Getting involved with the kind of causes that include anything from supporting access for the disabled to opposing nuclear bombers being stationed in Vermont can be challenging, but information could be the key and the Peace and Justice Center is bringing together 15 groups on Sunday to provide data.
The Rutland Social Justice Symposium and Block Party starts at 12:30 p.m. at Rutland High School. There will be presentations by many of the agencies participating, which includes 350 Vermont, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Rutland and Castleton Indivisible, and tables with representatives of the organizations and handouts.
The day will end with a block party that will include food and live music.
Rachel Siegel, executive director of the Peace and Justice Center, said the center had organized two similar events in Burlington, where the center is based, and then decided to expand to other communities.
While the symposium on Sunday is the first one, Siegel said the intent is not to create an annual event organized by the Peace and Justice Center, but to leave a model for those in the Rutland area to continue the symposiums on their own.
“Having had conversations with a handful of different activists and leaders in that area, it sounded like people were really excited to bring this event to Rutland,” she said.
The local support was important, Siegel said, because with the Peace and Justice Center in Burlington, local representatives who could shape the symposium to fit the needs and interests of Rutland residents were critical.
Siegel said she sees three goals for the symposium.
“One is for people who are interested in getting involved in a variety of social justice causes to have an opportunity to learn about what’s already going on in the area and groups that they might be able to join or support,” she said.
For the agencies, the symposium will connect them with potential new members who have a passion for their specific cause, like the Planned Parenthood Vermont Action Fund, the Rutland-Area NAACP or Vermont Legal Aid, but might not have known about the group they can join.
“The other thing for them is to be able to network with each other and learn about what other work is going on, so that as they are building their own movement, they’re building a movement of movements. We are connected to one another in the work we do and able to collaborate when it’s useful and recognize all the work that’s going on,” she said.
Attendees of the symposium are asked to make a suggested donation of $15 but admission is free for anyone under 25.
Siegel said organizers recognized that many young people are passionate about the causes they value. For instance, one of the agencies at the symposium will be the Amnesty International chapter at the high school.
“We make an extra statement about people under 25 so that we can continue to get young people involved and make sure they know they’re explicitly wanted,” Siegel said.
The symposium takes place at the high school so it will go on regardless of the weather.
More information can be found on the event’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/events/2274447289284440/ and Siegel questions could be directed to her at 802-863-2345, extension 1.