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Wonder Woman for Child Justice


By Mason Service Corps Student

Describe your service site and role?

I should first state that for personal safety reasons, I cannot share my photo.

I chose to do my work with Child Justice, Inc., a non-profit organization. As stated on their Website, they “provide legal services and advocacy for children’s rights.  Child Justice seeks to ensure that courts protect children in cases of abuse and family violence.” Please read about the organization and the amazing work they do at:  http://child-justice.org/about/.

I have been personally affected by this issue and have chosen to use my pain as fuel to help others in these circumstances. As such, I have volunteered for Child Justice for a number of years. I serve as a support for abused women and sometimes as just someone safe to talk to. I help mothers navigate behavioral problems that their abused children display and help to find psychological support services. I help meet the needs a woman may have – whether it be organizing a spontaneous move or helping to explain legalese. I court-watch for a variety of cases involving domestic violence, including murder trials, kidnapping trials, and civil cases at the intersection of child abuse, domestic violence, and custody. Court-watching is important for oversight of local courts and for counsel representing the abuser. In addition, I consult on these cases with attorneys representing the abused women and children. I also lobby Congress for H.Con.Res.72. Please look it up and write your representative in Congress to co-sponsor this legislation!

What did you learn from your Mason Service Corps experience that you will apply in the future?

I learned most through my interviews of the attorneys. They gave me good insight to the practice of law in this area. It is an emotionally exhausting job and it takes a very special way of thinking to win these cases. More law schools should have courses that specialize in this area of law.

How did this experience challenge your assumptions and stereotypes?

When an abuser challenges a protective parent in court for custody of the children, they are successful in gaining custody over 70% of the time. This is an overwhelming statistic and it happens in every state in the country – some jurisdictions are worse than others. It is infuriating that when this topic is discussed publically – nobody wants to hear it, believe it, or deal with it. A great current example is Roy Moore. He was a sitting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama and is a serial pedophile and abuser. When people like him or with his intrinsic bias hear cases involving domestic violence – they are not apt to believe the woman.

The post-Weinstein era has opened the flood gates and more and more businesses – even democrats in both the House and Senate – have started believing women. Women do not make up these allegations, neither do children. It is simply too difficult to do. In fact, statistics show that an abused child lies about being abused less than 1% of the time. I never thought I would see the day that women are believed and it definitely challenged me to start believing in hope a little more. My assumptions are being challenged and I hope they continue to be challenged and hopefully one day – flat out wrong.

Discuss a social problem that you have come in contact with during your service work. What do you think are the root causes of this problem? Explain how your service may or may not contribute to its alleviation

Judges are incredibly critical of women and hold them to a much, much higher standard and openly criticize them in court, calling them hysterical, crazy, and too sensitive to abuse. There are so many root causes of this. The most deeply ingrained is the tendency to disbelieve women, even when there is blatant evidence of abuse when the standard of proof in civil cases is the preponderance of the evidence. Judges are actually taught to discredit women when allegations of domestic violence and child abuse are raised after she leaves her abuser. Learning how to compensate for this in the courtroom will hopefully help to combat the bias.

What are some of the challenges you faced during this experience? What will you take away from your experience with Mason Service Corps

My biggest challenge was learning that abused women can react to a certain set of circumstances in a variety of unexpected ways. Reactions come in different forms and learning to recognize what triggers the client is important. Going through the divorce process with children is enough of a stressor for those who haven’t experienced abuse. For a client that is being abused and is forced to send her children to the man that abuses them is gut wrenching. Watching a woman not knowing if it will be the very last time that she sees her child is gut wrenching. Asking this person to think clearly, put emotions aside, and work on her case can be a near impossible feat. The client is very important and plays a big role during this process. If the client breaks down, so will the case.

I will take away from this course the need for continued and consistent self-reflection. Reminding myself of why I am doing this work will help solidify my commitment to this cause. It is a very exhausting line of work and if I do not take care of myself first, I can’t help others. Learning how to manage emotions is an important skill. Sometimes I envision the scene in Wonder Woman when she is running across the battlefield, dodging the arrows, and pressing on literally in the face of adversity. That scene gets me through days that sometimes feel impossible.


