The Village Square is a non-profit organization that aims to join different-minded people through discussions around social justice issues. The organization wants to make compromises among people with different views to understand the reasons behind their ways of thinking.
“Instead of just trying to talk about the fact that we have different ideas and different ways of solving problems, we let people make an assessment,” said Dr. Allan Katz, member of The Village Square and Public Affairs distinguished professor at UMKC. “The greatest compromise of all is that we have a House of Representatives and that we have a Senate. This serves us very well in many ways, even though we get frustrated with it from time to time. To me, bringing this back is like going back to the roots of American democracy as opposed to just sitting around and skewing what the other side is doing.”
The Village Square believes that in order to make fair and intelligent decisions, it needs to listen to the major sides of each argument.
“Even when it comes to a place of academia or with students, there’s a sanctity among the University that lets students’ opinions to be shared, not polarized,” said Juan Betancourt-Garcia, President of SGA.
The Village Square will have a race and justice lecture and a luncheon. SGA collaborated with The Village Square to plan a program to help revitalize the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Symposium. The RFK Memorial Symposium also focuses on social justice issues. It brings together students from multiple disciplines who want to share their thoughts, and also hear opposing thoughts.
“It was one of the visions of this administration [SGA] to bring back the RFK Memorial Symposium,” Betancourt-Garcia said.
SGA and The Village Square are having a three-subject discussion. The topics to be discussed are race and justice, legalization of marijuana and the impact of incarceration, respectively.
“The topics themselves that we are going to be talking about were issues that students brought forward to us,” Betancourt-Garcia said. “They felt that these were issues on the forefront because they are the issues that affect the community. I’m talking about students that were directly impacted by Ferguson, directly impacted by mass incarceration and directly impacted by the war on drugs.”
The discussion regarding legalization of marijuana will be hosted by a new program called “The Living Room Conversation” that was created by the founder of moveon.org, Joan Blades. Blades will be at the panel to speak.
The race and justice lecture will start at 11:30 a.m. on April 29.