By Ken Hamilton
Social justice awareness is on the rise at Seattle Central Community College. Thanks to the weekly, volunteer-run lecture, and dialogue series taking place in the Library – students, staff, and community-members now have a forum to carry on a conversation about the world we share right here in the campus library.
Kelley McHenry, a Seattle Central Librarian, is responsible for starting the lectures last quarter and has been excited by the response. The presence of Occupy Seattle during the winter inspired her to help keep the lines of communication open between members of the community by creating a weekly lecture circuit focusing on the diversity of ideas and a venue for anyone interested in discussing the issues, problems, and consequences the world is facing.
“Perpetuating free speech is the central theme of these lectures, getting people with different viewpoints to share ideas and talk about solutions is important,” McHenry says.
Student participation is crucial for these kinds of events to function and prosper. These panels are an opportunity to be exposed to a wide array of ideas and are as powerful as the students and community members make them; the whole is greater than the sum of its parts in this case.
“I would love to see more students share their ideas with us. We need topics, we need volunteers, we need speakers,” McHenry says. ‘We’ is the critical word in this instance, as the point of these conversations is to be inclusive and diverse.
The end result of conflict resolution and a self-sustaining community conversation justifies the means of difficult questions and the challenge to oneself of being open to all points of view.
Craig Schwartz, a Seattle Central History professor, began his lecture today on the continuing conflict of Palestine/Israel with an uplifting reminder, “The reason I am giving this presentation is because I am advocate for world peace.” Attendees were given the opportunity to ask questions and challenge Mr. Schwartz and one another several times throughout the presentation but the atmosphere remained one of curiosity, problem-solving, and critical examination – despite the controversial and frustrating nature of the topic.
Next Thursday, May 3 at noon, Seattle Reads 2012 will be the feature of the Social Justice Lecture Series in the Broadway Performance Hall, centered around Amy Waldman’s novel, The Submission. The campus community and author will discuss American perceptions of tolerance, acceptance, and resistance, personified by the quest to memorialize the victims of the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. Admittance is free and discussion is encouraged.