Celebration Amidst Suffering: Why a Festival?

Some wonder why we call ’DEIS Impact a “festival” of social justice. Isn’t the idea of a festival at odds with the underlying purposes of this annual Brandeis tradition? Festivals, after all, usually
celebrate something. Is a festival the right response to a world of suffering and injustice? Could ’DEIS Impact turn into a smug celebration of the good work we do?

It is a point well taken. Those concerned with improving the world should be careful not to become too self-absorbed in that quest and overlook the purposes they’re trying to achieve. Indeed, the Brandeis curriculum and culture promote searching analysis and reflection to confront this form of narcissism.

But the act of celebration doesn’t mean looking at the world through rose-colored glasses.

A festival of the arts celebrates the creative spirit while engaging with the full range of human emotion and problems in all their complexity. We are not taken aback when an arts festival includes a production of “King Lear” or a discussion of Picasso’s “Guernica.” The arts offer a robust challenge to complacency. And challenging complacency is exactly what a festival of social justice can and should do, too.

Furthermore, a festival is a collective enterprise. There is no such thing as a one-person festival, and there is no such thing as solitary social justice. A festival of social justice is about engaging, empowering and challenging together.

As you look through this booklet and decide which of the dazzling array of events to join, remember that action and joy can go hand-in-hand, even as we are mindful of those whose lives are disrupted by poverty, violence and inequality. Indeed, these seemingly insurmountable challenges can overwhelm and deter us from our quest for social justice if we do not stop to notice some (perhaps small) victories.

What we celebrate in the ’DEIS Impact festival of social justice is not ourselves: we celebrate the collective struggle for human dignity that binds our community with others around the world.

Join us.