Annual community activist forum and festival returns to ASU with a new location

Aerial shot of Local to Global Justice event showing people sitting at tables inside an event hall.

The Local to Global Justice "Energizing Justice" event will take place Feb. 24–25 on ASU's Tempe campus. Photo courtesy Local to Global Justice


Tempe, Arizona-based volunteer organization Local to Global Justice is excited to be returning to Arizona State University for their 22nd Annual Forum and Festival, an event that includes a weekend of workshops, spoken word performances, live music and keynote speakers, along with a community solidarity action focused on energizing justice.

This event, sponsored by ASU's School of Social Transformation, the Graduate and Professional Student Association, the Undergrad Student Government (USG) and private donations, will be held Feb. 24–25 at a new location from past years: Ross-Blakley Hall and Armstrong Hall on the Tempe campus. The event is open to the public and offers free healthy food, including a vegan Navajo feast on Friday night and catering from Green New American Vegetarian on Saturday for lunch.

“This annual free event has long provided a welcoming space to bring community activists together with students and others on campus,” says Beth Blue Swadener, a co-founder and an organizer of the event for the past two decades and professor emeritus at the School of Social Transformation. 

This year’s theme is "Energizing Justice." Students, community members and education leaders alike are encouraged to register for the free event for Friday and Saturday.

“This event focuses on both how to energize activists for the many different social justice issues facing us today, but also how energy systems are transforming our collective relationships to the natural and human-built world, from complex geopolitical issues, like the war in Ukraine, to local renewable energy efforts,” says Jennifer Richter, co-director of the event and an assistant professor in both the School for the Future of Innovation in Society and the School of Social Transformation. 

The forum and festival begins at 5:30 p.m. Friday evening, Feb. 24, at Armstrong Hall Rotunda with a free Navajo vegan feast catered by Mario Etsitty and a musical performance by the talented duo Carmen and Zarco Guerrero. There will be storytelling and poetry performances by Joy Young, a spoken word artist and current graduate student in the justice studies program. The evening will come to a close with an open mic where attendees are encouraged to share their own poems and stories with the community.

On Saturday, Feb. 25, the day begins at 9:30 a.m. with registration, snacks and a chance to visit some of the many community group tables. Panel presentations from scholar-activists and community activists get underway at 10 a.m. in the Ross Blakley Hall and Armstrong Hall.

Youth activists will also be in abundance at this year's forum and festival, with a youth-led keynote panel scheduled for 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, as well as a youth workshop and tabling for several organizations that will feature local and statewide student activists.  

The youth-led keynote panel, “Activism without the Binary,” will feature Ledge (Flagstaff), and Dawn Shim and Kanix Gallo of Support Equality AZ Schools, based in Chandler. This group has organized a protest at Chandler City Hall, school walkouts and, most recently, a demonstration at the state capitol in protest of anti-trans legislation.

Panel members describe their discussion by noting that “as community justice movements often revolve around and impact young people the most, we as young people have become a rallying cry for progression. Alongside sweeping national and local movements, young people have always emerged as a tapestry of lived experiences with a connecting thread of optimism.

"This panel, with a collaboration between the high school student-run initiative Support Equality AZ Schools and young queer visionaries, will unpack pervasive assumptions regarding the binaries that we build around ourselves and our advocacy, which reflect black-and-white thinking and generalizations. Through a collaborative and interactive discussion, we will envision a structure of people-driven advocacy that swaps the binaries for a spectrum.”

Interactive afternoon workshops include “Sacred Earth: Common Ground Storytelling,” “Community-led science: Building an open-source 'virtual nose' to detect ambient pollutants,” “Students Are Our NOW, Not Only Our Futures,” and “Becoming JustBodies: Exploring Abolition and Emancipation through Play and Creative Expression.”

“Students are our NOW, not only our futures” will be facilitated by Hayden Nguyen from Support Equality AZ Schools. When asked about the workshop, Hayden said, “Young people are at the forefront of some of the most pressing issues in America today. This is especially apparent within queer and trans justice movements, in which young LGBTQ folk are not only hit by legislative blows but also within intersectional issues of poverty, mental health and reproductive justice. Yet there is a disproportionate lack of visibility of young people at the table weighing into decisions that we are on the front lines of. As a community initiative entirely organized, run and operated by high schoolers for other young people, we will explore venues of youth-directed, people-driven change and the history of institutional powers that have made it difficult to do so.”

A free vegan lunch on Saturday will be catered by Green New American Vegetarian while Walt Richardson will offer song and storytelling stylings in the Armstrong Rotunda, with Bobby Johnson DJ’ing through lunch as well. The event includes a plenary panel at 1 p.m. in Armstrong Hall L1-30 and ends with workshops focused on skill-sharing and hands-on experiences. The keynote panel this year features:

  • Jen Richter, a scholar-activist and professor in the School of Social Transformation and School for the Future of Innovation in Society, who will give an overview of the idea of energy justice and socio-energy design.

  • Mariia Vitrukh, a doctoral candidate in education policy and evaluation at ASU, who will be discussing how Ukrainians are managing their daily lives in the midst of war.

  • Jorge Morales, a PhD student from the School of Sustainability, who will be discussing his research on energy transitions in Mexico, with a focus on Indigenous communities, as well as his volunteer work with Chispa. Morales is also a former student leader of Local to Global Justice.

  • Nora Timmerman, a teacher-scholar, parent, organizer, gardener, dancer and desert rat who works as an associate teaching professor in sustainable communities at Northern Arizona University, who will be speaking about ecological justice and scholarly activism.

Attendees are welcome to bring nonperishable food items and personal care products for donation to the mutual aid group NOURISHPhoenix on either day of the event. More detailed program information, registration and background on Local to Global Justice and its past events are available on their website at Donations are welcomed to help ensure that this program remains free and open to the public for years to come.

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