This morning, our cohort decided to go get breakfast together, so we met up in the Quad at 7:30AM. Once we had met up, we went to the 1920 Commons, where breakfast was being served. The breakfast I got consisted of pancakes (with syrup available on the side), sausage, and eggs. The quality of the food was decent, and we soon finished and returned to our dorms in the Quad, where we got ready for our first day of class of the Social Justice Research Academy.
We gathered with all the other social justice students before the RCs guided us to the second floor of the Robert Lincoln McNeil Building, where we had our first lecture from the professor, Dr. R. Scott Hanson. He discussed the origins of Pennsylvania, his studies of pluralism and the intersection of of immigration, religion, and urban history, and told us what we will be doing for the next few weeks. After he had spoken for a while and the other four teachers had introduced themselves, the teachers had us do a certain activity where we wrote our name on a tri-folded paper before having to draw where we are from, our reason for taking the course, and what we hope to accomplish here. Once we finished that, we proceeded to be split into groups. Kamillah and I ended up in the the same discussion group under Mr. Yun Cha.
We found out that our meeting would be held in Room 311-F of College Hall. As we walked from the McNeil Building to College Hall, I took the opportunity to introduce myself and talk to several of the people in the group: Diana, Charley, and Lucie. Eventually, we made our way to the room in College Hall, where we first talked about what our name cards meant to each other before trying to come up with a group name for our "house." Surprisingly, it didn't take very long and we settled on the "House of Representatives," which I thought was quite clever. We then transitioned over to the topic of social justice. First, he asked us what we thought the definition of social justice is, to which most people responded that it was a society in which people were equal in all regards. He then asked us whether we though the true social justice was possible or not, to which I responded in the negative, saying that like a limit in math, it is realistically likely to be able to approach that perfect point, although highly improbable to actually attain it. For his final question, he asked us what we thought the purpose of social justice was. Most of the people who responded said they thought it was important that people get to be themselves, and although I presented an alternate situation in which I argued that the purpose was to create a society agreeable to as much of the population as possible, they overlooked it and continued off each other’s points and tangents.
After the social justice discussion, we were dismissed to go get lunch at Houston Market. The food there was much better than that of 1920 Commons and is comparable to that of certain restaurants, although the water cost me about $3. During that time, I met Sam Ruiz, who is from Chicago, through Kamillah, who had been talking to Sam. I discovered that we share a common interest in promoting sustainability and environmental protection, so I was certainly glad to find someone else that supports the cause. We ate lunch outside and were joined by Diana, who had come from her own discussion. After lunch, we somewhat wandered around before realizing we weren’t sure where to go or how to get back to the larger lecture hall.
Once we had finally been reunited with the rest of the social justice academy, we took the subway in Philadelphia to visit the American Philosophical Society. First, we entered a library, where a lady showed us several original works of writing and some that contained annotations by famous people. There was the 2nd draft of the Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson and a copy of the Constitution annotated by Benjamin Franklin. She told us how many of these works were acquired and eventually gave us our own time to explore.
Once we had explored the room a few times each, we went back outside and walked to another building, where the guide, Mike, told us about the history of Native Americans in the United States. Unlike most people, Mike did not seem to revere Thomas Jefferson, and if anything, seemed to somewhat hate him, as he ended up assimilating Native Americans. He talked about the history of their languages and how he had evidently contributed to the destruction of their cultures by gaining key military information about them during the Lewis & Clark Expeditions.
Finally, we returned to the campus, where we relaxed for a while before Kamillah and I tried to go visit the Magic Garden, only to find that that activity had been cancelled. We decided to get dinner afterwards, and once we had accomplished that, went our separate ways. Shortly after, I went to play tennis with Adi and Sravan, who were both pretty good, before returning to our dorms. After showering, I brought my clothes to the laundry room to clean them. Although I was confused by what the functions on the machine meant and how it worked, I eventually figured it out and successfully did laundry on my own for the first time.
Today was the first day of the course, and I’m looking forward to many more interesting discussions about social justice!