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Poet Ashlee Haze speaking at 2020 Unity Dinner

Student leaders gathered in the Great Hall on Jan. 24 for the annual Unity Dinner, supported by the University Office for Diversity and Inclusion. Various student organizations sent these representatives to learn more about identity and social justice and to partake in a workshop with Ashlee Haze, a champion slam poetry performer.

Haze, who is also a podcaster, teaching artist and creator, spoke to the students through a center of love, sharing various tips on how identity is fluid and shouldn’t be used to sort individuals. Instead, it should allow each person to express their authenticity throughout their daily lives. Authenticity, by definition, is when a person is true to one’s own personality, spirit or character.

“Love who you are as you are” was one of her main points of emphasis. “You must love yourself in all of your flaws. Love yourself through the transitions. Love yourself and all that you are. Self-love is the highest form of social justice,” Haze told the group.

Social justice directly correlates with every organization on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill. Haze cited celebrated author Bell Hooks’ description of social justice saying, “Justice demands integrity. It’s to have a moral universe — not only to know what is right or wrong, but to put things in perspective and weigh things. Justice is different from violence and retribution; it requires complex accounting.”

Haze further highlighted the importance of recognizing the barriers of social justice. To name but a few, she listed the hoarding of wealth and privilege, denial that injustice exists and miseducation on a societal scale as several examples.

In identifying these barriers, she allowed students to have tough conversations with one another. It further allowed for progression in the way each person views the world we live in and, more specifically, their day to day interactions at Carolina.

Haze encouraged all the students to lead throughout their organizations with the principle of “acting in love, not fear.” Students left with new-found confidence to return to their peers and inspire change, and to develop relationships with leaders of other organizations across campus. True to its name, the dinner sparked unity throughout all of the attending student organizations, allowing them to realize that they aren’t alone in the fight to be heard.

Written by Casey P. Jones




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