Georgetown Sanctuary Campus Movement (GSCM) hosted a teach-in on Dec. 3 in White Gravenor. GSCM hosted community leaders in a series of panels and sessions on topics designed to increase awareness and to educate participants on the ideas of liberation and collective social action. Discussions focused on various topics like immigration, direct action, resistance, labor and capitalism, and the status of Palestinians around the world.
Joseph McCartin, a history professor who specializes in U.S. labor and social and political history, opened the discussion on capitalism and labor, outlining his views of a system of financial capitalism and drawing larger connections between empowered workers and the current economic and political system. Discussion regarding the recent election of Donald Trump raised the important question of how to organize workers on both a local and national level.
Clarence Wesley, an on-campus worker of over 16 years, shared his perspective and his own goals with regard to organizing his fellow workers. “I’m trying to organize the workers [of Georgetown] to feel less scared and more empowered and involved,” Wesley said.
María Ochoa, a union organizer from Service Employees International Union (SEIU), spoke about her perspective of the current labor system and the process that would be required to turn the tide for workers across the world. The best way to remedy the problem, Ochoa said, was to understand the importance of harnessing the culture and history of workers in creating a supportive and efficient worker community and workforce.
“America has created an empire and lessened the value of some human lives. You can’t take out the train, you have to build a better track,” Ochoa said
Xiomara Salazar (SFS ’18) appreciated the diversity of the panel that the GSCM had brought together and the opportunity for people to hear the perspectives of others similarly invested in the issues presented in the panel. Salazar said that she had come specifically for the panel on capitalism and labor because that this was the first teach-in of this nature she could recall occurring at Georgetown.
“As students we see what is happening on campus but we don’t necessarily also have the opportunity to interact with these key stakeholders,” Salazar said
Salazar also said that she was excited about what she perceived as a new way that students are coming together not only to address but also to act on issues of mutual concern. “Students are using movements not only to create change, but also educate [other] students interested in these issues,” she said.
The last seminar of the day centered on a group discussion regarding the international and more localized issues facing Palestinian people today. Students shared their perspectives on the U.S. foreign policy in the region, with several students noting the inherent inequality in power and status between Israel and Palestine. The group focused on key questions such as the nature of boycotts and what makes them most effective, specifically, the question of what a boycott should focus on.
Wesley, who stayed for the last seminar in order to further his personal goal to educate himself, and by extension, other Georgetown workers. Wesley said that he was particularly struck by the diversity of issues represented in a place as small as the Georgetown campus. “So many groups are so divided, even at Georgetown,” he said. Yet Wesley also emphasized the hope and the commonality he noticed between all the participants of the teach-in. He said, “we can come together and have a better community at Georgetown.”