Social justice for LGBTQ identities in the Borderlands is the focus of New Mexico State University’s 12th annual J. Paul Taylor Social Justice Symposium which began Saturday, March 19, and continues with events on March 22-23.
This year’s theme recognizes that LGBTQ identities are made vulnerable through legislation and prejudice, explained symposium co-chairs Laura Anh Williams, director of NMSU’s Women’s Studies Program, and Catherine Jonet, assistant professor of interdisciplinary studies in the Women’s Studies Program.
“LGBTQ populations still strive for civil rights, and these rights do not begin and end with marriage equality or military service,” Williams said.
The three-day symposium, hosted by the College of Arts and Sciences, will include films, artists, poets, panel discussions and question-and-answer sessions with human rights advocates. The symposium is held each year to honor J. Paul Taylor for his lifelong commitment to the people of New Mexico as an educator, legislator and community leader.
“This year’s symposium theme was proposed because same-sex sexualities, transgender and gender non-conforming identities are often rendered invisible, and issues affecting their life experiences, vulnerabilities and social inequalities often go unexplored,” Jonet said.
The issues LGBTQ identities face go far beyond same-sex marriage equality in the U.S., or even the legalization of marriage in several states in Mexico, Jonet explained. Symposium speakers were selected due to their expertise in areas including human rights, immigration, detention centers, citizenship, medical treatment and activism.
“They will bring many different voices and approaches to this year’s theme,” Jonet said. “Some will use the lens of activism, while others will use art, poetry and research to explore these topics.”
The symposium began Saturday with the film “Two Spirits” in the Good Samaritan Village Auditorium. “Two Spirits” is an award-winning film about the 2001 murder of Fred Martinez, a transgendered teenager of American Indian descent. The film also explores the lives and history of Native American two-spirit people — who combine the traits of men and women, a tradition once widespread among the indigenous cultures of North America.
The guest speaker at this event was, Renae Gray, who shared experiences from her life as an indigenous Navajo transgender woman.
The events continue with a reception at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 22, at the ASNMSU Center for the Arts. Associate Dean Beth Pollack will make welcoming remarks at 6:15 p.m., followed by Neil Harvey, head of the Department of Government, who will present the 2016 Social Justice Award to Cassandra Calway, an NMSU psychology major, for her work in support of increasing the minimum wage in Las Cruces.
This award is made annually by the Department of Government in recognition of a student, faculty or staff member’s contributions to social justice.
“As a tipped wage earner at a local restaurant, Cassandra knew from experience the struggles of many low-wage workers to support themselves and their families,” Harvey said. “She began volunteering in support of a ballot initiative to increase the minimum wage in 2014 and soon found herself speaking to city council, state and federal elected officials, and the media. Cassandra’s work shows that everyone can make a difference and help make our community a better place for all.”
Two keynote speakers will follow this presentation: Jennicet Gutierrez, an LGBTQ advocate, and poet Veronica Reyes, author of “Jota Chronicles: East LA, Fronteras y Poetry.”
At 8 a.m. Wednesday, March 23, a full day of speakers, panel discussions and events will begin at the ASNMSU Center for the Arts, including five plenary sessions and a book signing.
The symposium events are free and open to the public. For a full schedule, visit http://artsci.nmsu.edu/en/
The J. Paul Taylor Social Justice Symposium is dedicated to bringing the resources of the university to bear on issues facing the most vulnerable groups in this region. Past symposia have focused on social justice for native peoples, migrant children and youth, undocumented immigrants and the women of Juarez.
The events are made possible in part by a grant from the New Mexico Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
The symposium will be presented in both English and Spanish, with simultaneous interpretation provided throughout. To view a live stream of the symposium, visit http://artsci.nmsu.edu/en/
Author: Dana Beasley – NMSU