All posts by socialjusticecenter

UPDATES – MAY 2021

Exhale: A Meditation

This has been an unusual year. In so many ways, this year has been a portal; a portal that opened a window into the greater Truths of our existence. It showed us who we are, who we can be at our best, and who we can be at our worst.

It also revealed the gap between our dreams, institutional promises, and our lived realities. It illuminated a schism; a kind of brutal disappointment in the very institutions and systems that we thought would serve us. We have been holding our collective breath for far too long. We must embrace the power and promise of a long, deep exhale.

As more and more people become safe from the virus, our collective sense of comfort in the world slowly and cautiously begins to return. We Exhale.

As communities work toward change together, we see the possibility of transformation in places that were previously perceived as intractable. We Exhale.

As we gather together with newfound intersectional solidarity, we feel the power of collectivity and what it means to be in community. We Exhale.

As the Spring reveals its rich fullness, we recognize that all around us change is constant and we are part of that change. We Exhale.

And those of us who have been fighting for justice…we are coming to understand that justice cannot exist outside of us until it exists with us. We Exhale.

And as we move to the close of the academic year, it is my hope that you will now allow yourself to exhale. Exhale away anything that doesn’t serve you. You can Breathe now.

Breathe for those who no longer have breath.
Breathe  for those who can’t catch their breath.
Breathe for those yet to have breath.
Breathe for the planet so that she may be healed.
Breathe so that we may remember to remember who are and that freedom begins at the Exhale.

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Congratulations, SJC Graduates!
We congratulate Ashley Tarbet-DeStefano in the Elma Lewis Center for completing her MS degree in Critical Ethnic and Community Studies from UMass Boston, and Jeeyoon Kim in the Elma Lewis Center for completing her MA degree in Digital Marketing and Data Analytics from Emerson.On The Move:
It is with sadness that we inform the Emerson Community that Jeeyoon Kim will be transitioning out her role as Assistant Director for Youth Programs, and leaving Emerson. Jeeyoon played a critical role in guiding the development of some of the College’s distinct youth programs, more specifically, Creative Community Network and the Youth LEAD Sharon program. Jeeyoon has had a significant impact on the young people with whom she worked and has been a valued member of the Social Justice Center team. We extend our thanks and appreciation for Jeeyoon, as she and her partner make moves in the world. Jeeyoon, thank you for who you are and all that you have to done to create a vibrant learning community of young people. We are all better because of the time we have spent with you. Best wishes to you for what comes next in your life.

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traces remain the wooden bookSeed to Harvest: The Wooden Book, a touring book project where the people and communities write the pages, launched its Boston-area tour from Emerson’s Elma Lewis Center in April. Seed to Harvest: The Wooden Book is the first in a series of books that will travel throughout the United States and 14 U.S. territories collecting stories in the form of memories that will serve as medicine for its readers. In collaboration with Arts Emerson artist-in-residence, Toshi Reagon’s Parable Path Boston, the Traces/Remain ensemble is inviting people in communities to join them on a Sower’s journey that uses memories as medicine. You may submit your original content in response to one of four narrative prompts. The prompts include reflections on personal connections with trees, to memories of what you are ready to pass onto others for the purpose of healing, to what are you planting and what will you sow. Original poems, essays, short stories, articles, drawings, paintings, music, etc. may be submitted. We encourage all Emersonians to consider submitting their work. Entries may be made via email at seedtoharvestentries@gmail.com and more information can be found at artsemerson.org under programs.
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Title IX in black lettering on blue backgroundAccess, Equity, & Title IX
During the 2020-2021 academic year, Access, Equity, & Title IX (AET) received and evaluated 110 reports, 80 of which involved prohibited conduct under the College’s Power-Based Interpersonal Violence Policy. Reports involved a wide range of behaviors, including sexual harassment, sexual assault, stalking, and relationship violence. AET authorized two requests for a formal resolution processes (investigation and adjudication) and implemented supportive measures in response to 21 reports, either at the request of students or based on an assessment by AET staff. These measures were singular or a combination of measures, including but not limited to No Contact Orders; Stay Away Directives; requests for academic, residential, or workplace modifications; policy reminders; and targeted inquiries for safety assessment.

BIAS

Identity-Based Harm (Bias)
This academic year, we received 39 reports of identity-based harm, a significant reduction in the number of reports received last year (62). The classroom continues to be where a majority of harm is occurring. Experiences of harm related to ethnicity/culture, race, and gender identity/expression continue to be the most reported, as well as an increase in the number of experience of harm related to disability. Over the summer months the Social Justice Center will be in conversation with Academic Affairs, Campus Life, and Human Resources regarding additional options for reporting experiences of bias, microaggressions, and identity-based harm that will allow for direct reporting to the areas noted above while also maintaining an option of anonymity for those who report. This revised system will allow Academic Affairs, Campus Life, and Human Resources to monitor, track, and respond to experiences within their areas of the College. The Social Justice Center will continue to provide support and advocacy for those impacted by identity-based harm.

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Summer Exploration

 

Decarcerating Disability by Liat Ben-MosheDecarcerating Disability by Liat Ben-Moshe. Liat Ben-Moshe provides case studies that show how prison abolition is not an unattainable goal but rather a reality, and how it plays out in different arenas of incarceration—antipsychiatry, the field of intellectual disabilities, and the fight against the prison-industrial complex. Her analysis of lived experience, history, and culture charts a way out of a failing system of incarceration.
https://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/decarcerating-disabilityWe Do This 'Til We Free Us by Mariame KabaWe Do This ‘Til We Free Us: Abolitionist Organizing and Transforming Justice by Mariame Kaba. What if social transformation and liberation isn’t about waiting for someone else to come along and save us? What if ordinary people have the power to collectively free ourselves? In this timely collection of essays and interviews, Mariame Kaba reflects on the deep work of abolition and transformative political struggle.

