Race: A Campus Dialogue

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The first question of the day was “When were you first made aware of your racial identity at Clark?” At the opening luncheon of “Race: A Campus Dialogue,” the participating graduate students, undergraduate students, faculty, staff, and administrators were asked to respond to this question. All of these groups merged together for dialogues about race on Clark’s campus on Wednesday, March 30.

“Race: A Campus Dialogue” commemorated the tenth anniversary of the Higgins School of Humanities’ Difficult Dialogues program at Clark. “I believe a true dialogue isn’t meant to persuade, but rather to share differing points of view. It’s an opportunity to listen deeply across difference and increase understanding,” said luncheon co-facilitator Visual & Performing Arts Professor Toby Sisson.

Photo by Kate Summers

Photo by Kate Summers

 

The day was split into five parts: an opening luncheon, three dialogue sessions, and an evening celebration.

The dialogue sessions were led by students, faculty, staff, and administrators alike. They varied from “First-Year Intensives and Race,” led by students in a Complexities of Urban Schools course, to “Where is God in Racial Justice?” led by Research Librarian Tony Penny, to Professor Esther Jones’s “Race in Unexpected Places.”

Devra Goldstein (‘16) co-facilitated a session called “Theatre of the Oppressed: Conversations on Power” with Chelsea Viteri (‘16). They made their entire session interactive, using exercises from Brazilian activist Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed. They aimed to “more deeply feel and deconstruct our experiences with hierarchies of power,” Goldstein said. These exercises are one way to practice breaking down and understanding oppressive situations, a theme that echoed throughout the day. “I think these dialogues are important because they can help us reflect on our experiences, connect with people in our community, and prepare to transform our realities,” she said.

Education Professor Eric DeMeulenaere, one of the event’s organizers, said that the race forums over the past several months brought attention to the suffering and trauma experienced by students of color on Clark’s campus. “‘Race: A Campus Dialogue’ was created to build on the momentum of those forums and continue to envision and move our campus forward towards greater racial justice by embracing the tool of dialogue,” he said.

At the evening celebration, students wrote on graffiti boards asking what they were going to “start, stop, and continue” doing in relation to issues of racism. “It’s important for me to be with others that recognize the issues surrounding racial disparity at Clark,” said Sisson. “I want to be part of a community that takes these issues seriously, cares for one another, and seeks to rectify injustice.”