A note from SAIL Director, Patty Mathison: This student is a true hero in every sense of the word. I had the privilege to work with this extraordinary human being this past semester and was blown away by the care, the compassion and most significantly, her ability to overcome adversity and use that “pain as fuel to help others.” I had shared with this student that this does not need to be shared publicly, and she replied that she would love to share this as the more people know about this crisis, the better. I feel honored to have worked with and learned from this Wonder Woman. 


Pop Up Pantry

By Collette Rhoads

I ended up doing a large majority of hours with George Mason University’s Pop-Up Pantry. Pop-Up Pantry is a institution on campus that offers food to students on campus who may otherwise be unable to provide food for themselves. It’s a relatively small institution, but it has a huge heart. Their missions is t mitigate the challenges that face students with food insecurity and hunger at George Mason University. Working with the pantry I have realized that I am very fortunate. So many people are able to have necessities such as food, water, and shelter. Often times I feel that many people overlook the fact that there are some people on college campuses that cannot afford to eat. I learned that my community (primarily the Leadership and Community Engagement LLC) is very aware of hunger and homelessness being a serious issue. I’ve gained a lot of respect for the people around me and their willingness to give up time in their schedules to help those in need. I feel that I contributed a helping hand. The pantry went through a lot of change at the start of the school year and I’d like to think that I helped make a more smooth transition. I truly value people and their well being, helping with the Pop-Up Pantry farther instilled my hope and goal of world peace. I learned that the only way to truly strive to end something as big as world hunger is to do something about it! I did an internship with a company called STOP HUNGER NOW which focuses on ending world hunger. Whether it’s hunger students on a college campus, or hungry children in India, I’m passionate that with the help of human kind our world can achieve something so magnificent.

Social Action and Integrative Learning: A Senior Perspective

By Michael Galfetti
             In some ways I feel like the Office of Social Action and Integrative Learning has birthed me, or at the least was my babysitter. I lived in the Living Learning Community Freshman and Sophomore year and made a few of my most memorable friends there. SAIL continually offers me ways to give back to the mason community that grow as I do. Wherever I am in my capabilities, SAIL meets me with an encouraging embrace (Ok, maybe that is just Patty). I wanted to share my journey with SAIL to highlight the unique role this office fills on campus. SAIL is like a meaningful glue that gets between your other classes and curricula to offer something rare: a personal experience. 
               Like I said, at first, SAIL was a welcome mother to foster growth and soothe me through the growing pains. I moved into the Leadership and Community Engagement LLC to find not only was I living away from my parents, but I was doing that with 20 other people who also wanted to lead and engage their community. More than empty words, the Leadership and Community Engagement LLC was filled with people who truly had service hearts, people who wanted to give back, who wanted to lead the “right way”, and who were sensitive to their fellow community members. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to know my Freshman year floor, and Sophomore year about 90% of us joined the LLC again! A true testament to the kind of community SAIL fostered. 
                  In class every week the community would discuss a different social issue, leadership style, or community building technique. Patty, the facilitator of our class attached to the community, dealt with our significant misunderstandings and encouraged a friendly, healthy debate amongst the strongly religious, the agnostic, the republicans, the democrats, the libertarians, the atheist, the extroverted, the introverted, the emotionally open, and the emotionally closed off. Seems like a utopia given the state of the world today. Beyond the classroom, SAIL, took us on retreat to Environmental Studies on the Piedmont where Tom Woods, an excellent School of Integrative Studies professor, sent us on night-walks, without flashlights, took us star gazing, and allowed us into his space (sorry about the pans Tom). (SAIL did not teach me how to cook). An extra-faraway experience sponsored by SAIL is their alternative break program. 
                 Through Alternative Break I was able to leave the country for the first time an get to know a perspective outside of the developed West. In a week that was jammed packed with a women rights rally, discussion with a group of sex-workers, meetings with teenagers, an alternative church group, lessons from the director of Cristosal, hearing an female band, listening to a poetry reading, and a lot of pupusas I was able to see that the differences between people, in their nature, is insignificant. This experience was an essential piece of my college career. In the globalized world it is important to recognize that people will come from vastly different background and experience things that are difficult to imagine going through; despite that, everyone has a dream and wants to live a life where they can make that dream a reality. This attracts so many people to the U.S. Our national myth is based on that simple premise universal to all peoples: work hard and you can be whoever you want to be. It is sufficient to say that SAIL has had a monumental role in shaping my worldview and perspective. 
                I only have the space to begin to express the ways in which I am grateful for SAIL.The life-long friends, the once in a lifetime experiences, the discussions, the knowledge, the perspective, all seem to evade precise language. I hope by telling you a little bit about my experience you see the value and worth in this office and decide to get involved. SAIL has been integral to creating the ideal college experience. I close with the age-old and tired maxim and one addendum to it: ‘if you want college to be meaningful, get involved and put yourself out there!’; get involved with people who will return and reciprocate the effort and energy you put into them tenfold—get involved with the office of Social Action and Integrative Learning.

