing black identity tied to being and becoming conscious democratic citizens who know their rights is a pillar of our program, we started with that! To get the crowded room of black youth comfortable with us, we introduced who we were, where we were from, and our interest in education. Both myself and the African American graduate student who is in Theatre produced our narratives to evoke a sense of kinship with the student body.
Next, we simply asked the question “what is social justice?” While this may seem to be a simple answer for scholars and activist, we wanted the students to define what social justice may look like to them. At first, there were some crickets, then one student spoke up “Y’all talking bout the stuff that is happening in Ferguson?” Both the other graduate student and I both responded yes then asked “Exactly what is happening in Ferguson?” From that point we were able to engage the students in a conversation about what the details to Ferguson were. Departing into an intense conversation about #Ferguson allowed for us and the students to think about examples of “social injustice,” specifically what it looks for america to be dealing with racial profiling, institutionalized racism, and activism.
Our first day at the high school in Cincinnati allowed us to recruit talented black youth who will be engaged in conversation about social justice issues, but it also allowed us a chance to interact with students whose talents we will be using during this semester.