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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 – 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