Category Archives: Community Updates

UPDATES – June 2021

Juneteenth FlagA Letter from Sylvia Spears on Juneteenth


Dear Members of the Emerson Community,

This Friday, Emerson will observe Juneteenth as an official holiday for the first time in the College’s history. Although Juneteenth may be new to some members of the Emerson Community, observances in the form of gatherings, celebrations, musical events, and religious services have been taking place in African American communities for a very long time. Against the backdrop of what is now being described as a time of racial reckoning in the United States, Juneteenth has come more fully into the public’s awareness. States, cities, businesses, organizations, and a host of colleges and universities have added Juneteenth to their official holiday calendars. And, yes, that is a good thing.

Yet, I continue to think about all of the historical and present-day complexities surrounding the holiday, especially our understandings of what abolition might truly mean. Juneteenth recognizes the day that the Union Army freed the last group of people in the United States who remained enslaved for two years beyond Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Think about what it means that the U.S. government made slavery illegal in 1863 but it continued in Texas for two more years. What does that reveal about our reliance on government-granted rights to ascribe value to our humanity, especially if those rights can be given, ignored, or taken back? What does it mean to celebrate the abolition of slavery while many continue to fight for the fundamental promises of abolition? Further, how might we think about abolition beyond the release of iron shackles to the transformation of the consciousness that allowed slavery to happen and still permeates our society today?

These questions cause me to ponder what it means for Juneteenth to slowly become mainstream. This year, more companies than ever will observe Juneteenth—Best Buy, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Google, J.C. Penny, J.P. Morgan, Master Card, the NFL, Nike, Target, Twitter, Workday, and many more. Is this a sign of growing commitment to racial justice? Just yesterday, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday. Are these groups and organizations committed to growing their anti-racist practices or is observance of Juneteenth a symbolic gesture driven by the politics of appearances and devoid of any effort to address the myriad of injustices that affect the lives and well-being of African American and Black communities? These are the questions that weigh on my heart as I also honor the ancestors who fought for freedom.

Today, I wonder how we, at Emerson, might meaningfully observe Juneteenth in light of the long arc of history in which “freedom is a constant struggle.” For me, Juneteenth cannot solely be a time for celebration. It must also serve as an act of resistance. It is my hope that we will all choose to reflect, to learn, and to act in ways that help us to realize true abolition and liberation for African American and Black communities, along with all other communities who are affected by oppression.

Juneteenth Resources: https://websites.emerson.edu/juneteenth-resources

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Mural by artist Wesley Cabral in Hayes Valley featuring a portrait of Gabriella Momah

Deepening Our Disability Justice Practice

On April 6, Access: Student Disability Union, Emerson’s first affiliated student organization for disabled students, informed the Emerson Community of the Access Advocacy Project (linktr.ee/AccessSDU). In their materials, the group called upon the College “to do the hard, but important work of making itself more equitable to disabled students and community members.” In addition to sharing an Action Plan for Disability Equity as a starting point for change, Access: Student Disability Union noted that “…anti-ableism work requires a communal, continuous effort….” The staff of the Social Justice Center extend gratitude to Access: Student Disability Union for their call to our community to make the College more accessible and equitable for students and community members with disabilities.

We pledge to work with sincerity and sustained commitment to deepen our understanding of disability justice, to address instances of ableism within our practices and at Emerson, and to work toward true liberatory access for members of our community. To this end, the Social Justice Center had entered into a more in-depth study of disability justice and will be working to realign our practices accordingly. Please know that changes in our practices will be deliberately considered and a work in progress.

We invite the Emerson Community to join us in this important work. For resources related to Disability Justice, please visit the SJC’s Radical Guide for Social Justice at https://guides.library.emerson.edu/radical. The selected materials center the experiences and perspectives of people within the disability community.

