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Local Action / Global Impact

An Interactive Forum

A week exploring the interplay of local action and global change

How can local service and action expand to stimulate broader change and help many more people?

In a world of limited resources, how do we decide between addressing individual needs and trying to transform lives of millions?

"It is clear that the entire Local/Global Forum was so much stronger because of the energy, ideas and participation of a number of student groups and departments. Even the very event itself is local action (happening at Brandeis) with a potential global impact. Who knows where the ripples from this might end, as members of the Brandeis community catch the vision of the power of one person?”

~Marci McPhee, forum organizer (Thanks to Desiree Koh, Justice)

Monday, February 7, 2005

First Step: Personal Local/Global Choices

Ronnie Levin ’73, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Deborah Bial, ’87, founder of the Posse Foundation; and George Okrah ’03, Teach for America, spoke as Brandeis alumni about personal choices for local and/or global career paths and how they have amplified local action for broader impact. Cosponsored by the Future Alumni of Brandeis, Posse Plus, the Student Union Diversity Committee, and Student Enrichment Services.

“The first thing to do is to feel responsible for a problem so you can help solve it. Brandeis is just big enough, just small enough, just radical enough, just straight enough, just good enough, just bad enough for lots of things to happen. Look around you and see what needs changing. You start with very small things and see how it can expand.” ~ Ronnie Levin, ‘73 (top)

“In my opinion, there are too few people who are doing good work who are really powerful leaders.” ~ Deborah Bial ’87 (middle)

Change happens one person at a time. To impact one person is to begin the ripple effect in that person’s circle of influence. “That first day of teaching, I was so nervous. The only thing in the back of my head was “these kids are dependent on you, not for a lunch ticket, not for anything else, but their education. This is what’s going to make or break them forever.” ~ George Okrah ‘03 (right)

Tuesday, February 8, 2005

Oxfam Hunger Banquet
Michelle O'MalleyWhat if you attended a dinner party that was like dinner worldwide that night? That is, what if 15% of the people who came to the dinner ate a full course meal, 25% ate rice and beans, and 60% had only rice and water? The result would be the Oxfam Hunger Banquet. Cosponsored by Aramark and the Department of Orientation and First-Year Programs (Michelle O'Malley, director, pictured at left)

According to one participant who was “lucky” enough to be in the wealthiest group, “Good food never tasted so bad.”

Radical Equations: Civil Rights and The Algebra Project

David Dennis, president of the Southern Initiative of the Algebra Project and former member of SNCC, discussed the ways in which mathematical skills help low-income students succeed in today’s technology society, empowering youth in the struggle for citizenship and equality. Cosponsored by the Education Program.

“Teaching algebra is a political issue for civil rights. Algebra is always used to select leaders. Algebra is where students learn creative thinking skills that take them beyond math. But today’s low-income students are being told algebra is not for them, just as sharecroppers in the 60's were told that voting was not for them.” ~ David Dennis

Wednesday, February 9, 2005

(left to right) Joan Bryant, Carmen Sirianni, Dan Kryder, &
David Dennis
Joan Bryant made a powerful case for theory as action; i.e. conceptual change can be activism itself.
Social Change from Theory to Practice

How can small-scale actions spark large-scale change? What impact (foreseen or unforeseen) can larger initiatives have on local efforts? David Dennis (Southern Initiative of the Algebra Project), Joan Bryant (African and Afro-American Studies), and Carmen Sirianni (sociology), presented. Dan Kryder (politics) served as the moderator. Cosponsored by politics and sociology.

“How can we leverage small, inspiring innovations to make larger change? We must see government as the catalyst for community change, with citizens at the center of the work.” ~ Carmen Sirianni

“Action needs to be grounded in the community, where the people have ownership and are moving in a common direction. It is important to be in the same book, if not on the same page." ~ David Dennis

“Each speaker has stressed the importance of imagination and innovation, creating a vision of the future that can best bring people together and maximize their leverage on institutions and structures." ~ Dan Kryder

“Brandeis Activism and Service: Separate, United or Both?”

"All activists do is talk..."

"Why do they volunteer; there's so many bigger problems in the world..."

Activists from Students for a Just Society (SJS) and the Waltham Group talked about how to bridge perceived barriers and work together for social change. Mari Fitzduff, who has done conflict transformation work around the globe, facilitated groups of activists and volunteers in a dynamic, lively session. Each side came to a better appreciation of each other, and a clearer view of how much they have to learn from and contribute to the other.

Wednesday, February 9
“AIDS and the Increasingly Global Community”

Building on the work of Paul Farmer described in Mountains beyond Mountains, should we focus on changing AIDS policies that will save millions of lives, or should we focus on helping individual AIDS patients? How can we do both?

Dr. Evan Lyon (Partners in Health), Prof. Kyle Kauffman (Wellesley University), and Gang Song and Stella Egbufor (Heller School) addressed these questions. Cosponsored by Student Global AIDS Campaign, IGS, HSSP, and the Anthropology Department.