My Brew

By Mousa Abusaif

Most people are not aware that the “coffee bean,” is the seed of a flowering plant. Like all plants, it has its own distinct family.

A brew has the potential to be a very interesting treat: full of complexities (some more earthy or fragrant), smooth, and with the capacity to wake its host up. A good brew can be an adventure, a pick-me up, a mystery, a trip from start to finish. It can make you think about the world, and where all its parts derive from; make you glad that you shared it with others, or that you took the time to sip… very… slowly. Sometimes it can burn. Sometimes it can warm you. Other times you can feel it dancing inside you. You may miss it when it’s not to be found. You may depend on it. It may grow stale without you, sitting and waiting to be sipped; and so the exchange is mutual. Liquid peace, played out each step of the way, like a sweet song. The seed matures, the bean is roasted perfectly, but differently every time. That’s okay, because roasting is an art; and each bean is still valuable, and part of its distinct family. Watch the cup as it sits, and you’ll see it sparkle with your reflection.


Here, all students take root in the same ground, and in this hall, this residency, this community — all too share in this distinct family. I’m glad that those around me have been there to pick me up, to warm me, to share in this treat, to take the time, to never cease in surprising me, and to partake in this song as it plays out.

(In the words of Mousa: “It’s a photo of tea (and cantaloupe), but you take what you can get!”)


AB Spring Break: Treasure Beach, Jamaica

By Diana Kimondo

Service trips: Students/teachers serving and reflecting within a community in order to understand the local culture, reduce negative effects of a social issue in order to empower the community to lead their own progress. Often times this is how we explain what service trips are to potentially interested candidates. This is the knowledge I carried with me as I made way to Treasure Beach, Jamaica, for my first service trip. I landed in Montego Bay a few days earlier than required to familiarize myself with the culture. It only made sense I arrive earlier. How can I provide my services to an island I know nothing about? I did not want my service to be “help centered”, I did not want to portray myself as a “savior”. I wanted to appreciate the culture and customs beforehand and spend my energy, time empowering the Islands’ youth.

George Mason’s SAIL department made sure that we as the service participants understood the impact and privilege we held abroad. I learned a lot about the white savior complex, redistribution of power, systematic inequalities, oppression, privilege, and social justice. I hate that these are things we learn about abroad, but I am forever grateful that I had the opportunity.

I learned about the white savior complex growing up in Kenya, and it is no surprise that there were other service groups at the same time who demonstrated this trait to a tee. I remember a group of elderly women who came to school to take pictures with the students and to drop off books and markers. This led to me understanding the meaning of privilege. By understanding privilege, I gained insight to systematic inequalities and the redistribution of power. By the end of the service trip, I was a social justice advocate. I grew a new set of eyes, all of a sudden I could see things that were blind to me back in Northern Virginia. Service trips took on a new purpose for me. I gained a lot more from my experience than I could ever contribute to the society. I gained awareness and I became WOKE.