“I want to say unequivocally that disabled people are everywhere. We are one of the largest oppressed groups on the planet. We are part of political movements, even if you don’t know or don’t acknowledge that we are. No matter what community you’re working with, you are working with disabled people. “ Mia Mingus – Longmore Lecture
https://longmoreinstitute.sfsu.edu/mia-mingus-longmore-lecture-video-now-available

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Elma Lewis Center
As part of the refinement of the College’s strategic goals in 2012, Emerson sought to increase its engagement in communities within the Boston area. At that time, a new center was created as an administrative hub for some of this work. This new center was named after Elma Lewis, an Emerson alumnae ’43, who was arts educator and the founder of the National Center of Afro-American Artists and The Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts. With permission of Miss Lewis’s family, Emerson’s new center was named the Elma Lewis Center for Civic Engagement, Learning, and Research (ELC).

Over the past several years, we have noted that the language that describes this body of work has shifted away from the nomenclature of civic engagement, and moved to a more community-based language and practice. In keeping with this shift, we are updating the name of the ELC to the Elma Lewis Center for Community Engagement (ELCCE). The scope work of the Center remains the same and we will continue to support all of the ways in which community engagement, cross-community learning, and community-centered research pratices occur. Please check out what is happening at the ELCCE at https://www.emerson.edu/social-justice-center/elma-lewis-center.

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Summer Exploration

10 Laws with East Forest - Bayo AkomolafeTen Laws Podcast with East Forest, #112 with Bayo Akomolafe: Uncovering Bones

https://ten-laws-with-east-forest.simplecast.com/episodes/bayo-akomolafe-uncovering-bones-the-invitation-being-made-112 and where podcasts are available

Bayo Akomolafe is globally recognized for his poetic, unconventional, counterintuitive, and indigenous take on global crisis, civic action, activism and social change. He is an international speaker, poet, and activist for a radical paradigm shift in consciousness and current ways of living. His readings of ‘knowledge’, ‘development’, ‘progress’ and ‘truth’ as Eurocentric metanarratives led him and his wife, Ej to develop the first International Workshop on Alternative Research Paradigms and Indigenous Knowledge Promotion (WARP, 2011). Bayo has authored two books, We Will Tell Our Own Story! and These Wilds Beyond our Fences: Letters to My Daughter on Humanity’s Search for Home.

A Third University is Possible by la papersonA Third University Is Possible by la paperson

Uncovering the decolonizing ghost in the colonizing machine. Drawing parallels to Third Cinema and Black filmmaking assemblages, A Third University Is Possible ultimately presents new ways of using language to develop a framework for hotwiring university “machines” to the practical work of decolonization.
www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/a-third-university-is-possible

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Finding Our Way Season 2Finding Our Way Podcast, Season 2

Finding Our Way is conversation between Prentis and activists, artists and leaders to discuss how to realize the world we want through our own healing and transformation. This isn’t a podcast about answers. 

Hosted by Prentis Hemphill where podcasts are available.

[Image Description: A wider horizontal bar of blue with white text, “617-824-8528. sjc@emerson.edu. Facebook/SocialJusticeCtr. www.emerson.edu/social-justice-center.”]

Emerson College
(617) 824-8528
www.facebook/SocialJusticeCtr

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

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

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

 

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

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

Updates – January 29, 2020

A Message for the Prophets, Truth Tellers, Advocates, Activists, and Organizers Among Us

Cartoon with two people saying, "How to survive the end of the world"This week, I had a chance to listen to the new podcast episode from How to Survive the End of the World: Learning from the Apocalypse with Grace, Rigor, and Curiosity, released by adrienne maree brown and Autumn Brown. These formidable sisters produce a powerful series that is actually not about the apocalyptic nature of our current worldly experience. Instead it explores the end of the world as a shift in the way we understand the present.

The new episode, “It’s Hard Out Here for a Prophet,” featuring Reverend angel Kyodo Williams and Lama Rod Owens, really spoke to me. In this episode, Reverend angel talks about prophetic praxis, or the practice of telling the truth of these times. She skillfully reframes the notion of prophets from the deified who speak into the future to those of us who speak to what is happening right now. Lama Rod notes that, in this sense, he, too, is a prophet as a truth teller. He also reminds us that the prophets of the past got stoned to death, hence the episode’s title, “It’s Hard Out Here for a Prophet.”

The power of Lama Rod’s comments fell hard on me in the days following the nation’s annual celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Despite the fact that history has made Dr. King’s ideas more palatable to the masses, the reality is that he spoke the discomforting truth of his time. His commentary on racism, white supremacy, militarization, and capitalism were perceived as a threat to the status quo. These same ideas fifty years later continue to be viewed as extreme and disruptive, even among those who view themselves as liberal.