https://www.haymarketbooks.org/books/1664-we-do-this-til-we-free-us

Sorrowland by Rivers SolomonSorrowland by Rivers Solomon. A genre-bending work of Gothic fiction. Here, monsters aren’t just individuals, but entire nations. It is a searing, seminal book that marks the arrival of a bold, unignorable voice in American fiction.
https://us.macmillan.com/books/9780374266776

Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals by Alexis Pauline GumbsUndrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals. Undrowned is a book-length meditation for the entire human species, based on the subversive and transformative lessons of marine mammals. Alexis Pauline Gumbs has spent hundreds of hours watching our aquatic cousins. She has found them to be queer, fierce, protective of each other, complex, shaped by conflict, and struggling to survive the extractive and militarized conditions humans have imposed on the ocean. Employing a brilliant mix of poetic sensibility, naturalist observation, and Black feminist insights, she translates their submerged wisdom to reveal what they might teach us. The result is a powerful work of creative nonfiction that produces not a specific agenda but an unfolding space for wonder and questioning.
https://www.akpress.org/undrowned.html

Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Asco wequassunnúmmis Netompaûog (Hello, My Friends, in the language of the Narragansett People)

On October 12, the College will observe both Indigenous Peoples’ Day and Columbus Day. Holding these observances simultaneously in our consciousness requires some mental gymnastics, especially for those of us who understand the deeply problematic history of the United States in relation to Native people. To observe Indigenous Peoples’ Day absent a commitment to examining the status of those very people serves as a performative nod to the existence of Native people without concern for the issues facing Native people.

In the United States, Native people represent approximately two percent of the population. They are a diverse community of people with cultural norms that are expressed in a variety of ways. There are more than 550 tribes that have obtained federal recognition, which is supposed to support the sovereignty and self-determination of tribes as independent nations. There are many tribal communities with state recognition as well as communities who persist absent recognition from any government entities.

Sincerely,Wind Dancer (Sylvia, member of the Narragansett Nation)

Below Are Some Issues Affecting Native People in the United States

Education
Native students represent less than 1% of the students in the U.S., yet the dropout rate for these students is twice the national average, more than any other racial group. This dropout rate is often related to insufficient school funding in Native communities and the treatment of Native students in schools in predominately white communities. Only 17% of Native students continue their education after high school. The percentage of students who identify as “American Indian/Alaska Native” at Emerson is 0.1%.

Health Disparities
The life expectancy for Native people in the U.S. is 5.5 years less than the national average. According to the Indian Health Services, not only do Native people die at higher rates than people of other races, but they are disproportionately affected by diabetes, liver disease, homicide, and suicide. Tribes in the U.S. are currently disproportionately affected by COVD-19.

Land Disputes and Tribal Resources
Conflicts over tribal land began before the founding of the United States and continue today. Land disputes between tribes, states, and the federal government are often motivated by private interests in the natural resources on or near tribal land. Tribal lands have been exploited for economic gain and have threatened these areas with climate change effects. Tribes have fought in federal courts to retain their sovereign land rights, to preserve sacred lands and burial grounds, and to protect the environment for the generation to come.

Violence Against Native Women (Content Warning)
Native women are subject to violence at alarming rates. According to Indian Law Resource Center, “More than 4 in 5 Native women have experienced violence, and more than 1 in 2 have experienced sexual violence.” Department of Justice data suggests that 80% of the physical abuse and sexual assaults experienced by Native women are perpetrated by non-Native people. Throughout Canada and the U.S., a disproportionate number of Native women, including two-spirit and trans women, go missing or are murdered.

Loss of Native Language
Most Native people in the U.S. speak English. According to the Indigenous Language Institute, only 175 out of more than 300 native languages remain today. Many tribes are working to retain their native language and have launched language reclamation projects to help their communities keep their languages alive. It is predicted that without action to salvage the remaining languages, about 20 will be left by 2050. The founding director of the National Museum of the American Indian said, “Language is central to cultural identity. It is the code containing the subtleties and secrets of cultural life.”

Voting Rights
Although Native people have the right to vote, they are often unable to exercise that right due to the lack of accessible polling places in their areas. Additionally, many Native people on reservations are unable to register to vote because reservations don’t always use standard street addresses, which leads to their voting applications being rejected. Absent voting abilities, the interests of Native communities go unaddressed.

How You Can Support Native Communities

  • Take time to learn about indigenous history. Learn about the real history of Native people in the U.S. Find out what the real story of Thanksgiving is. You will be surprised and may think of your Thanksgiving gathering in a very different way.
  • Learn about the lives of Native communities through an indigenous lens. The history of Native people is often presented through the lens ofcolonizers, ignoring indigenous perspectives and experiences. Support Native people in claiming their right to tell their own stories.
  • Celebrate Native culture respectfully. Understand that cultural appropriation is a form of theft of culture and identity. Mascots and Halloween costumes are disrespectful and hurtful. If you value indigenous culture, find and buy goods from indigenous businesses, artists, and designers.
  • Support organizations advocating for Native communities. There are a number of organizations doing comprehensive advocacy work for indigenous communities. The National Indian Education Association and the National Indian Health Board are working in areas where inequities and inequality are most felt. The National Congress of American Indians does policy and advocacy work, focusing on collecting data to better serve indigenous populations.
  • Support the needs of your local tribes. The best way to have a meaningful impact is to let local tribes determine where your advocacy and activism is most helpful. For information about tribes in your area, please visit: https://500nations.com/500_Tribes.asp

UPDATES – SEPTEMBER 24, 2020

Dear Members of the Emerson Community,

This community update was written before yesterday’s ruling by Attorney General, Daniel Cameron, regarding the indictment of officers involved in the shooting and death of Breonna Taylor. In many ways, the content of much of this newsletter feels out of sync with this moment and what some members of the Emerson Community may be feeling or needing in this moment. Regretfully, there is no measure of consolation that I can offer to sufficiently address the pain that some of us are experiencing today.

I don’t know all of what happened in Breonna Taylor’s apartment that night. We may never know.

