By TERRY LAKINS, Student Life Editor
The Social Justice League is a student organization that focuses on social equality and fighting social injustices. The SJL is defined for lacking a traditional hierarchy associated with most student organizations and for adapting transformative methods for solving issues. Fiana Arbab, the president of the organization, said that members of the SJL strive to achieve things by making sure everyone’s voice is heard and to look at things from every unique and diverse perspective.
“Social Justice League is a platform for passionate human beings to make a change in their community and in the world,” Arbab said. “We work with the underlying belief of social justice and social equality.”
Arbab said that members meet weekly on Wednesday from 1-2 p.m. and 5-6 p.m. During these meetings any timely social issues, ongoing projects and proposed ideas are discussed. Some common social issues that are talked about include feminism, classism, racism and colonialism.
Arbab said that outside of their regular weekly meetings, the SJL lacks a defined structure and the organization works depending on which issues or social injustices are happening at that time. Arbab said the reason the SJL does this is because she feels any good social movement has to have flexibility and you don’t get that when you run with a bureaucratic or hierarchical system. She also said a standard hierarchy doesn’t allow good opportunities to hear every perspective or new ideas.
“We do not adhere to the bureaucratic or hierarchy system that is in every other organization, big or small,” Arbab said. “Although I am president, sometimes I forget that I am because I don’t run it like I’m in charge.”
Arbab said when the SJL finds a social issue, they apply a number of concepts that could possibly work, depending on the situation. One method is the legal system, where members will meet with city council members and community leaders to bring about some kind of change. An example of this, Arbab said, is the Syrian refugee crisis. Members will counteract racism by declaring public support for the refugees and will get a city to agree to receiving them by gaining support from its community leaders. Arbab said this helps fight against racist attitudes and links the issue to racism in a non-confrontational way.
Another method the SJL uses is protesting, which is a direct action. Arbab said during protests they always organize a series of statements to the people they want to change, the people who are impacted and the general public. The reason for this is to make sure the message the SJL is trying to send doesn’t get corrupted or lost in translation.
Another method is relational building, which could occur either on its own or after protesting. She said building relationships with the community, in and outside of the issue they are fighting, is crucial. Arbab said this is important because showing solidarity and interacting with residents and community members is important to find common ground, keeping everyone on the same page and building friendships. An example of this, Arbab said, is volunteering for disturbing water at the Sylvester Broome Center for the residents of Flint due to the water crisis. She said they were able to interact with the residents and really get an understanding of their issues. She also said they are going to help strategize the implementation of an educational program for kids and adults alike to help the residents of Flint.
Despite having set concepts and ideas for fighting social injustice, Arbab said that their methods are always changing and expanding.
“We always work from a place of compassion and understanding,” Arbab said. “We are always mindful, respectful and we believe in a transformative solution.”
Arbab said that fighting for social justice can be difficult, especially when going up against institutions, traditions, concepts and ideas that have become normalized in society. She also said getting people to understand what they are fighting against is just as hard.
“We may be combating such abstract concepts, but we are trying make people understand the justice we seek,” Arbab said. “The more voices we include, the more effective ways we can get to sustainable solutions.”
Arbab said at least once a month the SJL will hold a potluck at a designated member’s house where everyone brings a dish to share and members just hang out to take a break from fighting for social justice. Arbab also said that despite the idea of relaxing, social issues may still be addressed.
Michael Mchahwar, a member of the SJL, said that being a part of this organization has become a big part of his college experience at the University of Michigan.
“The social justice league is like family to me on a personal level,” Mchahwar said. “On a bigger scale, it means to inspire change socially and other people to do the same.”
Anyone interested in joining can contact Arbab at firstname.lastname@example.org.