Reverend angel astutely reminds us that while some of us are working to reveal the truth of this time, others are working to “hold the veil down.” Her words remind me of the arduous nature of social justice work and the depth of resistance there is to the truth that prophets tell. I certainly don’t claim to be a prophet, but I know in speaking truth I, too, might get “stoned,” silenced, ostracized, and accused of colluding. The resistance is real and Lama Rod is right. It is hard out here.

So, how do we continue to speak truth in the face of those who don’t want the truth unveiled? How do we hold onto the truth of these time regardless of the resistance and the risks? How do we persevere when systemic change seems so far out of reach?  Sadly, I don’t have any answers to these questions.

The only thing I know for sure is that we must continue to give voice, we must continue to speak the truth of these times, and we must continue to engage in the prophetic praxis to which Reverend angel refers.

To all of the prophets, truth tellers, advocates, activists, and organizers, your work is not in vain and your voices are not lost in the wind.  Your truth-telling travels across time and space to other likeminded people, bringing light into darkness so that others will know that they are not alone. And standing on the shoulders of imaginaries, like Octavia Butler, you, my friends, are speaking truth into a new future.

“The time for radical liberation is now.” — Reverend angel Kyodo Williams

Notes: Reverend angel Kyodo Williams is a writer, activist, and ordained Zen priest. She is author of Being Black: Zen and the Art of Living with Fearlessness and Grace (2000), and co-author of Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation (2016). Lama Rod Owens is an author, activist, and authorized Lama (Buddhist Teacher) in the Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism and is considered one of the leaders of his generation of Buddhist teachers. He is co-author of Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation.

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"Bias" written in black and white letteringBias and Identity-Based Harm

Since the Bias Incident Response process was developed in 2015, the Social Justice Center has heard from community members of more than 180 experiences of bias, micro-aggression, and identity-based harm. These are personal and collective stories of deep hurt for individuals in our community, and also include incidents like those that occurred on campus over the past two weeks.

Can you imagine what it might feel like to wake up to anti-Semitic or racist graffiti written all over your neighborhood or on the front door of your home? This is what happened at Emerson last week. Can you imagine how scary it might feel to know that your community, your cultural or religious group, has been targeted? This is what happened here last week. Can you imagine how it might feel to have your sense of safety and belonging shaken? This is what happened last week.

While there are certainly members of the community who may be most impacted, I would hope that all of us are deeply affected by what has happened. In so many ways, this is our neighborhood and the members of our community have been hurt. In the face of these incidents, how might we not only oppose those who seek to unsettle and cause hurt, but restore our community and become our better selves?

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Community-Centered Grants 2020

The Elma Lewis Center is pleased to announce the Spring 2020 project awards for the Community-Centered Grants for social justice work that highlight community-based knowledge, needs, and aspirations. Among the 14 applications, grants were awarded to four projects:

  • Mother Mercy’s Call to Create (C2C), a 10-month immersion pilot project to develop and document the creative process of a small cohort of creatives of color. Awardee: Johnette Marie Ellis, founder of Mother Mercy and Emerson MFA alum.
  • Generational Narratives, a project between EmersonWRITES high school students and their chosen elders exploring social justice issues and legacies of both oppression and strength. Awardee: Mary Kovaleski Byrnes, Emerson faculty and EmersonWRITES curriculum director.
  • Listening Tour of Community Leaders holding space for the construction of peace in present day Colombia using Theater of the Oppressed approaches and interviews with arts organizers in collaboration with ReconectandoLa Familia Ayara, and Otra Escuela, based in Bogotá. Awardee: Kate Wand, Emerson MFA graduate student.
  • Reclaim Puerto Rico, showcasing their first theater play, Las 5 Mujeres de Caguax, a multigenerational Boricua herstory of patriarchy and colonization survival, as well as La casa de abuela, an interactive multimedia art installation that consists of a traditional Puerto Rican grandmother’s home in the countryside. Awardee: Michelle Falcón Fontánez, Emerson MFA graduate student and documentary filmmaker.
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What Inspires Us…
In addition to How to Survive the End of the World, here are other texts we have been exploring.
“Overcoming disability. Overcoming is a peculiar and puzzling concept. It means transcending, disavowing, rising above, conquering. Joy or grief overcome us. An army overcomes it’s enemy. Whoopi Goldberg overcomes dyslexia… overcoming mystifies me…that concept requires dominating, subsiding, defeating something.” – Eli Clare
Cover of book "Politics of Trauma"The Politics of Trauma by Staci K. Haines
“Transformation gives us more choice and agency, while helping us to ask and answer the deep questions of creating meaning and navigating life. It allows us to develop more trust, coordination, and love. We can be with ourselves and others with more presence and attention. It helps us build the skills that trauma and oppression did not teach us – and to use those skills toward equity, interdependence, and a radically different relationship to the planet. It is transformation that sustains over time.” – Staci K. Haines
Emerson College
(617) 824-8528