What I do know is that Breonna Taylor was not a suspect of a crime. She was an EMT who was working to save the lives of people during a pandemic.

What I do know is that she was sleeping in her apartment when all hell broke loose resulting in six shots being fired into her body.

What I do know is that she is one of a long list of unarmed Black people who have been killed as a result of state sanctioned violence.

What I do know is that I am grieving for her, her family, communities of color, and those of us who don’t have the privilege of safety while we sleep, run, drive or even breathe.

Today, I will grieve. Tomorrow, I will continue to work for change.

– Sylvia

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The Social Justice Center has a number of new programs that are available to the Emerson Community.

Panic & Patience Podcast – Building Community Through Art, Education, and Social Justice

The Panic & Patience Podcast series is hosted by Jae Williams, Director of Special Projects in the Social Justice Center. This series highlights the work of artists, educators, entrepreneurs, athletes, and community leaders as they explore issues affecting marginalized communities, and how we as leaders can create space and support efforts of change. “This is a space where Black and Brown folks can see themselves and their experiences reflected all of their inherit brilliance, fullness, and power,” said Sylvia Spears, Vice President for Equity & Social Justice. This series is anchored in an understanding that this work is an urgent ever-changing process of dismantling social constructs, unconscious bias, and systematic oppression, while also working to build for a future that encourages cultural humility, inclusion, and community growth. Panic & Patience is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts. Season One is available at Panic & Patience on Youtube. Feel free to check out Jae’s personal Panic & Patience website: https://bit.ly/ourpanicandpatience

 
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Radical Guide for Social Justice
A collection of texts, videos, podcasts, and other multimodal materials gathered by members of the Social Justice Center as we work to deepen our individual knowledge and collective practice. We share this collection for those who are also interested in doing their own work for social justice. These topics provide an entry point for further exploration into social justice, anti-oppression, liberation, and organizing movements. As you expand your interest in any particular area, we encourage you to take an intersectional approach by exploring other topics as well. Visit https://guides.library.emerson.edu/radical
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Healing & Advocacy

We’re still available and can connect via email, phone, and through video calls! Some additional ways to connect are though:

Trauma Informed Yoga
Focused on listening to your body.
Wednesdays from 6-7 PM EST on Zoom
Register at: https://tinyurl.com/Y67j6RN0

Support Group
A space for folks to gather who have experienced PBIV.
For more information or to join, email advocacy@emerson.edu

What We Grow: An Intentional Practice Community
This Practice Community is an intentional 8 week-long space focused on growing self-accountability in our own lives through relationships and cultivating a beginning understanding of transformative justice. This group is inspired by the article ‘Dreaming Accountability’ by Mia Mingus, her work, and the work of BATJC, Just Practice, and many, many other femme, trans, and gender expansive communities of color who have long been rooting into practices of community accountability. For more information or to join, email advocacy@emerson.edu

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A Book Club Won’t Save Us: Study, Act, Reflect, Repeat
What does principled struggle mean? More importantly, why does it matter? Join Samantha Ivery, Director of Diversity & Equity Initiatives in the Social Justice Center, in a 4-week series to begin a praxis of “study, act, reflect, repeat.” Participants will meet weekly for a month to:
  • Take personal responsibility for increasing our own awareness and knowledge base of societal norms linked to systemic oppression;
  • Develop critical thinking muscles to integrate dissonant themes into practice;
  • Build a repertoire of reflective practices;
  • Leave motivated to repeat.
SERIES #1
Black Lives, Native Lands, White Worlds: A History of Slavery in New England (Jared Ross Hardesty)
October 6, 13, 20, 27 – AFTERNOON 12-1PM
October 6, 13, 20, 27 – EVENING 5-6PM
 
SERIES #2
See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love (Valarie Kaur)
November 10, 17 & December 1, 8 – AFTERNOON 12-1PM
November 10, 17 & December 1, 8 – EVENING 5-6PM
 
Registration: Click the links above for the dates and time slot of your choosing. Please contact samantha_ivery@emerson.edu for questions or more details.
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What we have been reading and thinking about…

The Four Parts of Accountability: How To Give A Genuine Apology Part 1
How To Give A Genuine Apology Part 2: The Apology – The What and The How
Mia Mingus is a writer, educator and organizer for disability justice and transformative justice. Read at https://leavingevidence.wordpress.com

A Conversation About Healing Justice with Cara Page
Cara Page is a Black queer feminist cultural/memory worker, curator, and organizer. She joins Isha Weerasinghe, a senior policy analyst focused on mental health and works on CLASP’s (Center for Law and Social Policy) youth team. Watch at https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?v=1420060828384539
Connectfulness Podcast 010: Mending Racialized Trauma: A Body Centered Approach with Resmaa Menakem
Rebecca is joined by healer, author, and trauma specialist, Resmaa Menakem. Resmaa helps people, communities, and organizations find strength and healing that’s both holistic and resilient. Listen at https://connectfulness.com/episode/010-resmaa-menakem-racialized-trauma
The Deep by Rivers Solomon, with Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, and Jonathan Snipes
The water-breathing descendants of African slave women tossed overboard have built their own underwater society—and must reclaim the memories of their past to shape their future in this brilliantly imaginative novella inspired by the Hugo Award nominated song “The Deep” from Daveed Diggs’ rap group Clipping. More info at https://www.riverssolomon.com/thedeep

Racial Justice and Survivor Advocacy

Pandemic, Protests, and the Redistribution of Power

The past four months have been a period of significant upheaval for people around the world, including the very communities in which we live, learn, and work. adrienne maree brown describes the pandemic as a period of compression, with those who are able to withdrawing from the world and going into the deep isolation of self-quarantine. adrienne suggests this compression, for some of us, resulted in a return to our truest natures, rediscovering who and what we value most in our lives. Some would say we have experienced a kind of spontaneous attunement to our higher and better selves.

