April Fellows Blog
James Madison University
- What college/university is your alma mater? How did the institution instill or foster your current passion?I attended James Madison University, and I have the Social Work department as well as the Center for Multicultural Student Services to thank for fostering my passion for justice work. The Social Work department provided me with tangible skills for truly thinking and acting contextually when it comes in the injustice of the world. The department is also full of powerful, justice minded women that served as inspiring examples of what it looks like to live out a life of consciousness. CMSS housed an organization called D.E.E.P Impact, which I ended up being a part of sophomore-senior year. We were trained and facilitated programming that educated the student body on different facets of identity politics, including dialogues and workshops. This really helped me put my passion to practice, and allowed me to explore decentering myself as a white person and use my privilege to educate other white people.
- Share a fun fact about yourself!
I was born with no wisdom teeth!
- Name 1-2 societal issues that you are passionate about aiding and eradicating.
First and foremost racial inequity is the societal issue I am the most passionate about. There are so many pieces to this cycle of oppression, and I am focused on disrupting that in any way that I can. Particularly in helping people to face these issues in their own lives and workplaces. If we cannot name it and call it out, we can hardly fix it. A second societal issue would be gender bias. Again, a complex issue, but specifically young girls I have seen so impacted and hindered by this pressure they feel to look and act a certain way. I want to be helping women unlearn these harmful expectations.
- What is your current position? What projects/initiatives are you currently working on as a Fellow?
I am an Engagement fellow for James Madison University, working with Campus Compact. The biggest project I am working on right now is bringing PeaceJam to the Valley. Peacejam is an international organization whose mission statement is “to create young leaders committed to positive change in themselves, their communities, and the world through the inspiration of Nobel Peace Laureates who pass on spirit, skills, and wisdom they embody.”. I am also focused on bringing a Dialogue workshop student leaders in Virginia who want to learn basic skills for having difficult conversations in their groups and communities.
- Share an interesting, surprising, or touching story or moment that you have witnessed or experienced that fueled your inspiration and passion, either at your current position or in the past.
Before this fellowship, I was an AmeriCorps fellow in Boston working with middle school youth in an afterschool program. My first year I lead a book club
after school, and our book focused on the story of a black boy who was beaten by a police officer and a white boy who witnessed it. My group, at first, resisted the idea of a book club or talking about issues like racism, prejudice, and injustice. But as we went on, they became so moved and passionate, connecting the injustice to things they’ve experienced in their own communities. For their final project, they created a call to action video that included their own songs and posters, connecting the story to reality, and calling
all who see this video to action against racism and police brutality. They were so proud of it that they presented it into a competition, and won! I will never forget watching them grow into true activists, sharing their message to a room full of strangers so bravely. It was a moment that truly confirmed the power of this work.
- If you could have your dream career, what would it be?
Oh gosh, this is a tough one. Ideally, I would be running a camp for youth that was all about empowerment and activism. I would have classes for young girls, young people of color, young white people. And they would truly unlearn their socialized biases and prejudices and work to free themselves and others.
- There’s a child that sees a societal issue in their community and wants to help but doesn’t feel empowered to or know where to start. What would you tell them/how would you encourage them?
I would immediately become an accomplice to that child and their journey for justice. The first step to addressing an injustice is calling it out, and I would congratulate them for being brave enough to do that. I would then encourage them to do some research, likely there is a group in their community already focusing on this issue and could give them more information, or an avenue to act. That’s the biggest thing I have learned, is there is often so much going on in your own community that you wouldn’t know about if you did not look. Talk about this issue with as many people as you can. You will find the next step.