 

Updates – November 21, 2019

Welcome New Staff

Ryan Milligan, Deputy Title IX Coordinator & Investigator
Photo of Ryan MulliganWe are pleased to announce that Ryan Milligan will join the Emerson community as the new Deputy Title IX Coordinator & Investigator beginning January 6, 2020. We wish to extend our sincere gratitude to the Emerson students, staff, and faculty who were engaged and provided feedback during this search process.

Ryan joins Emerson after serving in the Office of Equal Opportunity at Tufts University where he was the lead Title IX investigator. Prior to Tufts, Ryan spent nearly 10 years as an attorney for the U.S. Department of Education with  the Office for Civil Rights, addressing issues related to all forms of discrimination including sexual misconduct.

In addition to his deep investigative experience in Title IX and his commitment to trauma-informed practices, Ryan brings a background in initiating university-wide partnerships and initiatives to address climate concerns in athletics, fraternity and sorority life, student groups, and study abroad programs. He is also skilled in policy review and the development of training programs for campus communities. In the role of Deputy Title IX Coordinator and Investigator, Ryan will assist with the coordination, response, investigation, and resolution of reports of violations of the College’s Title IX policies.

Please join the Social Justice Center in welcoming Ryan to the community this January.
Jae Williams, Director of Special Projects
Photo of Jae Williams
We are also excited to share that Jae Williams, Emerson ’08 and ’16, has joined the Social Justice Center as Director of Special Projects. Jae brings a range of talents to this position including expertise as a content strategist, previous experience launching and growing social action efforts, and a deep commitment to supporting access to education and the arts for communities who are often marginalized.Most recently, Jae served as affiliated faculty in Communication Studies where he taught digital storytelling, argument and advocacy, and public affairs. He also has substantial professional experience in content creation and strategic communications, having served as founder and CEO of Culture Key Agency, where he worked with a range of social action organizations as they developed their social media and marketing strategies. Jae is also the founder and executive director of Forever Ink Foundation, an organization created to support Boston area community members in their exploration of creative experiences through the visual arts. The organization’s programs include the Forever Ink Mentoring program, the Reel Life Experience, and the Celebration of the Arts Red Carpet Experience. Among other roles, Jae previously served as Director of Marketing and Content Strategy for the Toronto based company OneClass, and as Associate Director of Content Strategy at Emerson.We are thrilled to have Jae join the Social Justice Center. In his role as Director of Special Projects, Jae will be responsible for moving select SJC projects from ideation to implementation. He will also work in collaboration with the Elma Lewis Center to deepen relationships and partnerships that advance material change in the Boston community. Please join us in welcoming Jae back to Emerson.
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Community-Centered Grant Application Deadline December 5, 2019
The Elma Lewis Center invites students, staff, faculty, and off-campus community members working with social justice projects or courses to apply for a Community-Centered Grant. This grant is intended to support partnerships rooted in authentic relationships and trust that center community-based knowledge, needs, and aspirations. For more information contact elmalewiscenter@emerson.edu.
 
