Transformation through Innovation: SUNY Buffalo State Kicks Off Virtual Social Justice Fest Oct 13 – 15

Buffalo State College’s 2020 Anne Frank Project (AFP) reflects the challenges of a year consumed by a deadly pandemic and worldwide protests over police brutality and other instances of racial injustice. The theme for the 12th annual social justice festival taking place remotely October 13–15 is “Transformation through Innovation.”

Although this year’s theme ties in seamlessly with current issues and causes, it was actually conceived before many of the events that have defined this year, according to Eve Everette, AFP assistant director.

“This theme really came from the college’s push for innovative, engaging educational experiences on and off campus,” Everette said, “because of our service-learning and interdisciplinary projects.”

To follow social distancing guidelines, the free interactive festival will be held via BlueJeans video conferencing on the AFP site and AFP Instagram Live.

Everette, AFP’s founding director Drew Kahn, and a host of partners within and outside the campus community have leveraged the theme into an opportunity to promote a unifying safe space during a time when distance, both physical and theoretical, has driven many people apart.

In fact, the festival’s virtual format will bring people together in ways that weren’t possible in the past because of budgeting and geographical location, Everette pointed out. For example, a session on transformative learning through virtual exchange will be hosted by contributors from EDU Africa and the Lari Memorial Peace Museum in Kenya. And LaToya Ebony, an actress and influencer based in Los Angeles, California, will lead a presentation on the history and pride of natural hair among people of African descent.

“This year’s remarkably remote festival can bring meaningful, unique student-centered content to the often stagnant and unsatisfying remote learning environments we have been forced into this year,” Kahn said. “AFP 2020 can offer fresh, challenging ideas from special places to liven things up in the remote classroom.”

Several artists, educators, social activists, and others will unite for different methods of storytelling and engagement over the three days. Viewers can participate in sessions such as Transformative Learning, Social Justice through Public Art, and Community Accountability in a State of Confusion. Presenters will incorporate many of the overarching subjects of 2020, including COVID-19, Black Lives Matter, storytelling through digital means, and healing through united causes.

“The pillars of AFP and the elements of storytelling are community building, conflict resolution, and identity exploration,” Everette said. “As artists and educators, it’s our responsibility to build a story to help people navigate the challenges that face us right now. The festival is a great place to ask big questions and to take the time to figure out where our identities fit within all of the upheaval.”

The BlueJeans technology will include closed captioning that will allow people of different abilities to have complete access to each presentation. During each session, two moderators will help participants foster connections and learn more about presenters and their content.