On December 9 the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Athens hosted the 6th annual Justice Fest. Many important members in the community, including members from the Economic Justice Coalition, U-Lead Athens, Athens for Everyone, and the Clarke County Board of Education spoke about the inequalities facing minorities in Athens-Clarke County.
The event started off with a performance by Palms of Fire, a drum circle that plays West African Rhythms.
Dr. David Jarett, Economic Justice Coalition board member and chair of the Social Action Committee Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Athens, gave a brief overview of the program, followed by Reverend Alison Eskildsen gave a prayer.
Members of the Economic Justice Coalition spoke about a mission started in 2003 focusing on living wages, voter engagement, and workers rights. The EJC compiled a list on its website of worker friendly employers. These businesses give workers a wage they can live off of as well as benefits so that the workers can afford basic needs. With the voter engagement program, the EJC registered 14,500 people to vote.
“Our task is to get those 14,500 people to the polls. We do that, then we’ve got some economic power.” said Linda Lloyd, EJC board member.
The inequalities within the education system was also a focus of discussion. Leeidy Solis, a representative of U-Lead Athens, spoke about the benefits the organization provides to immigrant students.
“There’s tutors for all kinds of things. There’s always students who come and need help with homework. We help students with applying for colleges. Forty-Three students attending U-Lead are now attending college with partial or full scholarships,” said Solis.
Mokah Jasmine Johnson represented the Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement. She spoke about a new program started by the movement to reduce the number of students going to prison after dropping out of school.
“The Athens Anti-Discrimination movement has launched the End School to Prison Pipeline program which is designed to provide advocacy for parents in need and learning opportunities such as math and reading tutoring for at risk youth,” said Johnson.
CCSD Superintendent Dr. Demond Means presented the keynote address and spoke on the issues with the educational system concerning the inequalities between races.
“The concept of equity and social justice is really critical to me. Historically schools have been constructed to marginalize certain people. We have problems in our schools . . . but despite the challenges we have with traditional education this is still the best pathway for historically marginalized people,” said Dr. Means.