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Freedom Friday
Caring for yourself is an act of resistance.
Friday, December 6, noon, Common Ground, 120 Boylston Street, 10th Floor
Coloring books are not just for kids. Coloring can reduce stress, stimulate creativity, and foster mindfulness. Come color and leave with supplies to develop your own relaxation practices.
Poster advertising "Freedom Fridays"
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Logo of "Jumpstart: Children first"
Jumpstart provides children with the resources and education necessary to enter kindergarten prepared. Jumpstart Corps Members work with a team of their peers from Emerson to provide two weekly sessions to a classroom in the greater Boston area, as well as providing additional assistance to the teachers in their classroom. For more information contact taylor.gourdeau@jstart.org or stop by the Elma Lewis Center at 148 Boylston St.
Emerson College
(617) 824-8528
Facebook/SocialJusticeCtr

Updates – September 4, 2019

A Message from Sylvia Spears, Vice President for Equity & Social Justice
 

Welcome back Emerson students and faculty, and greetings to new members of the Emerson Community. I offer a special shout-out to Emerson’s staff who have been plugging away all summer with just a week or two of reprieve.

As the fall semester gets underway, I am struck by the throngs of students hanging out in front of the Little Building, a spot once barricaded with scaffolding. I am also energized by the buzz on Boylston St. and delight in the joyous reunions that occur during the 18 second walk signal across Boylston and Tremont. There is something special about that crossing; it reminds me of all the directions from which we have come to be here in this place and in this moment to learn, work, and create.

This is a time of significant transition for all of us. New students hope to find their way, those of us who are returning (or never left) try to settle back into a routine, and all of us feel the pangs of summer’s waning. The sun is setting earlier. Soon, the crisp fall winds will start to dance through the air.

And we begin again.

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New Social Justice Center Events 
 

The Social Justice Center is pleased to announce our Fall 2019 series of events and programs. See the full poster of events below. Gatherings range from Community jam sessions and art events in the new Elma Lewis Center space (148 Boylston St.) to our new Freedom Fridays program beginning this Friday, September 6.

Freedom Friday, September 6, noon @ Common Ground, 120 Boylston St. 10th floor
Grow Some Roots: The transition from summer to fall can leave us feeling unsteady. As the temperature drops and the winds begin to swirl, take a moment to plant your own seeds and grow greater rootedness. Leave with your own potted plant to add to your living space.

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Title IX UpdateTitle IX in black lettering on blue background
 
As many of you are aware, the Office of Title IX Access and Equity has been searching for a new Deputy Title IX Coordinator & Investigator. Although the College retains a number of external investigators who continue to conduct Title IX investigations for Emerson, we also seek to have a Title IX Investigator on staff. Our search processes last year were unsuccessful. In an effort to expand the recruitment of viable candidates, we have hired a  firm to assist us with this important search. They have been actively recruiting candidates on our behalf during the summer and we expect to be able to fill this position soon.
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"Bias" written in black and white letteringIdentity-based Harm (Bias, Micro-aggressions, and Structural Oppression)

In 2016, in response to student concerns, the Social Justice Center (formerly the Division of Diversity & Inclusion) developed the Bias Response Program in an effort to provide a central location for reporting incidents of bias. This summer, SJC  staff revisited the program to assess its alignment with our current foundational values. In addition, we sought to clarify the purpose, the scope, and the authority of the program.

Our new approach to identity-based harm (bias, micro-aggressions, and structural oppression) seeks to affirm the lives, experiences, and resilience of people and communities who are most marginalized, while also acknowledging that interpersonal harm in the form of bias, micro-aggressions, and structural oppression continues to occur, even in the places where we should feel most accepted and validated.

For information on identity-based harm or how to share your experience, please visit www.emerson.edu/bias.

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Community Centered Projects and Courses 
Are you a student, staff, or faculty member interested in developing community-centered projects or courses that are built on authentic relationships? The Social Justice Center invites you to a workshop about practices that do this within a social justice frame. Deep experience welcomed. No prior experience necessary. Light lunch provided.
October 30, 12:00 – 1:30, ELC, 148 Boylston St.
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Social Justice Center – Fall 2019
 