And yet, this compression occurred against the backdrop of indisputable evidence of oppression, direct and structural violence, and systemic racism. We sit in the midst of a schism—a gap between what our higher selves want for our communities and the reality of the lived experiences of those in the margins. The result of this schism is rupture—the kind that creates disorder, shifts consciousness, and activates a desire for reclamation.

It is a time of reclaiming our bodies, our rights, our agency, our land, and our self-determination. This reclamation is revealing itself globally in the form of history-making protest. People around the world have taken to the streets to assert the rights of Black and African American people to exist in their fullest humanity. Many have realized that “none of us are free until all of us are free.” At the same time, the #MeToo movement has been re-energized and survivors are calling for individual and institutional accountability. They are naming names and daring others to live up to their promise of safety, care, and justice.

The pandemic has created an opening for transformative change. Who among us will step into co-creating the future of our deepest desires?

 
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Racial Justice at Emerson

Echoing POWER’s 2019 social media posts, blackatemerson, a new Instagram account, posed this simple question: “How have professors, administrators, and other Emersonians treated you?” In under a week’s time, over 115 students and alums, a majority who identify as Black or people of color, posted stories of their experiences at Emerson. These testimonies recount ongoing microaggressions, casual uses of the N-word, the fetishization and critique of Black women and their bodies, isolation from consistently being the only Black person in a setting, not seeing themselves reflected meaningfully in curricula, and expressions of what it feels like to be both hypervisible and invisible at the same time.

 

I am also seeing faculty and staff colleagues of color who carry the weight of supporting students of color, while also being tapped to guide their departments on diversity. All of this is occurring while they struggle to make sense of the ongoing murder and horrible treatment of people who look just like them. The emotional burden carried by students, faculty, and staff of color is tremendous, and yet they continue to do their best work in the context of an environment that every day reminds them that it wasn’t built for them.

This week, I was surprised by a message forwarded to me by a colleague at another institution, a place where I worked for five years. The letter was signed by the Board of Trustees, the President, and all members of the senior leadership team. Here are some of the commitments that college is making in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and their community’s call for racial justice:

  • Express support for movements across the nation to put an end to systemic racism, and join with them to say that Black Lives Matter and racial injustice must end.
  • Make implicit bias training mandatory for all students, faculty, and staff with commitment from the Board of Trustees to participate in the training.
  • Expand curriculum in areas addressing racial injustice, systemic racism, and institutionalized inequality.
  • Provide funding for recruitment and retention of faculty and staff of color and for Employee Resource Networks (affinity groups) to strengthen recruitment and retention.
  • Institute comprehensive exit interviews with departing faculty and staff of color to identify common themes, and begin an enhanced retention plan.
  • Increase access to therapists of color and ensure they understand race-based trauma.
  • Review and update training and policies for campus police to ensure empathetic, equitable, and just standard operating procedures.
  • Expect to be held accountable for their actions and not to expect colleagues of color—who for too long have shouldered the hard work—to lead this alone.

Only time will tell what actually happens at that institution. Maybe their commitments will lead to real and lasting change and maybe they won’t. Nonetheless, I can’t help but ask what we are willing to do at Emerson to make it the place that represents the aspirations of our better selves?

 
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Where To Begin?

Begin at the beginning by reflecting on your own beliefs and actions. Examine the ways you might be benefitting from the status quo. Then assess the norms, policies, practices of your program, your organization, your department, your office,  or your division for the existence of anti-racist practices. If you don’t know what that is referring to or you don’t see any of these practices present, then you know where to begin your work. Here are some thought-provoking resources. Warning: These resources are pointed and direct. They will make you uncomfortable. If they don’t, then you aren’t really doing the work.

Scaffolded Anti-Racist Resources: http://bit.ly/ScaffoldedAntiRacistResources

A word for White People, in Two Parts by adrienne maree brown: http://adriennemareebrown.net

The Characteristics of White Supremacy Culture: https://www.showingupforracialjustice.org/white-supremacy-culture-characteristics.html

 
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Survivor Advocacy and the Importance of Knowing The Landscape

This past week, I have seen a surge in community concern and survivor advocacy about power-based interpersonal violence (PBIV) and the College’s response. Questions were raised about climate in student organizations and the College’s ability to hold student leaders accountable for harms they have caused.

Survivor advocacy is critically important. Not only does it play a role in community accountability, it also serves as a powerful catalyst for change. It was survivor advocacy that sparked the review of College processes in 2014, leading to a detailed Sexual Misconduct Policy, the hire of a full-time Title IX Coordinator, and the creation of the Healing & Advocacy Collective (formerly Violence Prevention & Response). It was survivor advocacy in 2019 that resulted in a Presidential Working Group charged with examining the “sexual misconduct ecosystem” among students. This current wave of advocacy has the potential to result in continued institutional as well as cultural change at Emerson.

As you push forward, please know that survivor advocacy is most effective when grounded in deep knowledge of the landscape, including what the laws and regulations allow and what they limit, what the scope of any relevant policies are, who has responsibility for what, as well as where power is exercised and by whom. As you work to address concerns, look for the root causes of issues by asking yourself why something is occurring. The first answer you come up with is never the root cause. Continue to ask why. Here are some places to start in understanding the landscape:

