Over the course of this blog, I have come to realize how much more of an optimist Tolu is than I. She is able to find the good in so many things. I, on the other hand, appear pissed off at the world. Now to be fair, that is a true sentiment. The world is a shitty place.
But I am not immune from the good things that might transpire out there. So, I thought it time to talk about an experience I engaged in lately.
In the fall semester, I kept receiving meeting requests for an upcoming Student Affairs Convocation but they were continually being taken off my calendar. It would seem the committee putting the Convocation together was having some trouble nailing down details for it. Soon enough, I found out that the topic of the convocation would be racial justice and I guess I give off that SJ vibe because my Director put my name in to sit on the committee.
Cue happy dance.
YOU MEAN I GET TO TALK AND PLAN THESE THINGS FOR OTHER PEOPLE?!? #LifeMade
In my first post-grad job, someone was crazy enough to think I could offer something to a group of people I have found to be open and willing to engage in tough conversations.
I was slow to follow, just because the committee had been meeting for a while before my addition and also because I was not familiar with the framework we were using. I can do CRT and the Social Change Model is my jam. But Courageous Conversations? It had to be more complicated than it sounded, right?
As it turned out, it was. The half-day convocation would walk the division through the will, knowledge, skills, and practice needed to engage in difficult, uncomfortable conversations. As we planned the Convocation, I felt heard, like my voice mattered. When I brought up the difference between Anti and Non Racist, a video on the topic that was circulating on social media sites was added to the day’s events.
As someone who has been affiliated with religious educational institutions for much of my life, I find that social justice is often touted as a top value; yet, we rarely actually engage in SJ conversations. Mostly, it’s just doing service for the poor people of color and then getting on with our lives as usual. White Savior Complex anyone? During my undergraduate years, no one took the time to try and understand the experience of students of color, which made it impossible to program to those needs. No – our experience was seen only through the variety shows that took place on Spring Visitation Days in an effort to get higher numbers of students of color to campus with no effort on how to retain them. So, to know that a convocation was being put on by my employer (a Jesuit school) and was mandatory for the entire division, it was hard to fathom.
But the day came, with good and some bad feedback. I can’t say I believe everyone “got it” but every journey begins with a single step. And it says A LOT that an emphasis was placed on these subjects at all.
Since the Convocation, at the beginning of February, we have encouraged groups to continue meeting and engaging in courageous conversations about specific topics or after attending campus events. Our committee has continued to meet in an effort to do the same. We’ve spoken about the Oscars and watched the “Hope” episode of Black-ish. We’ve tried to tie in the experiences as we’ve heard them from our students. We acknowledge our privilege and attempt to come up with actions that we can do in our personal lives to make change.
I know life will never be what it was in graduate school again, with a cohort full (or almost full) of people willing to engage in these conversations. So, it has been really great finding a space where a group does exist. I know my time with the committee is coming to a close as the semester does, but I am seriously grateful to have been a part of this in my first year post-grad.