Macaulay Peace Action held the CUNY Summit for Peace and Justice at Macaulay Honors College from Mar. 31st to April 2nd in Lincoln Square. The student-led event was the first of its kind ever held by them. The Summit was organized with the understanding that ‘the world is faced with many interconnected crises,’ and dialogue and knowledge are fundamentally important to address them.
Senior Rene Yaroshevsky is majoring in political science and history at Queens College. Yaroshevsky is the President of Macaulay Peace Action where he worked alongside other student organizers to host this event. Yaroshevsky considered the Summit to be an opportunity for CUNY students to learn the skills and ideals they need to ‘build a just and peaceful future for all.’
Yaroshevsky knew CUNY students were the ideal audience, “CUNY is representative of the diverse working class of New York City, and so we need to use our interconnected nature as CUNY students to lead the struggle for change.”
The CUNY Summit for Peace and Justice hosted diverse and multidisciplinary speakers across the weekend. Speakers came from all over the world, ranging from CUNY, Gaza City, and all the way from Hong Kong. They included sociologists, psychologists, writers, community organizers, public servants, and student speakers.
Dr. Antonia Cucchiara from the Social Sciences department at QC spoke about the power of social movements, while Dr. Thomas Ort (from History), and Dr. Julie George (from Political Science), spoke about the war in Ukraine. Dr. Ort described his goal of informing the audience of, ‘‘the importance of the Ukraine war to global peace and stability.’’
Other panelists spoke about Palestine, healthcare, anti-racism, the climate crisis, being a refugee and immigrant, along with other topics. The Summit also featured artwork, painting, knitting, and origami. Dinner was provided to the guests, including everything from pizza to fried crickets.
The panel kicked off with a panel discussion between Emily Rubino, Roni Zahavi-Brunner, and Margaret Engel. Rubino is the Executive Director at Peace Action New York State. She hopes that the, “CUNY Summit works to strengthen the student activism happening at Macaulay, the CUNY network, and more broadly within NYC.” She is hopeful that it, “….highlights and celebrates the incredible work that so many students are doing.”
Sophomore Omar Ali is studying Political Science and Economics at QC and attended the Summit all three days. Ali decided to go because he wanted to, “Be exposed to grassroots movements that seek to both perfect and implement solutions to some of the most pressing and overreaching issues.”
He considered the first day of the Summit to be inspiring since he got to learn more about issues he was priorly interested in. He found the second day to be educational as he learned about the issues facing Palestine and Ukraine. Ali found the third day to be illuminating as panelists spoke about the discrimination faced by immigrants and refugees. He is hopeful that the next Summit will incorporate more hands-on activities allowing for more engagement with fellow activists to work together to organize, discuss issues, and push for solutions.