J. Paul Taylor Symposium celebrates 11th year at NMSU with films, guest speakers

Justice for Migrant Children and Youth is the focus of the 11th annual J. Paul Taylor Social Justice Symposium beginning Saturday, March 14, followed by events on March 17-18.

The three-day symposium, hosted by New Mexico State University’s College of Arts and Sciences, will include films, poets, panel discussions, and question-and-answer sessions with human rights advocates. The symposium is held each year to honor J. Paul Taylor for his lifelong commitment to the people of New Mexico as an educator, legislator and community leader.

“J. Paul Taylor’s life of service and dedication to social justice serves to frame this symposium by focusing on human rights,” said Christa Slaton, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “Through listening with compassion to the stories of struggle and hope of those whose lives are impacted, we as a community can more broadly address immigration and other social justice issues.”

Guest speakers include international experts, analysts and advocates from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and across the U.S.

This year’s symposium topic was inspired by last summer’s wave of unaccompanied immigrant minors crossing the border, explained symposium co-chairs Neil Harvey, NMSU professor and department chair of government, and Camilo Perez Bustillo, visiting criminal justice assistant professor.

“We knew this was a topic the local community was responding to in a very humane way and we wanted to highlight that,” Harvey said. “We wanted to look at factors that caused the migration and bring in experts and advocates to have that discussion.

The symposium begins with the provocative film “Who is Dayani Cristal?” at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 14, in the Good Samaritan Village Auditorium, followed by a talk by Robin Reineke, co-founder and executive director of the Colibri Center for Human Rights, a nonprofit organization committed to assisting relatives of missing migrants last seen crossing. The public is invited to attend the film and discuss the topic.

The events continue Tuesday, March 17, at the ASNMSU Center for the Arts. Harvey will present the Social Justice Award during a reception that begins at 5:30 p.m.

“The Social Justice Award was established in 2002 by an alumna of the Department of Government. The goal of the award is to honor NMSU students, staff and faculty who give their time and energy to help create a more just society,” Harvey said. “This year’s recipients are Dr. Chris Burnham, Regents Professor of English, for his Borderland Writing Project with youth in the Segundo Barrio neighborhood of El Paso, and Michelle Corella, ICT Senior Systems Developer, for her efforts to promote the humane treatment of animals through the Feral Cat Management Program and a new cat adoption facility.”

Two keynote speakers will follow at 7 p.m. — Laurie Ann Guerrero, Poet Laureate of San Antonio and Maria Eugenia Ponce Sevilla, one of the youths who call themselves Dreamers, who won protection from deportation. She is also co-founder of “Los Otros Dreamers,” those who have been deported or left the country yet continue to seek a path to U.S. citizenship.

On Wednesday, March 18, a full day of speakers and panel discussions begins at the ASNMSU Center for the Arts at 8:30 a.m. Speakers include Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the National Day Laborers Organizing Network based in Los Angeles.

Father Alejandro Solalinde Guerra, founder of a shelter for people migrating from Central and South America, Asia and Africa will be the keynote speaker at 1:30 p.m. The priest who has endured numerous death threats was recognized in 2012 with Mexico’s National Human Rights Award.

“Father Solalinde’s participation as keynote speaker will highlight the plight of Central Americans and other migrants in transit through Mexico on their way towards the U.S, who are the victims of serious human rights violations on both sides of the border,” Perez Bustillo said. “He will also explore the connection between these issues and Mexico´s deepening human rights crisis. Solalinde has become an internationally recognized voice for justice in Mexico and beyond, who has repeatedly risked his life in defense of the rights of those who are most vulnerable.”

In addition to the programs, a photo exhibit titled “Those Who Stay/Those Who Leave” by Karla Hernandez Mares will be on display in the ASNMSU Center for the Arts lobby. Mares is a photographer and human rights defender based in Mexico City who has been engaged with Amnesty International’s work regarding the rights of indigenous peoples in Mexico since 2009.

A closing reception will be held in the CFTA lobby at 7 p.m. in honor of Azadeh Shahshahani, hosted by the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies and the Women Studies Program. Shahshahani is president of the National Lawyers´ Guild and Director of the National Security/Immigrants Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union in Atlanta

“The issue of immigration will come and go on the news, but it remains very important for the country and for our region,” Harvey said. “What struck me was the more compassionate, understanding response from people here. This symposium is an effort to complement that. This is an opportunity to connect with advocates from Central America, Mexico and across the U.S. It is meant to connect the campus and community in positive ways.”

The J. Paul Taylor Social Justice Symposium is designed to build upon existing university and community partnerships through reciprocal education, outreach and strategizing as part of NMSU’s land-grant mission. Each year scholars, students, community stakeholders and policy makers gather from across the state and region to explore, learn and work together on strategies for reform and justice.

The events are made possible in part by a grant from the New Mexico Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The symposium will be presented in both English and Spanish, with simultaneous interpretation provided throughout.

The events are free and open to the public. For more information visit the J. Paul Taylor Symposium website at http://jpts.nmsu.edu.

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