Social Justice Lunchbox Speaker Series Concludes 2017-2018 Academic Year
May 29, 2018 - Cristen Conley
Funded by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to help improve outcomes for New Mexico’s most vulnerable children and families, the Social Justice Lunchbox series ended the academic year with programs in March and April. Sebastian Margaret addressed disability rights as social justice, followed by Ona Porter of Prosperity Works speaking on practical, economic steps that can be taken to help raise New Mexican Families out of poverty. UNM Law Students, staff, professors, other students, and members of the public were invited to attend these 50-minute talks during the year-long series to learn about a wide range of social justice issues. Various law student groups co-sponsored the talks beginning with a general program defining social justice, then moving through concepts of racial equity, health-harming legal needs, environmental justice, and how to work with communities, before ending with the afore-mentioned presentations.
Recognizing many law students start their studies with an altruistic impetus to serve the greater good, but then find they must conform to formulaic introductory legal concepts at the beginning of their studies, the Lunchbox series serves to connect such students with programs and individuals who bring to life some ways those philanthropic impulses can be realized.
Through the course of the year, attendees learned that toxic industries are overwhelmingly situated near lower-income communities and communities of color where they create chronic, acute, and sometimes fatal conditions of disease. Partnerships between medical and legal providers can serve to identify children and families who are impacted in both realms and then address those needs together. Lawyers wanting to reduce such dangerous circumstances must find a way to work with such communities not as legal saviors but as compadres and comrades in the struggle. Frequently, students and new attorneys can bring fresh perspectives to established institutions through educating the educators from a sub-dominant point of view. Sebastian Margaret is an example of a person who epitomizes this strength from the ground with an iconoclastic approach to talking about experiencing the world from the stance of those who cannot stand, the view of those who cannot see, and the voice of those who cannot speak.
The Social Justice Lunchbox Series will begin anew in the Fall of 2018 with a focus on how to do the work of social justice.