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Forum faces equality, justice issues

Plowshare, Carroll University host Saturday event

Jan. 29, 2013

Sometimes it's all too easy to focus on how we are different from someone else. But if we take the time to look past those differences, we might find we're not so different after all.

In an effort to spread stories and lessons of equality, Plowshare is hosting its seventh annual "Face of" series with this year's theme focusing on equality. The forum begins at 8:30 a.m. Saturday.

Plowshare Education Committee Co-Chair Sally Michalko explained that in the past, "there's been a variety of social justice issues that we've focused on during the forums," including the environment, economy, immigration, health care and transformative education. While many people understand the concepts behind these topics, "we want to tell the stories of people so that the issue has a face to it, many faces to it. We want people to see the human side of it," she added.

On average, the forums have between 250 and 400 people who attend. "Our audience is really a rich mix of Carroll University students, professors and alumni as well as community people," Michalko said.

This year's forum will focus on how far women have come today and how far we have to go as a society to benefit fully from women's gifts. Additionally it will focus on how far we've come as a society in welcoming diversity and securing civil rights for all; how far we have to go, what we have to do to ensure that each person is respected and has the full opportunity to develop their talents so they can contribute to the common good. The final focus will be on people with disabilities and how far we've come in understanding and protecting the rights of people with disabilities, how far we have to go or what we need to do to secure full inclusion and participation of all out of respect and for the good of the community.

Each year, members of the Plowshare Education Committee set a vision, a focus and goals for the forum. For this year's event, Michalko and her co-chairs, Kate Jolin and Elena DeCosta felt that equality was an important topic because "we need to learn to use our democratic rights responsibly to create an inclusive, compassionate community and world where all are respected, all enjoy human dignity and have an opportunity to contribute to the common good," according to a handout about the event.

The evening before the forum, the film "Crash" will be shown in the Carroll University ballroom beginning at 7 p.m. Feb. 1. The movie features a series of vignettes about racial and social tensions, which demand a closer look at our own attitudes and belief systems. It won the 2005 Academy Award winner for Best Picture.

Michalko, Jolin and DeCosta set several goals for the event as well. First, they hope that by listening to the experiences of others openly, and without fear, attendees will learn how much we have in common despite our differences. Second, they hope for a deepening of our empathy for the "alien other" as we enter into the experiences of people whose lives are radically unlike our own. Additionally, they hope to encourage people to explore how our "hearts" and our institutions can work in concert to provide equal rights and opportunities for all. They also hope that the forum will help people analyze some key problems and challenges that have to be overcome if all citizens of the United States are to live in a society which values and respects each person, and affirms the strengths and gifts they have to give to society.

Michalko, Jolin and DeCosta and other organizers of the event hope that after the forum, attendees will carry their vision forward which is to have "Citizens working for the common good, rooted in the knowledge that we are all members of a rich, vast community of diverse people on whom we depend for essentials that we could not provide for ourselves alone."

The event is free and open to the public. Before the event, attendees can visit informational tables set up by other groups focused on promoting equality.

The Plowshare Center is a nonprofit with a mission of "Making Peace Relevant to the World Around Us." It is the first fair trade gift shop in Wisconsin and has been in business for 22 years. The center strives for economic justice for artisans in economically developing countries by providing fair wages and an international marketplace for their beautiful handmade merchandise in our fair trade gift shop on Main Street in Waukesha. Merchandise from more than 30 economically developing countries is featured.

Their extensive educational outreach makes Plowshare unique among area fair trade shops.

"We offer an amazing array of programs with speakers, workshops, and book studies on topics of peace and social justice throughout the year," said Michalko.

IF YOU GO

Who: The Plowshare Center and Carroll University

What: The Human Face of Equality: Securing Human Rights for All; forum is free

When: 9 a.m. to noon Saturday; 8:30 a.m. registration

Where: Carroll University Campus Center Ballroom, northeast corner of East and College avenues

Speakers: Christine Neumann-Prtiz, founding executive director of Voces de la Frontera; Marie Kingsbury, executive director of The Women's Center Inc.; Carol Ann Kay, executive director of the Adaptive Community Approach Program; and George Martin, National Peace Action board of directors

What's more: "Crash," which won the 2005 Academy Award for Best Picture, will be shown in the Carroll University ballroom at 7 p.m. Friday.

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