The final installment of Niagara University’s Department of Political Science Spring 2019 Social Justice Speaker and Discussion Series took place on April 26, featuring speaker Daniel McGowan. McGowan spoke about his advocacy experiences and the topic of intersectionality in a group discussion format.
McGowan is a former political prisoner and environmentalist who spent seven years in prison for actions he took part in with the Earth Liberation Front. The subject of an award-winning documentary, “If a Tree Falls,” McGowan currently works for the ACLU as a paralegal on their Criminal Law Reform Project.
“We’re really fortunate to have Daniel here today,” said David Reilly, director of international studies and chair of the Department of Political Science, who coordinated the series. “He has been engaged in a whole variety of different social movements and has been a very local advocate and participant in many different aspects of addressing social justice. We particularly wanted to bring Daniel here to talk about this issue of intersectionality; bringing together different groups and thinking about how we can connect our interests and efforts, and how we can sustain those over a long period of time.”
McGowan attended college at the University of Buffalo, giving him ties to the local area and insight into local social justice movements, which enabled him to relate to many students on campus who are currently advocating for certain social justice issues in the community. Representatives from different Niagara University advocacy clubs were present to discuss their efforts on campus with McGowan and to ask for his advice and guidance.
When speaking to different advocacy clubs, McGowan offered words of advice from his own personal experience, saying, “Maybe there could be this ‘politics of solidarity,’ where you guys engage in some sort of mutual aid in campaigning [for different issues].
“It doesn’t have to be transactional, because solidarity is not based in transactions. I have received an enormous amount of solidarity--some of it was based on personal relationships, but some of it was I helped people out with different issues. I never did that with any thought that it would come back to me, but when I fell, it came back exponentially. There could be a rationalization that assigns the politics of solidarity as a way that clubs here could operate.”
McGowan was the fourth and final speaker of the series, which hosted journalists, activists, academics, and writers who have often sacrificed their own well-being to raise awareness about injustices and inequality. This series allowed an opportunity for students and faculty members to learn about and engage in important conversations about social justice issues.