The speakers – a medical professional, an economist, and community workers from China and Africa, agreed that AIDS is a classic example of a problem with local AND global impact – calling for solutions that are local and global as well: top-down, bottom-up, and inside out – in order to stem this alarming worldwide health crisis.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Art Attack
This drop-in session gave participants in any session throughout the week the opportunity to reflect upon the learnings, thoughts and impressions of Local Action/Global Impact. The large blank mural and lots of artmaking supplies invited participants to “harness their inner artist” as they reflected upon the ways to make a difference. The mural was then displayed in the home of the Center, the Abraham Shapiro Academic Complex.

Yisei: The Legitimacy of the Korean-American Voice

Katherine H.S. Moon, professor of political science at Wellesley College, considered the interplay between Korean-Americans and Koreans in Korean affairs. Cosponsored by Korean Student Association.

“What is my role as a Korean-American in this struggle for democracy in Korea? How do you negotiate around different claims to legitimacy as a Korean-American? We can look at Jewish-American and Armenian-American models and see how they have been able to form, if not coherent communities, at least coherent policies. South African apartheid crumbled, not because of US intervention, but because of South Africans in the diaspora, putting pressure on the South African government. Similarly, Korean-Americans need to work with Koreans to speak for themselves.” ~ Professor Katherine H.S. Moon

Wherever We Stand
Do Zionists have a stake in Israel that gives them the right to try to effect change there? This discussion focused on issues of the impact of local advocacy and how actions at Brandeis and in the U.S. can affect the situation in Israel. Cosponsored by Brit Tzedek v’Shalom and ZaHaV.

“Find where your personal relationship is to these issues and be active. We’re not only about survival and security, we’re about justice and equity, not only for ourselves, but for the world.”
~ Diane Balser, vice president of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom and professor of women’s studies at Boston University

“Do whatever you do, but do.” ~ Miri Eisen (right) , retired IDF colonel and consultant to the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Boston.

El Salvador to Brandeis: The Search for Work, Wages, and Justice
Custodial workers at Brandeis spoke about how and why they came to work at Brandeis from their native El Salvador, discussing how their jobs at Brandeis affect their communities and families at home. Speakers also included professors Silvia Arrom (Latin American Studies), Kelley Ready (Heller School), and Richard Wright (Dartmouth College). Cosponsored by Brandeis Labor Coalition, Latin American Studies, the anthropology department, and AHORA.

Interestingly enough, this session has sparked concrete immediate action on the Brandeis campus. A reporter from the Boston Globe covered the event, intrigued by the students from the Brandeis Labor Coalition and their efforts on behalf of the custodians. Download the article from the Boston Globe. (pdf)

Pamela Means Concert

Pamela Means is a singer, songwriter, and activist on issues ranging from fair-trade coffee to gay rights. Her award-winning "kamikaze guitar style, razor wit poetry, and ‘stark, defiant songs’ (New York Times Magazine) set the status quo and the stage afire.” Rebecca Katz ’05 opened on guitar. Cosponsored by Students for Environmental Action.

“Students looking for a good time, good company and good music filled the Stein on Thursday for anevening of inspiring music from activist and singer-songwriter Pamela Means,“ wrote Justice reporter Michelle Minkoff. “ She discussed her sources of inspiration between songs. She started with "Truth," a work detailing her belief that anyone can make a difference. Emphasizing the maxim, "truth is ammunition," Means discussed the importance of self-expression. Every note of Mean's performance was filled with vibrant enthusiasm and energy.”

Faith In Action: From Brandeis to Nicaragua, From Boston to Sudan
Dr. Ray Hammond, African Methodist Episcopal Church in Jamaica Plain, and Corey Hope Leaffer ’04, who worked with American Jewish World Service’s Alternative Spring Break program in Latin America, were joined by moderator Larry Sternberg, executive director of Hillel, for this powerful presentation.

Cosponsored by Hillel, the Chaplaincy, Okapi Magazine, and Latin American Studies.

Hammond (left) discussed the work that his family and congregation have done to address the issue of slavery in the Sudan by facilitating the development of an underground railroad.

Download excerpts of Dr. Hammond presentation from the spring edition of the Center's Newsletter, Ethically Speaking. (pdf)

Globalize This: A Waltham Alternative to Sweatshops
Adam Neiman spoke about his work as one of the founders and the CEO of Bienestar International. Located in Waltham, Bienestar manufactures union-made casual clothing produced by independent trade union members in the US, Canada, and the developing world, based on the belief that the most viable response to globalization is a global labor movement. Cosponsored by the Sustainable International Development program of the Heller School.

“Our 'No Sweat' label experienced at 750% growth last year. We hope we’re teaching a whole generation about unions and helping them think about their own working conditions.” ~ Adam Nieman

Follow Up Event

Environmental Justice: Community Empowerment for a Cleaner Environment
A lawyer, an educator, and a community organizer from Alternatives for Community and Environment (ACE) in Roxbury, spoke about their experiences addressing environmental burdens disproportionately borne by communities of color and low income in the greater Boston area. Cosponsored by the Department of American Studies.