Civil rights leader and activist artist to lead social justice summit

In Campus News, News
Keynote speaker Rev. James Lawson (left), a former Freedom Rider, was inspired to join the civil rights movement in the 1960s by Martin Luther King Jr. (Courtesy of Joon Powell)
Keynote speaker Rev. James Lawson (left), a former Freedom Rider, was inspired to join the civil rights movement in the 1960s by Martin Luther King Jr. (Courtesy of Joon Powell)

“Think Global, Act Local” is the topic of this year’s Social Justice Summit to be held Saturday at Cal State Fullerton.

The summit will feature over 25 workshops that will address pressing global social justice issues such and will host civil rights advocate Rev. James Lawson and spoken-word artist Abraham Medina.

“We don’t just want people to think … we wanted people to act,” said Eloisa Amador, 24, project director of workshops. “The little things that you do, might change the whole world.”

Workshop topics were selected based on student feedback concerning what they felt are the most pressing social justice issues today. “We talked to many students on campus to see what they wanted to see at the summit,” Amador said.

She explained that many times, students go to conferences or workshops, receive the information but, “then what do you do with the information?” The summit will not only provide information about the issues, but will provide a method of how to take action.

It’s important to know that students can make an impact on any of these issues, Amador said.

Once the topic of the summit was selected in September, a team of student volunteers started to plan logistics. The summit is completely student-run and is funded through donations and fundraisers held throughout the semester.

Carlos Amescua, project director of fundraising, said this year, the summit will cost about $15,000 to $20,000.

An important aspect of factoring in cost is the price of desirable speakers. Lawson said he liked what Students ACT was doing with the summit and decided to speak free of charge.

Influenced by the nonviolent resistance techniques developed by Mohandas Gandhi, Rev. Lawson used these types of practices to motivate civil rights movement leaders in the 1960s.

While studying at Oberlin College, Lawson met Martin Luther King, Jr., and King encouraged Lawson to pursue an active role in the civil rights movement. Lawson took his words to heart.

He helped organize the 1960 lunch counter sit-ins in Nashville and was involved with the Freedom Riders, a group that demonstrated against segregation on public transportation systems.

Lawson has remained active in several immigrant and human rights campaigns and has remained a distinguished visiting professor at Vanderbilt University.

The second speaker, spoken-word artist Abraham Medina, is an advocate for human rights, targeting issues such as immigration. He became involved in the summit as a high school student and later became a speaker.

Medina helped start a youth group called Un Mundo En Resistencia (UMER), and he also works with numerous advocacy groups, including El Centro Cultural de Mexico en Santa Ana, the Orange County Dream Team, Cop Watch and the Orange County May Day Coalition.

Medina encourages students everywhere to work collectively, especially in the community, in order to make a difference. He said simply making a call or attending a workshop can make a significant difference.

“We have to be mindful that those actions we do take—or we do not take—will impact those who come after us,” Medina said.

Hopefully, students and other attendees will heed speakers’ calls to action after attending the summit, Amador said.

“I think the summit is a great experience for students to come and learn about different issues. I know that sometimes we have a very busy schedule and we think that those issues do not affect us but sometimes they do and they affect us more than we think,” she said.

The event is organized by Students Advocating Civic Transformation. For more information on the Social Justice Summit, visit

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