JusticeHack Miami sources local solutions for social ills

communities / Article

Above: JusticeHack group member Renita Holmes pitched her idea "Know your rights, show your rights," proposing the construction of a place where community members have access to resources on property ownership. Photos by Carolina Wilson

What does it mean to “hack justice”? Community members gathered at The LAB Miami in Wynwood this past weekend for JusticeHack, a two-day workshop inviting activists, entrepreneurs and others to demand ownership and control of pressing local social justice issues.

“Let’s get in the spirit of creativity,” Chris Sopher, founder of local nonprofit WhereBy.us and Knight Foundation journalism program associate, said as he welcomed the crowd.

Chris Sopher, founder of WhereBy.US and Knight Foundation journalism program associate, welcomed the crowd at The LAB Miami for JusticeHack's two-day workshop.

JusticeHack group members Steven Pargett of Dream Defenders and Valentino King, the new student government president at Hialeah High School, proposed the idea "Freedom Fridays," dedicating a class period on one Friday a month to a social justice curriculum.

Steven Pargett of Dream Defenders (left) participated in JusticeHack's "creativity exercise" where workshop participants paired off and proposed an invention by combining words written on sticky notes on their foreheads.

According to Sopher, the goals of the event were simple: to engage in conversation, identify local social justice issues and work on viable and creative solutions. Community voices—such as taxi drivers, youth of color and nursery workers—were invited to share stories of injustice and inspire those present to propose remedies.

“One of the challenges that many of us have faced is that we feel like sometimes the conversation is disconnected; the political process in our city, in many times, feels broken,” Purvi Shah, director of the Bertha Social Justice Institute and a Miami community organizer, said. “Can we get together and move through our identification of what is challenging in this city and actually start to build solutions for our city?”

The Bertha Foundation—and another New York-based organization, the Center for Constitutional Rights—teamed up with the Community Justice Project of Florida Legal Services to sponsor the event.

Local sponsors included five groups facing community challenges. They shared stories to inspire others present to engage in problem-solving. They included Dream Defenders, the Miami Workers Center, the New Vision Taxi Drivers Association, the Power U Center and WeCount!  

“We’re probably going to speak different languages,” Shah said to the event participants. “We may share a sense of what we think are the values that guide the kind of city we want to build, but chances are we generally speak about those things in different ways.”

Participants formed teams under the categories of affordable housing, farmworkers, youth of color and taxi drivers. Bright yellow and pink sticky notes filled boards in The LAB as teams worked to create viable solutions to the social justice problems that surfaced through conversation.

Steven Pargett of Dream Defenders and Valentino King, the new student government president at Hialeah High School, tackled the issue of academic disinterest in high school students. Their solution? “Freedom Fridays.”

The idea for Freedom Fridays is for a class period on one Friday each month to be dedicated to a student-directed social justice curriculum.

“This would allow students to learn about the social challenges created by and surrounding the work force, along with learning the skills to becoming a professional in that field,” Pargett said.

Creating an easy-access educational environment was also the theme of Renita Holmes’ idea called “Know your rights, show your rights.” She proposed creating a hub where women and other community members can have access to affordable legal services and other resources on property ownership.

“We want to remove the legal barriers that we find are increasingly causing a lot of us to be wrongfully evicted and gentrified,” Holmes said. “How can we empower ourselves to own our own lands and develop our own communities?”

Carolina Wilson is an editorial intern at Knight Foundation.

Community members gathered at The LAB Miami for JusticeHack, a two-day workshop dedicated to proposing solutions to local social justice issues.

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