 
NINE THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT TITLE IX AT EMERSON COLLEGE
  1. Title IX is a federal regulation that prohibits sex discrimination in educational settings that receiving federal funding. Power-based interpersonal violence (PBIV) has historically fallen under these regulations. The regulations will change on August 14, 2020. See: New Title IX Regulations Overview at bit.ly/sjcmessages
  2. The College must comply with Title IX regulations or risk loss of federal funding. This funding comes largely in the form of financial aid. 
  3. The Sexual Misconduct Policy outlines how reports of PBIV will be addressed by Emerson. See: www.emerson.edu/policies/sexual-misconduct 
  4. The policy does not cover what occurs within student organizations or the student leadership processes. Student orgs are governed by SEAL (www.emerson.edu/seal) and student staff positions are under the purview of many departments across the College.
  5. In most instances, Emerson’s Title IX Coordinator will not launch an investigation into a report of PBIV without the participation and agreement of the person who has been affected by the harm.
  6. The Title IX Coordinator is only one of many people at Emerson responsible for the addressing reports of PBIV, the provision of accommodations or supports to people who have been harmed, and the implementation of actions to increase the safety of individuals or the campus community. See Eco-Map for Student-on-Student PBIV at https://bit.ly/sjcmessages,
    which details the range of individuals who may have an influence on what occurs in response to a report.
  7. The Title IX Coordinator does not conduct the actual investigation of reports of PBIV. Investigations are conducted by an internal or external investigator assigned to a case.
  8. The Title IX Coordinator does not have the authority to impose sanctions on any member of the community. Student sanctions are imposed by a Sanction Panel. Faculty and Staff sanctions are imposed in accordance with Appendix B of the SMP. See: www.emerson.edu/policies/sexual-misconduct#AppendixB
  9. Most importantly, despite efforts to develop trauma-informed processes and to conduct trauma-informed investigations, this process will never be sufficiently supportive of the people involved. It is a process dictated by federal regulations that was created in the likeness of a flawed legal system.
If you or someone you know has been affected by power-based interpersonal violence, please feel free to contact Greta or Melanie in the Healing & Advocacy Collective by email: advocate@emerson.edu

Juneteenth

"Juneteenth" written vertically

June 19 is recognized by many in the United States as Juneteenth, the date that marked the “end of slavery.” Although Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which legally freed those who were enslaved, in January of 1863, slavery continued in Texas until the arrival of the Union Army in Galveston, and an order from General Granger was issued, finally freeing those who were enslaved on June 19, 1865. This holiday, sometimes called “Freedom Day” or “Emancipation Day,” received its name by combining June and 19. African American communities continue to observe Juneteenth through celebrations and other festivities.

This year, Juneteenth is resonating deeply across the United States in far-reaching and new ways due to the wide-spread protests in reaction to the murders of Black people and the corresponding heightened calls for racial justice. People are calling out the ongoing and insidious nature of oppression, white supremacy, and injustice in our society. For some people, this is a moment of awakening to what has been the experience of the Black community throughout the history of the United States.

Today, the media is filled with renewed calls for the creation of a national holiday, the colors of liberation – black, red, and green – are lighting up bridges, and some businesses and universities have declared Juneteenth as a day of observance and reflection. These gestures may be symbolically meaningful, however, observances and reflection alone are woefully insufficient.

Echoing President Pelton’s recent piece, “America is on Fire,” I also pose the question:

What are you going to do?
– Sylvia Spears, VP for Equity & Social Justice

Updates – June 5, 2020 – George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Botham Jean, Tony McDade, Nina Pop

Names of a dozen victims of police brutality: "GEORGE FLOYD, AHMAUD ARBERY, BREONNA TAYLOR, TAMIR RICE, TRAYVON MARTIN, SANDRA BLAND, PHILANDO CASTILE, ERIC GARNER, FREDDIE GRAY, BOTHAM JEAN, TONY MCDADE, NINA POP"

Message from Sylvia Spears

This past week has been deeply challenging for me, my family, my communities of color, and for feeling people all over the globe. I am so weary. I have spent the past 25 years working to create more diverse, equitable, and socially just communities at colleges and universities. Yet, I can’t find real evidence of fundamental transformative change in education or in our society. As a result, this moment represents not only a crisis of consciousness for many but also existential crisis for me on so many levels.

I do find some comfort in the emails and social media contacts I have received unexpectedly from current and former students—some from Emerson, some from Dartmouth College, and even some from the University of Rhode Island. While I continue to question the meaning of my work in light of everything that is occurring, these students tell me that it has not been in vain.

They give me life, joy, and a reason to carry on.

— Sylvia

Title IX in black lettering on blue background

Implementation of New Department of Education Regulations

As many of you are aware, the Department of Education recently published new Title IX regulations. Emerson, along with other colleges and universities across the country, is required to bring its  policies and processes for the handling of reports of specific types of power-based interpersonal violence into compliance with these new regulations by August 14.

You may recall that the Presidential Working Group (PWG) recently published its draft report and recommended the establishment of a Standing Committee to facilitate communication and coordination of the College’s response to reports of power-based interpersonal violence and to assume responsibility for addressing recent changes to the Department of Education Title IX regulations. Due to the Department of Education’s deadline of August 14, for colleges and universities to come into compliance with new regulations, President Pelton and other senior leaders of the College have approved the immediate establishment of an ad hoc Steering Committee and relevant Sub-Committees to advance the work necessary to revise policies, establish new processes, and develop new trainings on Title IX specific to the new regulations. As such, Pam White, Associate Vice President & Title IX and Clery Act Coordinator, and I are convening a Steering Committee and corresponding Sub-Committees to assist us in advancing the necessary work to bring the College into compliance with these new regulations.

The Steering Committee and Sub-Committees members include students, union representation from both staff and faculty, academic deans, staff in areas of the College responsible for aspects of implementation of process changes as well as members of the College’s senior leadership team. These committees will focus very narrowly on implementing the new Department of Education Title IX regulations into the College’s Sexual Misconduct Policy. This work does not replace the work that is ongoing on the part of the Presidential Working Group, whose focus extended beyond the new regulations but was limited to the student ecosystem of sexual misconduct.

The Presidential Working Group

As many of you are aware, the Presidential Working Group (PWG) recently published its draft report, which includes their findings and recommendations. It is without question that the members of the PWG who participated in this academic year long endeavor did so out of a commitment to Emerson students and to the College. When the PWG launched, I shared with the Berkeley Beacon that the group was taking on an important and herculean task.