Freedom Fridays
Caring for yourself is an act of resistance.Freedom Friday, September 6, noon
Common Ground, 120 Boylston St. 10th floor
Grow Some Roots
The transition from summer to fall can leave us feeling unsteady. As the temperature drops and the winds begin to swirl, take a moment to plant your own seeds and grow greater rootedness. Leave with your own potted plant to add to your living space
Wednesday, September 18, 4-7pm
ELC, 148 Boylston St.
Music. Poetry. Healing. Organizing.
Storytelling and performances centering the wisdom of Boston-area youth sharing their journeys as artists, organizers, and activists. Join us for music, poetry, and conversation on race, immigration, and identity, as well as personal and collective healing. Featured artists: Angelina Botticelli, Thays Figueiredo, Gabriela Barroso, and Andrine Pierresaint.Freedom Friday, October 4, noon
Common Ground, 120 Boylston St. 10th floor
Got Game?
Cultures around the globe have traditions that bring their communities together. Playing games creates space for building community and growing skills. Make new connections, play some games, and have fun.
Thursday, October 17, 4-7pm
Common Ground, 120 Boylston St. 10th floor
Screen Printing for Activists
Activists and communities have long used screen printing to raise awareness in order to create change. Learn the basics of screen printing and leave with your own self-made resistance art, or create something for mutual aid, survival, and mobilization. No experience necessary.

Freedom Friday, November 1, noon
Bordy Auditorium, 216 Tremont Street
Slow Your Roll With Meditative Yoga
Yoga is about more than a physical practice in a crowded and steamy studio. Meditative yoga brings peace of body and mind, and renewed energy. Come find inner peace through a mindfully led meditative yoga practice.

 

Wednesday, November 20, 4-7pm
ELC, 148 Boylston St.
Truth to Power Jam Session
Bring yourself, bring your instrument, and join us in a celebration of Boston-area musicians from the African Diaspora as they speak truth to power through music and spoken word.

Freedom Friday, December 6, noon
Common Ground, 120 Boylston St. 10th floor
Color Outside the Lines
Coloring books are not just for kids. Coloring can reduce stress, stimulate creativity, and foster mindfulness. Come color and leave with supplies to develop your own relaxation practices.
Emerson College
(617) 824-8528

 

Updates – April 30, 2019

A Message from Sylvia Spears, Vice President for Equity & Social Justice

I have come to recognize the month of April as a time when tensions rise, student resilience wanes, and the hurts that have been held silently all year spill over into the community. What occurs is not related to workload stressors or the amount of GRIT students demonstrate. It is about the cumulative impact of daily conditions that slowly eat away at students’ sense of agency and their ability to maintain a sense of control over their lives and their well-being. What we have seen in the last weeks of this semester is about much more than a single incident or even individual acts by members of our community. This moment is about the impact of structures and systems that remain invisible to most of us and yet have an impact on all of us. It is a reflection of what is in the air that we breathe. For some of us, the air is toxic. Simply put, students have reached their human limits.

So now what? Do we turn our eyes away from students’ concerns out of our own anger, hurt, or shame? Do we reject the validity of students’ pain because we don’t like the way the message was delivered? Or do we sit in the discomfort of it all and work to right the real wrongs? I suppose one could argue that any of these responses is appropriate but only the last one will move us forward and toward a more reconciled and compassionate community.

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Poster for "Mapping the Margins of RePresentation at Emerson"

Mapping the Margins of RePresentation at Emerson: A Response to Students’ Call

The Social Justice Center recently released Mapping the Margins of RePresentation at Emerson: A Response to Students’ Call. Through the analysis of existing institutional data, this Social Justice Center study reveals disproportionate representation of specific student demographic groups in Emerson service or program interaction based on their representation in the Emerson community, showing systemic roots of students’ experiences of marginalization. These findings suggest that specific phenomena exist that may be having an adverse impact on specific student communities. 

Although the study did not seek to determine causal or correlational relationships, it is our hope that this book will serve as a catalyst for the Emerson community to examine what may be causing disproportionate representation and to create substantive change for students who are most impacted. In Mapping the Margins of RePresentation, you will find information about why we did this project, who was involved, how we approached our work, and what we found, situated in the context of national data, Black Feminist Theory, Transformative Justice, Critical Trans Politics, Abolition, and Decolonization Theory that reflects a broader structural context. “We hope that this work honors students’ lived experiences,” said Sylvia Spears, Vice President for Equity & Social Justice. “The implications of these findings are significant. We encourage members of the community to read the book, sit with its impact, do your own work, and move toward ways of doing things that create the possibility of freedom and liberation for everyone.” Limited copies of the book may be available by contacting sjc@emerson.edu.

