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Boston University News Service
Getting Into Good, Necessary Trouble.
Distinctively & Together.

August 2020.


On July 17th, Civil Rights leader and congressman John Robert Lewis joined the ancestors. Fifty-five years after Bloody Sunday, his body again made its way across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, again met by State Troopers who this time saluted him as an American hero.
 
For those of us striving to create a more just community, John Lewis’ life offers many essential and enduring lessons. Among them:
  1. Social change is a complex, iterative process. We like to speak about and frame change as if it is a simple and clearly defined path. It is not. Were change a path, we could most truthfully say it is almost always overgrown and muddy and messy such that getting through it is often exasperating and exhausting. Likewise, the path is also almost always maddeningly crooked. Changing systemic and oppressive structures is never straight forward. Sometimes you can hack and clear and push forward and emerge from all that clearing to find yourself at a rock ledge. So, you have to turn around and find another way. Iteration. Change is necessarily complex because what we are seeking to change has for a very long time been intertwined, enmeshed, and structurally fortified. Forgetting that can be devastating because it can deceive us into believing that our slow going is our fault, not the result of the complexity of the systems and structures we are attempting to unravel.
  2. Adapt. John Lewis began his life as an outsider-activist and ended his life as one of the most lauded leaders in the nation, and a man of exceptional influence. His move from working outside of a system to working inside of a system was tactical and intentional and in service of his motivating and guiding principle, which was to cause good, necessary trouble. This fluidity and adaptability were a tremendous strength and offer another critical lesson. Many of us come to the struggle with an outsider’s perspective. Yet, we collectively comprise Boston University. Each of us is an essential part of a larger whole. It is one thing to sit on the outside and agitate for change, demanding of others new outcomes. There is certainly usefulness in that position. But there is also, we can surmise from Lewis’ life, power in understanding our own agency in our own environs and seeking to also start right there, right now, wherever we are—whether in our sorority, in our club, in our faculty meeting, in our reading group, or in how one decides to show up as a manager.
  3. Showing up is showing up. Sometimes change-making requires bold and courageous gestures. Sometimes showing up requires nuanced, barely visible shifts. Our aggregated actions catalyze and create the change we seek. All of them. Together. Which is to say: everything we do matters. Everything you do here at BU and in your communities in service of justice matters, particularly if you do it in consultation and collaboration with others.
  4. Work towards progress, not perfection. Perfection is a myth. The notion of it in relation to social change isn’t rooted in historical evidence. Giving up this myth might allow us to work more freely and more enthusiastically towards progress.  
  5. Do not succumb to the tyranny of cynicism. John Lewis was born the son of sharecroppers and eulogized by Barack Obama, America’s first Black president. Along the way, he was met with profound disappointment—likely more than most of us will ever bear. Cynicism fuels disengagement and therefore, ultimately, serves the status quo. At the start of his trouble-making, Lewis marched for the right to vote. In 2020 we find voting rights dangerously threatened. Indeed, there was reason for him to despair. Yet at the end of his life, Lewis asked the New York Times to publish an Op-Ed on the day of his funeral. In it, he speaks especially optimistically to the youth of this country—but to all of us, really. In part he wrote:
 
“You must also study and learn the lessons of history because humanity has been involved in this soul-wrenching, existential struggle for a very long time. People on every continent have stood in your shoes, through decades and centuries before you. The truth does not change, and that is why the answers worked out long ago can help you find solutions to the challenges of our time. Continue to build union between movements stretching across the globe because we must put away our willingness to profit from the exploitation of others.
 
Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.” ~ John Robert Lewis (1940-2020)
 
In just the past month, we here at BU D&I have seen an extraordinary number of academic and administrative departments take up with some seriousness the question of becoming more anti-racist. They are interrogating curricula, long-held practices, hiring biases, and addressing departmental culture and climate among other issues.
 
Leaders and faculty and staff are uncertain about the way forward and how, exactly, to get there because it is necessarily a new, unknown way—and almost none of us have experienced a fully inclusive environment in our lifetimes. We are here to help. And the first thing we would say is: As we begin to reconvene as a community of learners with renewed focus on equity and justice, especially amid the heightened anxieties and pressures the global pandemic has provoked in so many of us, it is all the more important that we hold tight the ideal that John Lewis extols in his last wish for us, “…demonstrate the way of peace, the way of love…”.
 
The D&I Team.