A Discussion on Social Movements

By Roger Dean

In class, I was put in a fairly uncomfortable position. I feel comfortable in class and I feel fairly comfortable with my floor mates; however, after watching the scene from The Butler with Forest Whitaker, I saw my classmates that were of all different types of racial identities feel uncomfortable which made me feel uncomfortable. The reactions of my classmates seemed to be that or horror and disgust. Most of my white classmates had not seen the movie or the seen or realized how horrifically terrible their race acted towards other races that were deemed inferior. I had already seen it. I was prepared for what I saw. It is just a movie, but the tone of the scene is very emotional. The worst part about the movie is that it was based on real events. The reaction of my classmates were surprising since I know of a lot of Caucasians who distance themselves from the things that happened during the civil rights movement because they, personally, were not there.

That was a moment highlighting the horrors of the Civil Rights movement. We right now are also, currently, involved in another rights battle. The LGBT Movement focuses on getting more rights for those people who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, etc. They are fighting for rights that include, but are not limited to, marriage equality and job equality.

I would like to compare the two movements. They have similarities and drastic differences. They both have to work through receiving social rights and well as safety insurance. They have issues that are more political in nature. They have issues that are more personal to each situation as well. They differences are pretty specific, however.

For the Civil Rights Movement, the bias and racism was based on the skin color and the long history of racism and slavery that were once apart of the nation’s history. They felt that the black race was inherently inferior to the white race. Race is an inherent thing that cannot be changed and people were discriminated against disgustingly based on this fact.

For the LGBT Movement, the issue is around is the sexualities associated with the movement are immoral and sinful. The argument against them is very religious based. It is an argument that most people don’t change their mind about it. The belief that they are born the way they are is not yet widely accepted even though there are some forms of scientific proof. They are discriminated against based on people’s beliefs.

In the next 50 years, there will probably be a female president in the near future. I believe Hilary Clinton will win the next election if she runs. I think we will see legalized use of marijuana in many more states. We will see the legalization of same sex marriages in more states as well. Out of these major issues, I would probably walk for the legalization of marijuana because it the reason that a lot of people go to prison with hardened criminals and come out worse than they went in. If we legalize marijuana, we would save many more people in the process. None of these issues are ones that I would die for nor risk everything for. I would for my right to education though. I love learning and my people have endured so much to get me where I am today. I would refuse to not take advantage of this ability and right I have that some people don’t and never will.

I think George Mason University is perfectly fine. It is precisely as it needs to be to foster good discussion. That controversy is necessary at a University to help people grow as intellectuals, students, and people. I enjoy the things I see here at George Mason University. What we get from here is the necessary information to go out into the world and then change the community like Milk mentioned. You take the multiple opinions that were mentioned in the first controversy and you use that to strengthen your argument to help foster change in the world among people who are unaware.


Social Justice Response to “Ghosts of Mississippi”

By Roger Dean (Congratulations Graduate and Future Law School Student!)

In the 1996 American drama film, Ghosts of Mississippi, Bobby DeLaughter (Alec Baldwin) struggles trying to revive and finally rightfully prosecute Byron De La Beckwith (James Wood) for the murder of Medgar Evers with the help and support of Evers’ wife, Myrlie Evers (Whoopie Goldberg). As most people know, Medgar Evers was a black civil rights activist in Mississippi who was murdered by an assassin on June 12, 1963.

As a future prosecutor, I appreciated that even in this time it was not above the prosecutors to prosecute a white man charged with killing a white man. The way the justice system was back then and

the way that the world responded to events was very different than now. This is the reason why when Byron De La Beckwith, the suspected murderer, was tried both of his cases ended in hung juries. The film focuses on the process that Bobby took to bring Beckwith to justice. It caused troubles in his life professionally, publicly and privately. It gave his family some issues to deal with even though it was him that was causing all of the issues. It wasn’t actually his fault however. It was because of racism.

