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Rebuilding Foundations with Love: Reflection

meerajay's picture

This semester, like the past many semesters, has been one of racial turmoil on this campus. Incidents of racial profiling combined with the outward racism of some of our peers on the anonymous forum Yik Yak resulted in an emotional explosion from minority, and specifically black students, on campus. The week of this turmoil, following which the group BMC Coalition was formed to create racial change on campus, there was an SGA meeting in which certain students bravely spoke up about their experiences. They identified instances of surveillance and over-policing of people of color and the relative indifference of many of the white and nonblack people of color on campus in response. With this piece, Abby and I hoped to place some of these students’ quotes on direct display, where more members of campus could see them. Their words were already in the SGA meeting minutes for institutional memory, but we wanted to take them a step further.

As we picked and chose quotes from the minutes, what one student, Olivia Porte, said, stood out to us: “I think people in this room have a level of humanity, and they carry it. It’s rooted in love, and making a better place for everyone, making things safe for people of color.” Olivia’s words inspired us to juxtapose her quote with one from Friere’s The Pedagogy of the Oppressed, also about love and how it is the key to dialogue and rebuilding. This also inspired the title. Bryn Mawr is built on racial oppression, and what the BMC Coalition is doing, what the brave black students on campus are doing, is attempting to directly rebuild foundations from the bottom up but with love rather than violence and oppression.

 Doing this project led to so many powerful conversations as students were able to see a larger representation of the happenings around campus. Abby and I talked to many students who were deeply affected by those words and kept them active by having conversations framed around them. I believe that we accomplished what we wanted to with the project: dynamic conversation centered on change around these issues.

 Just doing a closer reading on this dialogue gave us a better understanding of the power that consciousness-raising could have in a space, its productivity. It also helped us see the negative impacts that surveillance could have within any and every institutional entity. Our peers’ words – and Friere’s – helped us see the direct connections between prisons and university, how these structures of racism are so affective throughout both. The enforcement of law and order is enacted similarly through both.