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Bias Incident Reports: Annual Update"Bias" written in black and white lettering

This academic year, we received 48 reports of incidents of bias, which reflects a drop in the number of reports from the 2017-2018 academic year (68). There was a slight decrease in the number of bias incident reports received from students and a slight increase in the number of reports submitted by staff and faculty.

Faculty continue to be most reported as individuals engaging in bias. Bias incidents related to ethnicity/culture, race, and gender identity/expression continue to be the most reported types of bias. In the past two weeks, there has been a significant uptick in the number of bias incident reports received. Aggregate data for the 2018-2019 academic year will be updated to reflect bias incidents received through Commencement.

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Emerson 360 Community Climate Survey logoThe Emerson360: Community Climate Student Survey, which focuses on student perceptions of general campus climate dimensions as well as topics related to power-based interpersonal violence, was administered during the fall semester. The survey had a 9% response rate, which is significantly lower than the response rate for the 2014 survey (32%). The following is a high-level summary of the findings from this year’s Emerson360: Student Survey.

The highest positive score (94%) was in response to the statement, “Diversity and inclusion are important values to me.” Other high positive scores were in the bystander intervention dimensions, with 83% of participants responding positively to the statement, “I would report senior leadership, staff, or faculty who engage in power-based interpersonal violence;” 80% responding positively to the statement, “I would speak up to other students who make inappropriate or hurtful comments or gestures;” 78% responding positively to the statement, “I can recognize signs of power-based interpersonal violence;” and 74% responding positively to the statement, “I would report others who engage in power-based interpersonal violence.”

Of greatest significance this year is the drop in the percentage of overall positive scores in comparison to the 2014 survey. The overall percentage of positive scores dropped from 64% in 2014 to 53% in 2018. The lowest positive scores were related to statements regarding bystander attitudes. Scores related to fair treatment dropped from 70% positive in 2014 to 56% positive in 2018. In addition, knowledge of Title IX polices dropped from 66% positive response in 2014 to 59% in 2018. In relation to on-campus locations, 12% of student survey participants responded “yes” to the question, “Has anyone ever displayed behavior that made you feel afraid for your personal safety, feel fear, or alter your daily activities?” 5% of participants indicated being in a relationship with someone who tried to control them, and 17% of survey participants indicated that someone had made unwelcome sexual advances toward them or unwelcome requests for sex.

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The Elma Lewis Center Relocates to New Space at 148 Boylston Street

The Social Justice Center recently celebrated the upcoming relocation of the Elma Lewis Center to a new street level space at 148 Boylston St. The celebration, primarily for Boston area community groups, was standing room only for the entirety of the 3-hour event with an estimated 150 people in attendance. Local community members, some Emerson staff and faculty, security guards, and students filled the space. Local spoken word artists, singers, and other performers brought energy and joy to the event. We are pleased to share that some friends, former students, and family members of Elma Lewis ’43, were also in attendance — Barry and Sandra Gaither, Sandi Bagley, Larry Blumstack, and Kafi Meadows (Elma Lewis’s great niece) and her daughter. We expect to host another open house in the early fall semester next year.

Collage of photos of students socializing with one another

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Title IX UpdateTitle IX in black lettering on blue background

During the 2018-2019 academic year, 77 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 77 reports, Title IX Access & Equity received requests from 8 reporting parties for investigations. All requests were moved forward for investigation. At the request of students or based on the College’s own assessment, 21 instances of accommodations, interim measures or protective measures were issued. These measures include some singular or combination of interim suspensions, No Contact Orders, Stay Away Directives, housing accommodations, and classroom accommodations.

The search for a Deputy Title IX Coordinator/Investigator continues. To date, 31 applicants have been received, 10 candidates have been considered, and 4 have been invited to participate in first-round interviews. No candidates have progressed to on-campus interviews. Despite advertisement in national outlets and active recruitment, we have not identified candidates with sufficient Title IX investigation experience.

Social Justice Center
Emerson College
(617) 824-8528