By Stan Paul
The Institute on Inequality and Democracy at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs designated Jan. 18 — two days before the inauguration of a new U.S. president — as a day of teaching, dialogue and performance at UCLA.
In the wake of the November presidential election, the event — dubbed J18 by organizers — included activists, artists and authors addressing issues of social justice related to and raised by the impending transfer of power. The public event, “From the Frontlines of Justice,” took place from 5 to 7 p.m. in UCLA’s Ackerman Grand Ballroom.
Speakers/performers included Jeff Chang, author of “We Gon’ Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation” and executive director of the Institute for Diversity in the Arts at Stanford University; Patrisse Cullors, UCLA alumna and co-founder of #Black Lives Matter; Ilse Escobar, UCLA alumna, migrant and activist/organizer in Los Angeles; Erika L. Sánchez, author of the forthcoming book of poems “Lessons on Expulsion,”; Peter Sellars, professor of World Arts and Cultures and director of opera, theater and film; Bryonn Bain, artist/activist and creator of “Lyrics From Lockdown”; and Maya Jupiter, hip-hop artist, songwriter and co-founder of Artivist Entertainment.
“J18 is meant to inspire and guide our hundreds of undergraduate and graduate students and many faculty,” said Ananya Roy, director of the Institute on Inequality and Democracy and professor in the Luskin departments of Urban Planning and Social Welfare.
“We are asking educators at universities and colleges across the United States and beyond to consider organizing a program or activity on that day, be it a public event or a classroom discussion, which speaks to the many issues and themes related to this national and global moment,” Roy said.
The J18 call to action includes the stated goal of demonstrating the power of knowledge and research. Themes for the day range from economic inequality and fair housing to immigration and worker rights.
“The expertise produced and disseminated at universities and colleges on topics ranging from climate change to immigration to health care to worker rights to geopolitics serves as a vitally important counterpoint to the policy agendas of the incoming administration,” Roy said.
Roy said that J18 is made possible through active partnerships with departments and collectives at UCLA that have helped launch the initiative at UCLA and outside of the campus. They include: RAVE (Resistance Against Violence through Education), UCLA; UCLA Department of African-American Studies; UCLA Department of Chicana/o Studies; UCLA Institute of American Cultures; Justice Work Group, UCLA; UCLA Labor Center; UCLA LGBTQ Studies; and The Undercommons.