BU D&I News

News
For the past year and a half, we've been working on our inaugural BU Diversity & Inclusion website. Over time, we'll continue to build out functionality, resources, events, and information. For now, we hope you spend some time looking around. You'll see a series of videos—some of which we have shared here, the Curated, Crowdsourced, Cultural Guide to Boston, BU's notable DEI history, a neighborhood guide, a list of programs and events, and ways to otherwise get engaged. Enjoy! And, let us know what you think via the feedback form, which you should easily find within the site.

We especially want to thank our design and process team leader, Laura Devine, and her colleagues in Marketing & Communications who worked so closely with us to develop the site. They were amazing. Huzzah, team! And, thank you!
Thriving in Boston Video Series
BU D&I's Thriving in Boston video series, shot and produced by Intercultural Productions, is now award-winning!

The series was submitted to the Telly Awards and received a Gold Award in the "D&I Video" category, and a Silver Award in the "University Promotional Video" category. We again want to thank Nancy Marrs for her leadership in helping bring these videos to fruition!
Programming
Throughout June, BU D&I held a number of online events, including community check-ins, solidarity gatherings, a University-wide day of engagement, and the COVID-19 series. The COVID-19 Series included the following topics:
  • Mental Health, Race, and COVID-19
  • COVID-19 and the LGBTQIA+ Experience
  • Social Class - Impacts and Considerations in Higher Education
  • COVID-19 and Living with Disabilities
  • Religious Practice, Spirituality, and COVID-19
The Series videos are archived here.
Day of Collective Engagement
On June 24th, Boston University stopped operations so that students, staff, faculty, and alumni could participate in a Day of Collective Engagement: Racism and Anti-racism, Our Realities and Our Roles. In just under two weeks, we developed a day that, we hope, attendees found enriching, invigorating, and impactful. The day began with opening remarks from the University's leadership and a plenary session on titled The History of Racism. The plenary was followed by a set of six concurrent sessions in the morning, lunchtime round table discussions, six additional concurrent sessions in the afternoon, a Town Hall with President Brown and Provost Morrison, and finally, a series of moderated debrief sessions. Sessions that are available for public viewing can be found here on the BU D&I website under Event Archives.

As you might imagine, any endeavor this large required all hands on deck. We owe a tremendous THANK YOU to our colleagues in Events & Conferences, LETS, MarCom, the Office of the President, Disability & Access Services, Alumni Affairs, and many others. We are also indebted to the faculty and staff and content experts who stepped up and in with us to ensure that the day went off without a hitch. 

Allies & Advocates in Action

Boston University—Everybody In!

In the wake of the recent occurrences of police brutality and racial violence across the country, the BU community came together from departments across all campuses to host a multitude of virtual events. These events allowed faculty, staff, students, and alumni to come together to support one another, and voice their opinions, experiences, and concerns about how our society deals with race and racism. A portion of all events, groups, and sessions that were held include:
  • What's Next: A Town Hall with Boston University's Black Community - UMOJA, BU's Black Student Union
  • A Conversation on Race and Policing - School of Public Health
  • MET Community Town Hall on Social Justice - MET Dean's Office
  • Coffee and Conversation: Minneapolis - Howard Thurman Center
  • Coping with Current Events: Support and Solidarity - Faculty & Staff Assistance Office
  • Collective Space for Community Solidarity - Diversity & Inclusion
  • How to Become a White Accomplice for Equity and Social Justice - BU Wheelock College of Education & Human Development
  • Faculty and Staff of Color Check-In - Diversity & Inclusion
  • Affinity Spaces for People of Color and White Allies - School of Social Work
  • BU All-Community Check-In - Diversity & Inclusion

BU Arts Initiative

BU Arts Initiative along with WBUR CitySpace and The ARTery recently hosted
Monumental Change: Addressing the Legacies of Systemic Racism in Public Art - a virtual event that looked at history and culture through art and monuments.