The PWG has opened a comment period on their draft report that closes today, June 5. As Vice President for Equity & Social Justice and supervisor for Title IX Access & Equity and the Healing & Advocacy Collective, I have thoughtfully considered the findings and recommendations of the PWG. I have drafted comments that I hope will provide some additional insights and context for this important body of work. Consistent with the public nature of the draft report from the Presidential Working Group, I will also make my comments on the report, as well as the comments submitted by Title IX Access & Equity and the Healing & Advocacy Collective, accessible to the Emerson Community. You can find these comments at: https://bit.ly/sjcresponses2020

In Solidarity

If you are currently looking for ways to engage in solidarity, we encourage you to use the many resources that people have already created explaining white supremacy, structural violence, and how to build an anti-racist practice. We ask that you begin to do your own work  to deepen your understanding in lieu of asking individuals and communities of color to do more labor to facilitate your learning or to give you guidance about what to do.

You can find some of these resources compiled at https:/linktr.ee/sjc, as well as watch the SJC LIVE videos on anti-racist practice and power, violence, and institutional betrayals at www.facebook.com/SocialJusticeCtr/videos or read the transcripts at https://bit.ly/sjclivetranscripts. In addition, we are regularly sharing information, links, and art reflecting the brilliance of our communities on Facebook (facebook.com/SocialJusticeCtr) and Instagram (instagram.com/socialjusticectr).
Emerson College
(617) 824-8528

 

Moving With Deep Intention and Care

Dear Members of the Emerson Community,

We are writing to you following this weekend of widespread mass protests and community organizing mourning the murders of George Floyd, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, David McAtee, Nina Pop, and so many individuals whose names do not make headlines in ways that reach collective consciousness. Each of these murders is devastating and now they are happening in the midst of an ongoing pandemic that is disproportionately harming Black, Brown, Indigenous, and immigrant communities.

The violence of racism, white supremacy, and other forms of systemic oppression is a continuing crisis that becomes hypervisible in public moments like this. In this accelerated time, we ask for patience and understanding as we move slowly, with deep intention, thoughtfulness, and care for the ways these ongoing and recent events are also close to home for us, and disorganize the cells of our bodies and the rhythms of our lives. In this intensified moment, we are working daily, both to address acute and persistent harm, as well as to celebrate the resiliency, dignity, and beauty of our communities.

In the days and weeks to come, we will continue to create ways to hold space with communities. We will share more information in the near future.

If you are currently looking for ways to engage in allyship and solidarity, we encourage you to use the many resources that people have already created explaining white supremacy, structural violence, and how to build an anti-racist practice instead of asking individuals and communities of color to do more labor to help create understanding or give guidance on what to do. You can find some of these resources compiled at https:/linktr.ee/sjc, as well as watch or read the transcripts of SJC LIVE on anti-racist practice and power, violence, and institutional betrayals. In addition, we are regularly sharing information, links, and art reflecting the brilliance of our communities on Facebook and instagram.

The Social Justice Center

Updates – April 27, 2020

And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows.

And the people began to think differently. And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.

And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.

Words by Kitty O’Meara, Art by April Nemeth, from Little Korboose at https://littlekorboose.com

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Greetings Everyone,

What an extraordinary period of time in which we are all living. Despite the rapid change and enormous upheaval that has occurred, we are somehow making our way through day-by-day. Students continue to learn, some in the safety of their homes and others as they still seek stability. Faculty continue to teach and finish up the semester after heroically transitioning their courses to an online delivery modality in a week’s time. Staff continue to get vital work done from home, while juggling their roles as parents, teachers to their children, and remote service providers.

Y algunos miembros del equipo de trabajo, aquellos que son a menudo pasados por alto, los que logran llegar diariamente a su trabajo para que el resto de nosotros podamos hacer lo que tenemos que hacer. Son ustedes y las personas como ustedes quienes nos sostienen y apoyan en nuestras vidas. Para aquellos que traen la comida, y aquellos que la preparan, los que mantienen nuestros edificios funcionando y los que nos mantienen unidos, sepan que los veo y los aprecio. Siempre han sido y serán esenciales, no por las tareas que realizan sino por quiénes son y las formas en que se mueven en el mundo. Con todo mi respeto, les deseo lo mejor a ustedes y a sus familias, y rezo para que estén protegidos de daños o perjuicios siempre, pero especialmente durante estos momentos difíciles. Ustedes están en mi corazón.

As we move forward, I hope we come out of this haze with more than stories of discomfort, financial hardship, and grief. Perhaps, we will grow into better versions of ourselves. Perhaps, we will learn what it truly means to live in the context of
community. Perhaps, as Rev. angel Kyodo Williams says, we will “tip the balance toward greater justice.”

