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Shaya Gregory Poku: Peace and Social Justice Week

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For Shaya Gregory Poku, the Program Director for Northeastern’s Social Justice Resource Center (SJRC), the last week of September is an ideal time to engage students early on in the semester in recognition of the UN International Day of Peace (“Peace Day”) observed around the world each year on 21 September. Along with her team at SJRC and a series of campus partners[1], she was instrumental in organizing the Fourth Annual Peace and Social Justice Week during the week of September 25th through September 29th, 2017. Deciding a specific theme is never easy, but according to Shaya, one issue that seems to be discounted in regular discourse on race and identity: is how white identity fits into our highly racialized world and even ideas about how whiteness were constructed. In order to reflect on these issues, this year’s Peace and Social Justice week focused on “Seeing Color: Exploring Whiteness in a Racialized World”.  The entire week had different events ranging from panel discussions to guest lectures and workshops. The highlight was a keynote speech by Franchesca Ramsey, comedienne, activist and television personality who is known for her talks on racial identity and pop culture.

Students who work with Shaya at SJRC, first year Mya Brown and third year, Kerrina Williams were ecstatic to have met and engaged with Franchesca. According to Shaya, Franchesca was able to “intellectually engage both students and faculty alike”. Mya was equally impressed with Francesca’s ability to seamlessly facilitate discussions between students over a meal, and Kerrina felt that Francesca was approachable and insightful about a range of topics during her keynote speech. About 220 people attended Francesca Ramsey’s event, and about 20-30 students and faculty participated in every other event during the week. For Shaya, this week was a success not just in terms of the turnout, but by the diverse cross-section of students who attended the events during the week- students, who Shaya says, she didn’t always expect to see but who were nonetheless excited to learn more about issues relating to identity, race, and inclusion.



[1] Campus partners for Peace and Social Justice Week events included: The Civic Sustainability, Diversity, and Inclusion Advisory Council (CSDI), the University Scholars Program, the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion (OIDI), the John D. O’Bryant African-American Institute, the Center for the Arts, and the Social Impact Lab.


Published On: October 11, 2017