Here are what I see as the key steps to creating an environment on campus where students can “cross borders” and reach a place of genuine understanding and connection. I believe these principles are relevant to any classes or other on-campus forums aimed at fostering inclusion and positive cross-group relationships; I hope instructors for other courses also consider how to incorporate some of these principles into their work.
Art-making, like any other activity can be contemplative, with a mindful disposition. I have been working with mixed-medium painting that layers narratives and invites a first person journey deep into my experiences. From those inner journeys, I am able to gather insights about self in relation to other, privileges, ways in which our life experiences shape our understanding of oppression, resistance, justice, and liberation.
If you haven’t heard: it has been a challenging year to inhabit a Black body as social media and cyber-activism have allowed us to witness the ongoing assaults against Black bodies on American streets, in parks, in the aisles of big-box stores, during traffic stops and in an array of public and private spaces.
Deep listening is a contemplative practice that assists us with dropping our habitual story lines so that we can genuinely engage with other people and the world around us. It is a practice of listening with an open mind, suspending our tendency to immediately label, analyze, critique, or organize the information that we are receiving. It is a more experiential approach to hearing in which we don’t just hear what the voice is saying, we hear the quality of the voice itself.
Oppression causes deep wounds, both individually and collectively. It results in deeply held grief and sadness, much of which emerges when we discuss issues of oppression in social justice classrooms. Part of healing as individuals and as communities is to acknowledge those wounds and begin to heal that grief. Doing so will take time and many different paths, but pretending that it isn't present in our classrooms only makes it stronger.