In solidarity with you,
Sylvia

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Special Message to the Class of 2020
Your final semester at Emerson certainly has not been what you anticipated or wanted. Instead of marching into an arena for your commencement on May 10, your graduation festivities will most likely take place among a small group of family and friends, some of whom will join you by video. Please know that your accomplishments are so much greater than could ever be fully expressed through any commencement ceremony. Your graduation is really about all of the incredible ways you have grown during your time at Emerson, the deep and enduring relationships you have made, the challenges you have overcome, and the ways in which you have called Emerson to do better and be better. Graduation is often talked about as a time when graduates prepare to launch independently into the world. Yet, we are living through a period of time in which acknowledgment of our collective interdependence is most important. In the weeks and months to come, you will be called to balance the excitement of this new beginning with the uncertainty and complexity of this time. You have what it takes. You have the creativity, the talent, and the fortitude to make it through. You will write, and perform, and produce, and serve, and speak into the world, leading the rest of us into a new and better way to live. To the Class of 2020, I wish you peace and joy as you celebrate all that you have become.
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Social Justice Center Expanding its Reach
The Social Justice Center is not only doing work in the context of physical distance and social solidarity, we are also expanding our reach. We continue to provide support and advocacy to individuals and communities, work to advance equity and social justice, foster youth empowerment and creativity, and support the efforts of grassroots organizations who are coordinating  mutual aid projects in the Boston area. In addition, in response to the troubling uptick of xenophobic and discriminatory acts against members of the Asian and Asian American communities, we recently launched a new online platform called SJC LIVE for engaging with others about relevant social justice issues of the time.
Poster of Social Justice Center event called "Reflection and Action: Solidarity in Anti-Racist Practices"SJC LIVE is a virtual space for expanding our individual and collective capacities to manifest transformative social change. These Facebook Live conversations seek to center the people and work of racial justice movements, and call us into solidarity through anti-racist action. The videos from our five-part SJC LIVE series on anti-racist practices have been viewed by more than 2400 people, with our recent discussion on Abolition as an Anti-Racist Practice drawing more 600 viewers, including Emersonians out in the world as well as interested people with no connection to Emerson, from as far west as California and as far south as Florida. SJC LIVE is taking a brief hiatus but will be resuming soon with our next series focusing on Power, Violence, and Institutional Betrayals. In the meantime, all SJC LIVE videos can be found on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/SocialJusticeCtr/videos and accessible transcripts can be downloaded at https://bit.ly/sjclivetranscripts.
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Additional Ways We Continue to Work in Support of Community
Power-Based Interpersonal Violence, Title IX and Clery: What It All Means and Why It Matters
In an effort to provide members of the community with a deeper understanding of campus-based responses to power-based interpersonal violence, the Social Justice Center is developing an online toolkit. This resource will provide information to increase understanding of power-based interpersonal violence (PBIV) and the implications for prevention strategies; the range of systems responses including traditional and trauma-informed approaches; information about various campus-based and legal methods of reporting PBIV (criminal, civil, and Title IX processes); the legal foundations of Title IX and the Clery Act, and how these regulations dictate and impact how colleges respond; the breadth of national and local context, including shifting trends related to federal Title IX guidance; as well as the key features of Emerson’s Sexual Misconduct policies and processes. It is our hope that this toolkit will help dispel any misinformation, reduce confusion, answer some questions, and clarify the scope of institutional processes that are often unknown.

Healing & Advocacy Collective
In the midst of physical distancing, Healing & Advocacy continues to connect with people online. We are supporting survivors, offering virtual workshops and trauma-informed yoga, engaging via social media, and working on strengthening our infrastructure. If you would like to connect with Healing & Advocacy, feel free to email Greta and Melanie at advocate@emerson.edu.

Title IX Access & Equity
Title IX Access & Equity realizes the importance of being able to report incidents of interpersonal violence even when the College is operating remotely. Therefore, we continue to receive and respond to all reports of sex/gender-based harm consistent with the process outlined in the College’s Sexual Misconduct Policy. This includes providing work and classroom accommodations, protective measures, interim measures, formal investigations, and informal processes. We continue to oversee the College’s centralized review, investigation, and resolution process for all reports of interpersonal violence. In addition to responding to reports of harm, our office continues to provide monthly training workshops for all employees as well as workshops to various members of our community. We are also available to provide workshops on request. We are here when you need us. To connect with Pam or Ryan, please email titleix@emerson.edu.
Logo for "Elma Lewis Center: For Civic Engagement, Learning & Research" Elma Lewis Center
The Elma Lewis Center continues to build and expand community partnerships, including supporting the work of community organizers adapting to the challenges of social solidarity during physical distancing. The Elma Lewis Living Stories project is ongoing, including research, community members’ sharing stories for the archive, and the Call to Artists. Youth programs and projects continue after shifting to virtual sessions in mid-March. The Creative Community Network youth held workshops on mutual aid and connecting with Boston-area activists. Youth LEAD participants engaged in group learning about the community impact of COVID-19 on hyperlocal and national levels. And the Massachusetts Temporary Protection Status Youth Committee participated in multimedia workshops to create a YouTube Channel, an advocacy magazine, and hosted Boston Experimental Theatre documentary showings and talkbacks. Our campus partner Jumpstart transitioned from providing in-school support with preschool partners to supporting teachers and families with at-home learning. The ELC is also piloting virtual music and dance events for workers most impacted by COVID-19 to provide a space of joy in the midst of hardship. You can reach the ELC by email at elmalewiscenter@emerson.edu.
"Bias" written in black and white letteringIdentity-Based Harm (Bias) Incident Reports
This academic year, we received 62 reports of identity-based harm. Although this reflects a slight decrease in the number of reports from the 2018-2019 academic year (68) we must also take into context the mid-semester shift to online learning this spring. The classroom continues to be reported as the highest location in which incidents of identity-based harm occur. Experiences of harm related to ethnicity/culture, race, and gender identity/expression continue to be the most reported. As concerns about COVID-19 increased, there was an uptick in concerns about the targeting of Emersonians who identify as Asian or Asian American while out in the Boston area. Some of this information was shared outside of the identity-based harm reporting process. Aggregate data for the 2019-2020 academic year will be updated to reflect incidents received through the formal end of the semester.
Title IX in black lettering on blue backgroundTitle IX Access & Equity Reports
During the 2019-2020 academic year, 85 reports of violations of the College’s Sexual Misconduct Policy were received by Title IX Access & Equity. Reports include a range of behaviors and are not limited to sexual assault. Of the 85 reports, Title IX Access & Equity received requests from 6 reporting parties for investigations. All requests were moved forward for investigation. At the request of students or based on an assessment by the staff of Title IX Access & Equity, 20 instances of accommodations, interim measures or protective measures were issued. These measures include some singular or combination of protective measures, including but not limited to No Contact Orders, Stay Away Directives; Third-Party accommodations, and work and classroom accommodations.
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From Haymarket Books
The Pandemic is  Portal – A Conversation with Arundhati Roy, Hosted by Imani Perry
www.haymarketbooks.org/blogs/130-arundhati-roy-the-pandemic-is-a-portal

In her latest essay, “The Pandemic Is a Portal” — from her forthcoming Haymarket Books publication Azadi: Freedom. Fascism. Fiction. — Arundhati Roy writes:
What is this thing that has happened to us? It’s a virus, yes. In and of itself it holds no moral brief. But it is definitely more than a virus. Whatever it is, coronavirus has made the mighty kneel and brought the world to a halt like nothing else could. Our minds are still racing back and forth, longing for a return to “normality,” trying to stitch our future to our past and refusing to acknowledge the rupture. But the rupture exists. And in the midst of this terrible despair, it offers us a chance to rethink the doomsday machine we have built for ourselves.
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Social Justice Center

Emerson College
(617) 824-8528

Special Message – March 25, 2020

Dear Members of the Emerson Community,

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 was officially reported to the World Health Organization on December 31, reports of racist and xenophobic acts against Asians have increased substantially. Last month, Michelle Bachelet, the United Nation’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, said, “The coronavirus epidemic has set off a disturbing wave of prejudice against people of Chinese and East Asian ethnicity.” Since Michelle Bachelet’s remarks in late February, reports of xenophobia have continued to increase. Let’s be clear: COVID-19 is not a Chinese virus or a foreign virus. It is a virus deeply affecting communities around the world.

