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Days of Reflection: Education for Racial Equity and Justice

Statement of Purpose

The Days of Reflection is an initiative intended for education and conversation necessary for moving our campus, community, region, state, nation, and world toward greater racial equity and justice.
Following up on the success of, and feedback from, our events in Fall 2016 and Spring 2017, we have scheduled longer sessions to allow for more conversation among participants. This also resulted from a recognition that conversations about race, ethnicity, and culture must be sustained and grown in a society which breeds racial illiteracy and cultural incompetence.

These much-needed events and the preparatory work for them were sponsored by the College’s Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion as part of its belief that "a commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice is essential in preparing engaged global citizens to lead lives enriched by critical thought, creativity, discovery, and the pursuit of academic excellence.”

Spring 2019: April 1-4, 2019

Key for Events

W = workshop
P = presentation with discussion/dialog
F = film screening with Q&A

1 = first steps
2 = deepening our understanding
3 = challenging ourselves

Event Descriptions

Monday, April 1st

Free Speech on Campus: Why Do We Care? (P, 2)

Monday, April 1st, 3 – 4:30 p.m. in the Knowles MPR

Panel: Tom Baker, Bette Bergeron, Priscilla Burke, Robin Collen, Daniel Lempert, Michael Popovic, Susan Novak, Oscar Sarmiento

What kinds of speech are considered free and protected—including on college campuses? This presentation will begin with a clarification of the basic tenets of the First Amendment. Then a number of students and faculty members will share a variety of responses regarding why they care and how they think about speech on campus. With this background information, participants will move into small groups and—with the assistance of student and faculty facilitators—consider and discuss particular scenarios regarding speech on campus.

Addressing Bias Incidents on Our Campus: Language, Race, and Other Identity-Related Issues (W, 1)

Monday, April 1st, 5 – 7 p.m. in the Knowles MPR

Presented by: Katie Agar and Laura Brown

This workshop was designed to raise awareness of DEI related issues on our campus, to help us understand our roles in fostering a welcoming and inclusive campus community, and to help participants understand and develop the necessary skills in addressing bias. Throughout the session, participants will learn about various bias incident categories, the impact of bias, and appropriate language and terminology, and they will be provided with a number of techniques which they can use to interrupt bias-related incidents when they encounter them.

A Brief History of Blackface in America (P, 1)

Monday, April 1st, 7 – 8 p.m. in the Knowles MPR (max 75 people)

Presented by: Jay Pecora A short history of blackface in America, a lecture with video.
Blackface in America has a terrible legacy yet inevitably every year someone smears their face with make-up and posts images of the event on social media. Citizens of this country need to be educated about blackface so that when images of it surface they can respond appropriately.


Tuesday, April 2nd

Suicide Prevention and Education Efforts in Akwesasne (W, 1)

Tuesday, April 2nd from 3 – 4 p.m. in the Knowles MPR (max 30 people)

Presented by: Chanel Cook and Gena Nelson

Conversation around behavioral health is often stigmatized for many people in different communities. Trauma, lack of resources, and distrust of professionals often compound this situation further. This is also the case for Indigenous communities. In this session, we will explore how special programs in Akwesasne (a neighboring indigenous community) address stigma toward mental health and substance abuse. These programs create drug- and alcohol-free community/family-oriented activities in order to establish for tribal community members by participating in culturally-appropriate prevention events. They also help community members to find resources regarding behavioral health professional intervention. Through activities and discussion in this session, we will learn to explore our own stigmas and find areas of strength for each of us, should we be struggling with mental health currently or in the future.

The Roots and Rise of Antisemitism (P, 1/2)

Tuesday, April 2nd from 5 – 6 p.m. in the Knowles MPR

Presented by: Michael Greenwald with Rivka Rocchio and Four College Hillel

This lecture defines antisemitism and its relationship to the other racial prejudices. In short, understanding the oppression of one group helps to explicate how systems of oppression function. By tracing the origins of antisemitism, the role of Christianity, and antisemitic memes, with a conclusion around how these oppressions exist within ourselves, students will learn to recognize prejudices and assumptions in themselves.

Wednesday, April 3rd

Cultural Anxiety: Past, Present, and Future (P/W, 3)

Wednesday, April 3rd, 3 – 4:30 p.m. in the Knowles MPR (max 75 people)

Presented by: Matt LaVine and Sheryl Scales

Racial anxiety is defined by the existence of increased levels of stress and emotion that people confront when we are interacting with people of races other than our own. In this session, we will introduce students to racial anxiety and cultural anxiety, let them know some of the history of issues caused by racial and cultural anxiety, show how this is manifesting itself in current events, analyze and interpret literature dealing with racial and cultural anxiety, and leave with some tools to feel optimistic about combatting such anxiety.

Woke Environmentalism: The Environmental Justice Movement as a Path to Racial Equity (P, 1)

Wednesday, April 3rd from 5 – 6:30 p.m. in the Knowles MPR

Presented by: Ashley Reis

This program will introduce the concept of environmental injustice and will focus on environmental racism to highlight the disproportionate burdens of environmental harm that come to bear on minority communities. It will provide an historical overview of the environmental justice movement in the U.S., wherein activists advocate for justice in the arenas of environmental health policies, neighborhood zoning, labor conditions, and more. Ultimately, this presentation will illuminate how environmental harm always comes to bear on human lives, and that environmental challenges are inseparable from social justice issues and concerns.

Film Screening of Cornhusk followed by a Q&A with Filmmaker, Jaiden Mitchell (F, 1)

Wednesday, April 3rd from 7 – 8 p.m. in the Knowles MPR

Presented by: Jaiden Mitchell with Tewentenhawihtha Aldrich

In this film, a Native American family moves back to the reservation and recovers a doll buried on church grounds. Soon after strange demonic things start happening as the family discovers that the doll is from the Residential School era, exposing all the horrors that the voiceless Native children have experienced. Cornhusk has been featured at various film festivals such as California’s American Indian & Indigenous Film Festival 2018, Kanatsiohareke Haudenosaunee Film Festival 2018, American Indian Film Festival 2018. – Genre: Horror.

Thursday, April 4th

The Radicalism of Martin Luther King, Jr. (P, 2)

Thursday, April 4th from 3 – 4 p.m. in the Knowles MPR

Presented by: Kevin Smith

The recent use of Martin Luther Kings, Jr.’s image and words to sell Chevy Trucks in a
Super Bowl ad suggests that King’s activism fit the model of centrism that has come to embody the American ideal of liberal reform. This presentation makes use of historical argument, news video, and audio recordings of King’s speeches to show, instead, that King was no moderate, and that, time and time again, his activities and words reflected one the most radical visions of American society since the peak of Socialist influence in the U.S. during the early 20th century.

Alumni Panel: Being Part of the Potsdam Community as Someone with Marginalized Social Identities (P, 1)

Thursday, April 4th from 5 – 6:30 p.m. in the Knowles MPR

Panel: Vita Ayala '10, Evril Clayton Jr. '05, & Derrick Gidden '13

Four successful SUNY Potsdam alums talk about being part of the Potsdam community as somebody with marginalized social identities with the aim of (a) helping students to be as successful as possible when they have such social identities, (b) helping students to be the best allies they can be when they don’t have such social identities, and (c) helping faculty/staff think about what they need to do in order to make SUNY Potsdam as just and inclusive as possible