A New Social Justice Movement Discussed by
Dr. Crew and Panelists

Thursday, October 27, 2017

Just what social justice means in this new era of protest was examined by panelists at a lively discussion on Oct. 19 at MEC. Entitled “Creating a New Social Justice Movement,” four panelists examined white supremacy, fake news, the importance of voting and the role of social media, among other topics. The standing-room only event in the EOJ auditorium was sponsored by the Kurz Family Foundation.

The program began by acknowledging the urgency of the current social climate: N.F.L. players catching heat for protesting police violence by taking a knee during the National Anthem; Nazis marching in Charlottesville; a new spotlight on sexual harassment in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein allegations. Panelists wrestled with two big questions: defining social justice and creating coalitions that cross lines of race, gender and other facets of identity and allegiance.

The panelists were MEC president Rudolph F. Crew; Rabbi Michael Lerner, the editor of Tikkun Magazine; Lurie Daniel Favors, General Counsel for MEC’s Center for Law and Social Justice; and Yasmin Yonis, an Organizing Fellow at the Black Alliance for Just Immigration. The panel was moderated by Toni Williams, Director of Public Affairs for Con Edison and the creator and executive producer of the TV talk show “Brooklyn Savvy.”

Dr. Crew began by declaring MEC’s mission to create a culture “to intercede in the trajectory of assumptions and misperceptions” in too many quarters about young people of color. Along the same lines, Dr. Crew said his concern about “fake news” was that it leaves out black and brown people or presents them in negative, distorted ways. That myopic view of their lives, he said, becomes the vision for their lives. “The map I see for you has yet be out lived out,” he said, putting a personal spin on social justice.

Rabbi Lerner noted that from 1940 to 1945 one out every three Jews on the planet was murdered and that his own family was wiped out during the Holocaust. It was not a leap for him to identify with the black civil rights struggle, he said. Social justice must be defined as “intrinsic to being a human being,” Rabbi Lerner said, adding that there is no social justice for one group without social justice for all.

Favors suggested that social protest must be strategic and carefully mapped. For instance -- who are the powerful stakeholders in a community? “After the protest there has to be a longer-term conversation,” Favors said. “We have to be students of the systems we are operating in.”

Yonis spoke of the importance of re-imaging a different world and the role of artists in that re-imagining. “I don’t think our blackness starts and ends with oppression,” said Yonis, who spoke of her intersecting identity as a Muslim, a woman, and an immigrant from Somalia.

The event was empowering and informative, students said. In particular, they mentioned Dr. Crew’s clarion call for them to be “warriors” in the social justice struggle and the discussion about the impact of voting.