Saturday, March 17, 2012
The 2012 Matthew Freeman Social Justice Awards
In my blog, “Alabama, “illegals”, and hate: We must take back the narrative” on March 11, 2012, I discussed some of the points made by Oscar Chacon, Executive Director of the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities (NALACC), in his talk “Latinos and the Justice System: Challenges and Opportunities”, the 2012 Matthew Freeman Memorial Lecture on Social Justice at Roosevelt University on March 8. Chacon describes the purposeful development of a social narrative over the last 30 years that has served to demonize immigrants, and particularly those from Latin America.
In that piece, I note that this is part of a larger narrative that has been created affecting health, reproductive and women’s rights, and the substitution of belief for evidence. I also note that there is opposition. I mentioned the Occupy Movement, and I want to cite the work done by the two Roosevelt students who won the Matthew Freeman Social Justice Awards. On a smaller scale than “Occupy”, these two students, as those who have won in prior years, have done incredible work to help create a more just and tolerable world, the kind of world that we want to live in.
Daniel Smrokowski, an undergraduate journalism major, is the founder and executive director of the blog SpecialChronicles.com, for which he is the host and producer of the Special Chronicles podcast. He is a Special Olympics athlete and a global messenger (speaker) for Special Olympics Illinois. At WRBC:The Blaze, the student-run radio station at Roosevelt, he is the station director and an on-air personality. Daniel enjoys spreading the message to respect those, like himself, with intellectual disabilities.
Sarah Heeger, a graduate student in school counseling, has renovated and developed a program at Jones College Prep to guide undocumented students through the college planning process. By establishing relationships with college representatives and faculty, she has been instrumental in ensuring students receive the help they need to pursue their education. As a result of her advocacy efforts, and the creation of a nonthreatening environment, undocumented students are able to express their future goals and concerns and receive counseling, guidance, and support to pursue their dreams.
These are two amazing young people. I almost said extraordinary, and they are, but they are also, in the best sense, “ordinary”, regular human beings who are not “well-funded” by billionaires but who are motivated by caring and concern and love and respect for themselves and others. Missouri may be considering placing a bust of Rush Limbaugh (clearly someone who is bought and paid for) in their state Hall of Fame, but all for the rest of us there are Daniel and Sarah.
Congratulations, and may you continue your great work and be roles models for others across the US and the world.