It is our collective responsibility to be in solidarity with people affected by racism and xenophobia. We must do more than appreciate the community messages sent by others or “like” social media posts that denounce racist acts. As one Emerson student said years ago, “I have the receipts…all of the messages that have been sent about racist acts and yet we are still experiencing racism.” We must interrupt racist and xenophobic acts wherever and whenever they occur.

We must also recognize and honor the people who are still working outside of their homes in support of all of us. Let us do what is necessary to truly be in solidarity with others. Let our actions speak more than our words.

Sincerely,

Sylvia
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Here are some of the things we can all do:
  1. Speak up if you hear racist or xenophobic remarks and let people know the behavior is not acceptable. Concerns about COVID-19 are no excuse for racist behavior. We will speak up and you can, too.
  2. Be an active bystander in solidarity with people from racialized and marginalized groups. If you can do so safely, interrupt harassment whether you witness it in person or online.
  3. Express dissent if you notice something in the news or on social media that reflects racism and xenophobia. Draft a letter to the editor, leave a comment, or report it. At Emerson, you can share your experience anonymously to the Social Justice Center at www.emerson.edu/bias. You can also report incidents targeting Asians to the Asian Pacific Planning & Policy Council through their online reporting center: www.asianpacificpolicyandplanningcouncil.org/stop-aapi-hate 
  4. Do your own work by deepening your knowledge of anti-racist practices. For a starting place, check out the Catalyst Project’s 15 Ways to Strengthen Anti-Racist Practices at: https://collectiveliberation.org/15-ways-to-strengthen-anti-racist-practice
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Friday, March 27, Noon
SJC Launches Facebook Live Series on Deepening Anti-Racist Practices
In support of community, the Social Justice Center will be hosting short live video talks about growing your own anti-racist practice. The talks will take place on Fridays at noon Eastern Time, with the first introductory talk launching this Friday, March 27, via Facebook Live at: www.facebook.com/socialjusticectr
 
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Poster for "Coronavirus: Wisdom from a Social Justice Lens"Coronavirus: Wisdom from a Social Justice Lens from Irresistible, formerly known as the Healing Justice Podcast.
“We’re bringing you medical information, invocations, grounding practices and dialogue from the March 7, 2020 webinar: COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Preparation for People Living with Chronic Illnesses in the United States. Unlike much of what we’re seeing in the media and public discussion, the virtual gathering—organized in a week’s time—centered the wisdom and life experiences of people who live with chronic illnesses and disability.”
Podcast and transcript at: https://irresistible.org/podcast/corona

"Haymarket books" written on rainbow background

Ten Free E-Books from Haymarket Books
“At Haymarket Books, our mission is to publish books for changing the world. Now more than ever, the need to do just that is at the forefront of our minds. … Many of us will be turning to books in search of much-needed relief from constant worry as well as the tools to fight for collective liberation.”
Available until April 1 at: https://www.haymarketbooks.org
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Social Justice Center

Emerson College
(617) 824-8528

Updates – March 16, 2020 – We are still available!

Physical spaciousness and social solidarity equals community care.

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We’re still here and available.

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Hello Good People.
Many of us are feeling like our lives have been flipped upside down. And just as we start to make sense of how the changing landscape will affect us, another wave of change comes. While it is certainly unsettling, this is what community care looks like today. It means caring enough about one another, even those we don’t know, that we are willing to make the necessary changes in our lives so we can all be well.

What if we shifted our consciousness to viewing our collective acts of change as the way we show care, compassion, and solidarity with one another? What if we re-framed social distancing as a way of contributing to social spaciousness in support of our communities? And what if we looked just beyond ourselves to those who are even more vulnerable? It might help us find moments of peace in knowing that we are doing the right thing for ourselves and for others.

– Sylvia

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Shout out to all of the people working hard to keep us safe, with special thanks to the maintenance and facilities staff for their extra work, to food services people for being extended family for so many students, and to #ecstudentunion for putting principles of mutual aid into practice by sharing information about campus resources, creating the free store exchange, and having people’s backs.

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Out of an abundance of caution and care for the Community, the staff of the Social Justice Center will be working in alternative ways that best support community health and well-being. We will continue to be available by phone, email, and online via Zoom, Skype, Facetime, WhatsApp, Google Hangout, etc. Please contact us if you’d like to connect. Follow us on Facebook/SocialJusticeCtr for some social justice nourishment.

Social Justice Center
Sylvia, Alayne, Samantha, & Jae
617-824-8528
sjc@emerson.edu

Healing and Advocacy
Melanie & Greta
617-824-8857
advocate@emerson.edu

Elma Lewis Center
Tam, Ashley, & Jeeyoon
617-824-8526
elmalewiscenter@emerson.edu

Title IX
Pam & Ryan
617-824-8999
titleix@emerson.edu

“…the things we should be doing in response to the coronavirus are really the things we should be doing as a way of being alive. They are about caring for ourselves and for each other, about building and supporting ongoing collective strategies of safety and wellness….”
— Susan Raffo, Coronavirus, Climate Change, and Community Care
www.susanraffo.com/blog