This is an article that was published in the features section of the spring 2017 version of InfUSion Magazine. The article was very fun to write, and I was privileged to interview some passionate students.
The University of Georgia has numerous students who balance their schoolwork and other extracurricular activities in an almost seamless manner. Since the campus is so large, there are numerous activities that students can involve themselves in. The school boasts over 700 registered student organizations, and many students find time to operate in circles and programs concerning social justice and activism.
Mansur Buffins, a third-year social studies education and African-American studies major from Snellville, finds himself most interested in ensuring that African-American students receive a quality education, particularly young males.
“My passions manifested in high school, but college provided me more outlets to be more active in the community and provided me with ample resources to get what I need to be proficient about social justice and activism,” Buffins says.
Buffins is the president of the NAACP chapter at UGA. He is also the creator of the Young Black Kings mentorship program, which focuses on mentoring young black male students at Athens schools.
With so many different types of people on campus, students often find themselves interacting with people with differing core values and beliefs. This is not always an easy task, but Buffins takes it in stride. Seeing other students on campus who are also dedicated to social justice comforts him. Unfortunately, there are some times when he has to deal with naysayers and people who flat out disrespect him.
“I’ve had people rip down my Young Black Kings posters, and to meet and see people who are against some of my core beliefs make me even more passionate to do right,” Buffins says.
His perseverance is admirable and plays a role in his ability to balance being a student and an activist.
“School comes first, and luckily a lot of times my classes and assignments are associated with my passions in some way. I balance it all by keeping an agenda and always remembering why I’m doing the work that I’m doing,” Buffins says.
Raphael Eissa, a third-year political science and international affairs major from Savannah, dedicates much of his time to organizations on campus. One of these organizations includes Students for Justice in Palestine, an organization dedicated to raising awareness about the Palestinian plight. He is also a member the Coptic Orthodox Student Organization, a Christian group, and Amnesty International, an organization dedicated to social justice.
He says that college has affected his opinions regarding social justice in many ways because he gained more opportunities to meet a more diverse range of people.
“The fact that I got to see people that I had never met before is what brought me into the fold of social justice,” Eissa says.
This in turn has made Eissa feel more obligated to seek social justice because he gained a better understanding of issues such as structural racism, anti-blackness and the Palestinian cause. He knows that not everyone is passionate about the same causes that he is, but this affects him in a positive manner.
“Coming into college, you know that people are here to learn, but the apathy of students is still really surprising and jarring, so it just makes me all the more passionate about advocating for various communities and marginalized groups,” Eissa says.
Many college students are constantly busy and Eissa says it can be hard to juggle school with his other passions.
“It’s been difficult, and I have been telling myself to say ‘no’ a bit more often. If you truly care about social justice, you can always find the time to commit yourself to other things. There’s no certain method to balancing it all, it’s just about doing what you love,” Eissa says.
Activism is important and seeing other students actively working to improve civil rights for marginalized groups of people is inspiring. Young men such as Mansur Buffins and Raphael Eissa are shining examples of the rich experiences that college can provide students. Balancing school and other important tasks is not easy, but these men make it look easy.