The major social issues that surround this film and this real life story are racism, justice and patience. The assassination of Medgar Evers was not only a political thing, but it was also a race thing most of all. Medgar Evers was attempting to integrate the University of Mississippi. There were people who did not agree with integration on secondary educational level. There are people who were genuinely upset with the Brown vs. Board of Education which is the Supreme Court landmark case that stated that segregating schools was unconstitutional. It was about bringing a murderer to justice. In the film, there are moments that take your breath away and make you want to forget that his a real event. This really happened. This atrocious event of racism was an insult to justice everywhere and it couldn’t stand. The patience that is displayed in this movie is awe inspiring. Mrs. Evers waited for a very long time to get justice for her husband. The trail made people wait to see how long it would take to see justice done. It took about 30 years to see justice done finally for the murder of a man who just wanted to change the world one state at a time.

My first initial reaction was to the disclaimer on the film that this is a real story. I knew that Medgar Evers was murdered, but I did not know all of this stuff actually happened to the people involved. I found the initial racism unsettling to me as the viewer. I see a lot of movies, and I know that usually they are just movies and they aren’t real, but with this movie it is very real. I can’t get over some of the really offensive things that were said during the movie. I’m not sure if all things said in the movie were actually said, but I know that people really talked like that in the 1960’s and after. It is one part that disgust me about our nation. This is like no other movie I have ever seen.

DeLaughter was doing his job. He was told to prosecute this case and all of these bad things happened. He was threatened. His family was put in danger. I can personally relate to his character. I will be a prosecutor and it will be an amazing when I finally reach those goals. He was discouraged by people he cared about. People thought he was foolish and crazy, but it paid off. I can’t wait to be a lawyer and send bad people away. It will be my job and I will love every second of it. I doubt however that I will ever get a case like this that was politically motivated, but I will make a difference.

I have seen many movies and I have been surprised before by plot twist points, but I was surprised by some of the language that was used during this film. When Beckwith was stating that he killed a “nigger” and that it should not be a crime. I was so taken aback by that. It was 1960’s and I thought it was a known fact that black people are people and citizens too. It just shocks me that people actually thought like that.

It is the story of Bobby DeLaughter case into stardom. It is the story of, Medgar’s wife, Myrlie Evers. The story that is not told is the story of Medgar Evers nor is the story of Beckwith. Both of those stories are important. People who watch this movie without some prior research on the person and activist of Medgar Evers will not know who he is. The bad part of Beckwith’s story is the only thing that is mentioned in regards to him. Their is a lot character testimony against Beckwith.

I learned what actually happened with the case and murder of Medgar Evers, but not in that order. I learned what other struggles a prosecutor could endure. I also learned that racism was still a prominent thing in the South in the 1990’s. I learned that Alec Baldwin can play another character besides funny.

As a black male, I have always felt this danger that people will try to hurt me or people I care about because of my race. Racism is not gone and it is not going anyway any time soon. I want to be a prosecutor so the death threats are a very real worry of mine, but I hope and pray for the best beause I am going to do it no matter what anyone says.

This film is very realistic because it did happen. Things like this still do happen. Trayvon Martin was murdered and his death turned into a political thing. The case was about if he was killed because of the color of his skin. Clearly being black is dangerous. Apparently being male is upsetting. Also, if you are young, you are suspicious. It is crazy to think about. People are still racist, but it is now not as obvious as it was years ago. This happens in our society all the time. “I didn’t mean it like that.” That phrase makes people think it is there fault if they are offended.

Again, racism is not going to go anywhere. Patience is a virtue. Hopefully people continue to have it. Things can change over time. People don’t change, but the situation does. In regards to justice, I am going to do my part by being the prosector for a very nice place. I hope to be successful in that. With racism though, Morgan Freeman said the best way to get rid of racism is to stop talking about it. We could start there. It is a human made thing. God created only one race, the human race. Humans created racism.