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Impact & Connectivity in the 2021 Social Justice + Media Symposium

May 26, 2021

Media can connect people, drive social change, and help bring about equitable futures. But how can just being connected with people accomplish this? What sort of impact can it have as we strive towards more equitable futures? To better understand this, we reflect on this year’s Social Justice & Media Symposium hosted by Emerson College.

The Social Justice & Media Symposium has only been around for two years as it was created in the memory of Moses Shumow, who was a media scholar committed to the “power of story to reframe narratives of the marginalized and using media to help people advocate for their rights.” Deeply involved in his community, he worked to ensure that connectivity and impact were felt by everyone he came across. This was reinforced by Rosie Shumow during her opening remarks at the symposium, as she stated that connecting to others was something that was “incredibly important to him.” Out of the five workshops that were conducted that day, one of them was titled “What Impact Can I Have? A Step To Self Understanding.” It focused on creating a plan based on emotional, physical, social, and cognitive capacities and thinking about how to make a commitment to one of them and move forward. This activity was based around thinking about how to use these aspects to engage with social issues and how impactful they can be in connection with others. Since impact was a central theme in the symposium, it’s definitely fitting to participate in an activity that gets people thinking about how they can use aspects of their lives to engage critically in socially equitable practices.

Embodied media is another critical aspect to consider in terms of how connectivity and impact can be combined to strive towards social equity and justice. This subject was part of keynote speaker Sangita Shresthova’s presentation. Shresthova discussed the concept of kinesthetic empathy, which is the “practice in which movement and body poses support and relate by helping people connect to each other through non-verbal cues.” Although the event was virtual, she explained that embodiment gives us a sense of connection even if just through a screen. In terms of other social justice events that have happened around the country during the pandemic, this is especially relevant because it has inspired both virtual and in-person protests to happen in the name of justice. That’s the impact that connectivity can have at times, even when we are not sharing the same space.

At the end of the symposium, the concept of impact had been clearly felt and those in attendance were left with renewed senses of interconnectivity. The setting was different and the symposium itself had to be adapted due to the pandemic, but that didn’t reduce its effectiveness. A community engaging and learning from each other truly embodies the meaning of impact. As event host Paul Mihailidis stated in closing, “it’s not what happens before this and it’s not what happens after this, it’s about coming together and building, sharing, and being present with each other.” To learn more about the symposium itself and Moses Shumow, you can visit the website here.

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