Notes from the Schools and Colleges
College of Communications

To help the BU community cope with racial violence in the US, COM Journalism professor Chris Daly, Chair Bill McKeen, and former Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Anne Donohue compiled a list of Resources on Race,Violence, and Journalism.
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College of Engineering

  • The College of Engineering has begun a new initiative called Engineering AntiRacism @BU (EAR@BU). The initiative has started off with virtual discussion groups for faculty and staff on How to be an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi.
  • On July 14th, Dean Lutchen participated in a panel session held by the University of Washington called Experiences of Black STEM in the Ivory: A Call to Disruptive Action. This two-day event was a space for participants from universities across the country to share their unique perspectives and experiences regarding the obstacles that Black scholars face in the STEM fields.
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Sargent College

The College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College has a new Diversity & Inclusion website

The new website houses Sargent College's diversity statement as well as diversity-related student groups, resources, recommended reading, events, research spotlights, news, and more!
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School of Hospitality Administration

Dean Arun Upneja is leading a multi-school endeavor to increase the number of people from historically underrepresented groups pursuing PhDs in Hospitality. The group is comprised of leaders from BU, U Penn, Purdue Northwest, and the University of South Carolina. They plan to host a two-day workshop in May 2021 meant to "...introduce approximately 40 URG student attendees to such topics as academic research in hospitality, how tenure works, and financing for doctoral programs."
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School of Public Health

The School of Public Health (SPH) held a two-part series on Race and Policing, which was sparked by the recent occurrences of police brutality. This series began on June 3rd with a conversation between BU faculty, staff, and students, and has been summarized here. On June 22nd, SPH's Public Health Post released a podcast called Policing Black Lives, which can be listened to on their website.

Conversations

Disability & Coronavirus

For the Deaf, Social Distancing Can Mean Social Isolation. Derrick Bryson Taylor. June 4, 2020. The New York Times. "Masks, enforced social distance and other public health measures intended to slow the spread of the Coronavirus pose unique challenges to the 37 million American adults with impaired hearing."

Chelsea, MA gets Hit Hard by COVID

How COVID-19 Swept Through a Dense Massachusetts City. Katie Lannan. WBUR. May 7, 2020. "North of Boston, the packed city of Chelsea has been hit hard by the coronavirus. Now, as the cases begin to level off, host Robin Young checks in with City Manager Tom Ambrosino." (audio)
Photos by Darlene DeVita, Chelsea, MA
Instagram: @peopleofchelsea
The Chelsea Collaborative is typically a place for concerned citizens to have their voices be heard, and to see the effects of their work be reflected in their community. Their stated mission is "to empower Chelsea residents to enhance the social and economic health of the community and its people; and to hold institutional decision-makers accountable to the community."

Since COVID has hit the city of Chelsea disproportionally hard, the Collaborative has shifted its duties and is now directly providing many goods and services to the city's minority and immigrant populations, who have been most affected by the disease. These goods and services include a food pantry, preventing displacement, increased COVID testing, financial support, and job creation.

The above images were provided to us by photographer and Chelsea resident, Darlene DeVita, who put her own The People of Chelsea Project on hold to document these efforts from the Chelsea Collaboration.

Remembering Congressman John Lewis

'Get in good trouble, necessary trouble': Rep. John Lewis in his own words. Joshua Bote. USA Today. July 18, 2020. "Remembering civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis. Arrested, jailed, and beaten for challenging Jim Crow laws, Lewis became a national figure in his early 20s... To honor his legacy, here are some of this most powerful quotes"

Selma Helped Define John Lewis’s Life. In Death, He Returned One Last Time. Rick Rojas. The New York Times. July 26, 2020. "The body of Mr. Lewis was taken across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where, in 1965, he helped guide hundreds of people marching for voting rights. They were attacked by state troopers wielding clubs and tear gas."

US Rep. John Lewis (Hon.’18) to 2018 Grads: Be Bold and Courageous. Joel Brown. BU Today. May 20, 2018. "2018 Commencement speaker Congressman John Lewis (Hon.’18) (D.-Ga.) urged BU graduates to 'get out there and vote like you’ve never voted before.' His address drew a standing ovation."
BU Productions

Happenings

BU Sustainability

Exploring Environmental Justice: How are Boston area leaders advancing healthy, equitable communities?
Tuesday, August 11 | 5:30-6:30 pm

Boston University Sustainability, in partnership with BU Student Government and the BUMC Climate Action Group, is hosting a virtual panel on environmental justice featuring local practitioners and organizers who can share their expertise and experience in fighting environmental racism.

Speakers will include:
Hajar Logan, Climate and Transit-Oriented Development Director at ACE
Kalila Barnett, Program Office of Climate Resilience at the Barr Foundation
Maria Belen Power, Associate Executive Director at Green Roots

Please register to receive the Zoom link.
For further details, please visit the EventBrite page.

Quips, Quotes, & Short Considerations


"Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble."
~John Lewis

 

 

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 Diversity & Inclusion
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