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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Staying Woke: Engaging in Movements and Activism

On Saturday, March 25, the Office of Student Leadership and Community Engagement (OSLCE) held its Third Annual Social Justice Conference, which was entitled Staying Woke: Engaging in Movements and Activism. Alongside OSLCE, the event would not be possible without the hard work and commitment of Jacey Taft and Carian Diaz, the event coordinators and graduate students here at the University of Massachusetts Boston.
This year’s conference focused on the history of social movements and activism. It also looked at the role played by social activism regarding policy making. The themes of the conference were to explore the history of social movements and activism, including the factors that made them effective; to learn about current social movements and other forms of collective actions, including at the local, state, and national level; to develop attendees’ capacity to take action around the social issues they are passionate about; and to connect people and resources to support their social change work. The conference had a variety of speakers, all from different studies and with varying experiences with social movements and activism. The conference was open to faculty, students, staff, and anyone who was interested, whether they were a part of the UMass Boston community or not.
Not only did the conference look at the history of social movements and activism, it assessed their importance and effectiveness in advancing public policies. The conference had a few breakout sessions during which participants were able to create their own social movements. They got the opportunity to see what really makes a movement; what makes a movement effective and successful; and the amount of work, commitment, and collaboration these movements require. Participants had the opportunity to look in-depth at current social movements from the past to the present. These included the Dakota Access Pipeline, the Boston busing crisis, the Black Lives Matter movement, and others.
A major takeaway from the conference was that social change is a long process. It is not something that happens overnight. Social change was compared to a marathon. Marathons are meant to be long and sometimes tedious; this is how social change is. Even though social change is a long and tedious process, participants were reminded that, at times, they might feel weary and that they are fighting a lost cause, but they should not let this deter them or let this be a reason to avoid social movements.
The message of the conference was that social movements are an effective way of bringing about change. Even though the process is long, social change is an ongoing process. Without it, we would be defeated and continuously oppressed by the system of oppression that one is challenging. It takes time, effort, and people who are willing to—people who decide that come what may, they will continue fighting until they get the results they want.
The conference also highlighted how our privileges or lack of privileges should not be a reason for us to disregard social movements and activism. Participants were reminded that one does not have to be negatively affected by something for you to take a stand against injustice and ignorance. Instead, they should use their privileges or lack of privileges to work in cohesion against oppression and ignorance. 
Participants were reminded to keep the conversations goings, find ways in which they can advocate for a cause or social justice issue they are passionate about, and not to think they have to be considered an activist before they can participate in a movement or even start a movement. After all, if you stand up for something you believe in and if you fight against ignorance and oppression, you are an activist.