Social justice is topic of gathering at Jesuit
Jesuit High School will host the JesuitÃ‚Â Teach In for Social Justice this Saturday, Nov. 4, from 1 to 5 p.m. in the school's Gedrose Student Center. The event is open to the public.
An offshoot of the national Ignatian Teach In — also happening Saturday, in Washington, D.C. — the Jesuit Teach In for Social Justice will feature keynote speakers from the Portland metropolitan area and a live-streamed speaker from the national Teach In. The talks will be focused on issues of immigration and criminal justice, through a Catholic lens.
"A big, important part of this process is solidarity, and just feeling like we're connected to the wider national community of people who are working toward social justice, and also advocating for these issues at the same time," said Clare Devine, a senior at Jesuit who is helping to organize the event. "It gives it more of a spirit of community, and makes it more practical for the participants."
Devine is organizing the event with the help of fellow students Josie Donlon, Anna Rask, Archita Harathi and Mandy Mitchell, and Scott Powers, Jesuit's director of Christian service. The group decided to bring the Teach In to Portland after a record number of students expressed interest in attending this year's Teach In in D.C. All five student organizers attended last year's national event.
For senior Archita Harathi, the Teach In is a "safe space for people to share their ideas and learn more about issues that they can get really involved in."
"It's a way to learn about the issues going on in our society that we might not always have space otherwise to talk about," Harathi added. "A lot of times, students don't know about these issues, or they know about them but they don't know if they can talk about them, or if they know enough to talk about them."
Devine went on a school-organized trip to the Mexico-Arizona border last year, and she now is passionate about immigration rights. She said she looks forward to talking about local immigration issues on Saturday's Teach In, referencing the unpredictable future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. She also pointed to the recent incident in which an ICE agent questioned a Latino county worker near the Washington County Courthouse in Hillsboro.
"It was really impactful to learn about how we can be more effective in our activism," Devine said about last year's national Teach In. "There are DACA students at our school, so it's important to be connecting it more on a local level. … We're working towards the Catholic conception of justice, and treating everyone as equal human beings."
In addition to immigration, criminal justice will be a major topic of discussion at Jesuit Saturday.
"Last year at the (national) Teach In, we focused on how there seems to be an opportunity for criminal justice reform in Congress," Powers said. "One of the things that came up was the issue of race in that."
Bryan Massingale, a professor of theological and social ethics at Fordham University, will give a keynote talk on criminal justice reform at the Ignatian Teach In in D.C., and Jesuit will stream it during its own Teach In. Powers called Massingale "one of the foremost scholars and theologians on racial justice."
This week, the student organizers are focused on getting the word out about the Teach In. Both students and adults are welcome, and Powers emphasized that the event is not just for Catholics. He hopes to see somewhere between 50 and 100 participants turn up on Saturday.
"Education is advocacy," he said. "When we educate people, and we learn, we are advocating for a more just world by trying to understand some of these issues."
After attending last year's national Teach In and preparing for this weekend's event at Jesuit, several of the student organizers said they were considering pursuing careers in politics, law or immigration reform.
"My goal is to be somehow involved in politics someday, whether that's practicing law or being an actual politician," said senior Josie Donlon.
Donlon will get some political experience on Monday, when about 20 Jesuit students will break into small groups and visit the offices of Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, and Reps. Suzanne Bonamici, Earl Blumenauer and Kurt Schrader.
They'll be there to advocate for DACA and criminal justice reform — putting their theoretical work from the weekend into action.