SAN MARCOS — The fight for social justice and equality is a “lifelong struggle,” but a rewarding one, Assemblywoman Shirley Nash Weber said to a group of people gathered for Cal State San Marcos’ annual Diversity Luncheon.
Weber, a longtime educator who was elected in 2012 to represent the 79th Assembly District, was the keynote speaker of the university’s All People’s Luncheon, a celebration of the university’s commitment to diversity and social justice hosted by the CSUSM Office of Diversity, Educational Equity and Inclusion.
“It is important that you have a diversity committee and focus on issues of social justice,” Weber said. “It is an important issue not just for you while you are here, but it is an important issue for your life.
“If you decide this is something for you, it is not a part-time job, it is a lifelong struggle to create justice and equality and opportunity for everybody,” Weber said.
Weber said she didn’t expect to champion issues of social justice when she arrived in Sacramento in 2013, but has done exactly that during her first two terms, including co-authoring bills that informed ex-offenders of their voting rights, and the landmark Assembly Bill 953, which requires law enforcement agencies to collect and disclose basic information on police stops in response to growing concerns about racial profiling and police misconduct.
Weber said she and the bill’s supporters faced intense opposition from law enforcement agencies statewide, fellow lawmakers who urged her to water down the bill to gain the approval of Gov. Jerry Brown, who eventually signed the bill into law.
“I can tell you the battle for 953 was enormous,” Weber said. “When you have right on your side, and you have strong advocates in your community, it becomes something that people can’t deny.”
Weber likened the constant struggle for social justice and equality to gardening. The rare flowers — equality, justice and freedom — require constant maintenance, while the weeds — ignorance, hatred and discrimination — grow best in neglect.
“If you feel that you accomplished it this year and you can go off and do something next year, no, this is a life journey,” Weber said. “If not, you will wake up and say where did this crap come from? And it is because we took a nap, we failed to make sure equality, and dignity was in everything we did.”
University President Karen Haynes, who spoke before Weber, said that the issues of equality and social justice have been at the forefront of her tenure as president.
“At Cal State San Marcos, diversity and inclusion are not only central to our identity as a university, but have been a strategic priority here for over a decade,” university President Karen Haynes said.
Haynes on Wednesday took that commitment a step further with her awarding of the inaugural President’s Student Champion Award, given to a student who exemplified inclusive excellence and diversity.
The winner, senior Thiana Ruiz Alegria, said she was inspired by Weber and Haynes remarks to continue her fight for social justice.
“What she spoke is the truth,” said Alegria, who helped create the Latino Student Center, which is aimed at assisting Hispanic students stay in college and provide a safe haven for undocumented immigrant students. “And I am hoping that I can continue to be a leader in my community and continue to help find ways to help communities that are under-represented.”