On November 26, 2007, the General Assembly of the United Nations (U.N.) proclaimed February 20 as World Day of Social Justice.  It was first observed in 2009, only fifteen years ago.  Although the U. N. began using the term social justice in the late 1960s, the term was recently included in the lexicon of news reporters and higher education and corporation leadership.  So, what is social Justice? Why does it need a day of recognition?   Social Justice is the fair treatment and equitable status of all individuals and social groups, including, but are not limited to, the fair and equitable distribution of wealth, resources, opportunities, and privileges.

The recent overt lack of social justice in numerous areas of society has catalyzed advocates.  Why are they fighting? What are social Justice Issues?  The following are a few social justice issues that plague people globally.

Racism                         Refugee Crisis               Economic injustice        Food insecurity

Climate Change             Voting                          Education                     Gun violence

Gender inequality         Poverty                        LGBTQ                          Police Brutality

Unemployment             Healthcare                    Disability Rights            Income Gaps

Human Rights               Criminal Justice

Edward Waters University (EWU) Honors World Day of Social Justice

Florida’s first Black institution of higher education, EWU, commemorates World Day of Social Justice by introducing the A. Philip Randolph Social Justice, Law, and Economic Policy Institute (APRI).  The current President and CEO, A. Zachary Faison, Jr., founded the institute in 2021 as an impetus for change.  Faison noted, “It is a timely initiative for all of us given the recent events that have occurred throughout the country over the past year; heightening our collective scrutiny of matters of race, law, and the engagement of African-American citizens with law enforcement, as well as the ongoing plight for social and economic equity that has come even more to the forefront during the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

Named after one of Jacksonville’s most prominent activist, Asa Philip Randolph, the Institute is a research and educational hub that aims to support policy-changing research, amplify community engagement, and promote innovative teaching and programming.  It aligns with the University’s mission of enhancing its academic profile as faculty and student research will be encouraged, promoted, and published.

 Dr. TaKeia Anthony was appointed the Executive Director of the Institute in January 2024.  She seeks to revive the dormant institute through policy, programming, and research.  University collaborations have been the cornerstone of the Institute’s programming thus far.  On February 7, the Institute partnered with the Office of Student Success and Engagement on National Black HIV/AIDS awareness day.  The Institute is also joint partner with the Office of the President to host the President’s Distinguished Speaker Series titled “Stay Woke.”  On January 31, the University welcomed renowned author and activist Michael Harriot to the Milne Auditorium.  Ta-Nehisi Coates is the next distinguished speaker; EWU and the Institute will welcome him to the Milne Auditorium on February 28 at 7:00pm.  All guests must register for admission.  Visit the Institute’s website and follow on Instagram @ewu_apri, to learn more about its mission, namesake, and stay abreast of events and discussions.

The Institute’s Social Justice Facts

There are a plethora of social justice issues to spotlight, research, and resolve.  The Institute shares the following Florida/Jacksonville Social Justice facts on this World Social Justice Day.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)

The Florida Board of Education prohibits the use of public funds for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs, activities, and policies in the public college system.  The board defines DEI as “any program, campus activity, or policy that classifies individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, gender identity, or sexual orientation and promotes differential or preferential treatment of individuals on the basis of such classification.”  Defunding DEI in public college systems is a social justice issue because the DEI departments were created to remedy inequalities for marginalized groups.

Crown ACT

The Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural hair (CROWN) Act  was created in 2019 to “ensure protection against discrimination based on race-based hairstyles by extending statutory protection to hair texture and protective styles such as braids, locs, twists, and knots in the workplace and public schools.”  This social justice issue has an intergenerational effect on men and women.  Studies show that young children, particularly girls, are discriminated against at school (K-12) because of their hair/hairstyles.  Discrimination can continue in the workplace if Black men and women are not protected by law.  The state of Florida has not passed the CROWN Act; however, Broward County and Miami Beach have enacted the law for those areas.

Food Insecurity

Food insecurity is the lack of consistent access to adequate food.  It can lead to hunger, illness, weakness, discomfort, and/or pain.  According to several sources, at the end of 2023 Florida was ranked 10th in the nation in food insecurity and South Florida was most effected.  In Duval County, there are 117,700 food insecure people with a 12.6% food insecurity rate.  African-Americans, specifically in the Newtown area where EWU is located, live and work in a food desert.  A food desert is a community where there is at least 20% poverty rate and 33% of the residents live more than one mile from the nearest grocery store.  In food deserts, dollar stores and convenience stores serve the grocery needs of the residences in the absence of traditional grocery stores.

How can you honor World Day of Social Justice?

Here are several ways you can honor World Social Justice Day:

  1. Become aware of social justice issues and educate your friends, family, and coworkers about some of the social justice issues that plague your community.
  2. Get active. Volunteer with local organizations that assist with social justice issues like the Clara White Mission or Feeding Northeast Florida.  You can also become an active member of an organization that fights for social justice like the NAACP, the Urban League, and The Association for the Study of African-American Life and History, etc.
  3. Contact your local and state legislatures about your concerns.
  4. Get and/or stay civically involved. Be informed about candidates’ platforms. Register to vote and assist others, and vote.

Sources:

Alfonseca, Kiara.  “Florida prohibits DEI in public colleges amid ‘Stay Woke’ legal battles.” ABC News, https://abcnews.go.com/US/florida-prohibits-dei-public-colleges-amid-stop-woke/story?id=106462562, accessed February 13, 2024.

Walker, Justin.  “Edward Waters College to Launch Institute for Law, Race, Social Justice and Economic Policy in Partnership with the Jessie Ball Dupont Fund,” https://www.ew.edu/edward-waters-college-to-launch-institute-for-law-race-social-justice-and-economic-policy-in-partnership-with-the-jessie-ball-dupont-fund/, accessed February 13, 2024

Definitions of Food Security, https://feedingnefl.org/what-is-a-food-desert/, Accessed February 13, 2024.

World Day of Social Justice, February 20,  https://www.un.org/en/observances/social-justice-day. Accessed February 13, 2024.

https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/food-nutrition-assistance/food-security-in-the-u-s/definitions-of-food-security/, Accessed, February 13, 2024.