On Tuesday afternoon students and faculty gathered in the Student Union to engage in insightful conversation at the Social Justice & Advocacy’s “Breaking Barriers Lunch.”

The University of Central Florida recognizes a “Social Justice Week” annually. The week is filled with events that demonstrate and promote the idea of being an open-minded, socially conscious individual.

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The lunch, catered by Subway, was the quintessential opportunity to socialize with people of various cultures, sexual orientations, and economic backgrounds.

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With the onset of the recent inauguration, people had a lot to say about their opinions on social justice and why they decided to come there.

Luis Mujica is a senior studying health sciences and creative writing. He is a proud member of the LQBTQ community. He was open about why this event was so important to him.

“Social justice always interests me being that I’m gay. I’ve dealt with a lot of oppression from my family…and even with the Pulse situation one of my friends worked there. The whole situation hit me hard. I think this is a great way to talk about whatever is bothering you or just listening to people. I love listening to people.”

Jamie Booth, a senior interdisciplinary studies major also discussed what social justice means to her.

“I’m a very big proponent of social justice, especially when it comes to women’s rights. There’s always going to be bias, racism, sexism, and things like that. That’s why I’m a very big proponent for equality and for everyone to be treated for the person that they are and not for something such as skin color, race, and gender.”

Jil Shah is a sophomore biomedical science major. She expressed the struggles that she faces as an Indian-American and female in general.

“I was lucky enough to be raised in a really diverse area. I’m from Michigan. The area that I was born in is right next to Detroit which has a very large African-American population. I also lived near Deerborne which has the highest amount of Arabs outside of the Middle East….I grew up around people and in a community that welcomes our differences and embraces them. Of course, there’s the daily struggle of being a minority with things such as how you are supposed to speak up for your entire race because you know who else is at the table to speak for you. But for me, I have lately felt more pressure as a woman, than as an Indian. Those are two things that very well define me, but with the recent election and everything that is going on…”

Shah later expressed that she was not prepared for the new presidential transition going from a president that is a self-proclaimed feminist to one that she believes does not share those beliefs.

Conversations continued from a faculty in the engineering department, Stephania Hayes.

She shared her thoughts on being an African-American woman with a unique name and rocking her natural hair in the workplace.
“I have to admit; I was actually scared to wear my natural hair for the job interview (at UCF). I still got the job, so I guess UCF was open to diversity.”

The ambiance of the lunch was very open and carefree. The majority of the conversations allowed for people to express their personal opinions without judgment.