Chinaka S. DomNwachukwu, Ph.D.
Social justice requires that we treat everyone fairly, respectfully, and equitably. We honor current professional practices and past/present leaders like, Gloria Ladson-Billings, Sonia Nieto, Rich Milner, and others who have devoted much of their work and energy on issues of diversity, equity and social justice. Even in 2019, we continue to address social justice where some feel that there is no place for it in today’s world. However, we need to continue to find ways to encourage our candidates to think critically, foster productive learning communities, and teach from a multicultural perspective. This section of the Preconference will focus on ways that EPPs have equipped education candidates with a mindset and commitment to teach and advocate for equity. This keynote speech addresses the challenges faced by those who advocate for social justice in today’s America and proposes ways EPPs can continue to prepare beginning teachers to undertake Social justice projects.
Dr. Thompson’s presentation was articulate, electrifying, and very relevant to the demands of the times in our nation today. Educational leaders were challenged to rise to the promise of working together to help shape a future generation of Americans who are able to move this nation beyond the contemporary culture of hate and intolerance to a culture hope and a united future. The mandate of social justice, he said, is more urgent in our time than it has ever been. Higher Education leaders must not settle with what seems to be acceptable and tolerable, they must move this nation to what we are capable of becoming by helping shape future leaders who are open minded and progressive in their thinking. Participants were sad that Dr. Thompson did not have more time to speak. They wanted to hear more, and they wanted copies of his presentation for future reference and use.
Our EKU McNair scholars love and appreciate your facilitated mask-making experience. And I emphasize “experience” over “workshop” because each time you present this exercise it seems each scholar comes always with a different “experience.” I have heard our scholars say the exercise is like guided meditation, allowing them to temporarily step away from the pressures of school to get centered on who they are as people, not necessarily students. In a similar vein, some scholars simply find the experience relaxing.
But I recall one particularly reflective scholar who came out of the exercise less than relaxed because she found herself reflecting hard on who she is, why she is who she is, and how it is that she participates in how others see her. She told me she had work to do in reshaping the way she wants to be seen, particularly by her family. She said she would continue to paint masks on her own until she was comfortable with the work she did, the mask she saw.
Others, myself included, have commented on how they appreciate the personal and historical stories Dr. Thompson shared while they are working on their masks, saying it helps them to remember that their identity encounters are real and not necessarily their own isolated personal experience; rather, their pleasant but particularly unpleasant identity encounters are social in nature and grounded in historical context.
And I remember at least two scholars who expressed a sincere thoughtfulness, even surprise, at how their painted masks turned out – wondering what it is about who they are that would have influenced such an unexpected depiction of their self-identity. One of these said he had just never thought about it before.
These are just summaries of some scholars’ experience who participated in the exercise presented by Dr. Thompson, but I think there is another indication of how engaging and powerful this exercise is.
I find it really interesting that when we post group photographs of our scholars holding their painted masks, other students who have not yet had the mask-painting experience are drawn to the photo and want to know what is going on. Inevitably, they say things like, “Wow! That’s cool!” or “When do I get to do that?” So even the group photos inspire keen interest and questions among student that haven’t even had the experience, making them look forward to their opportunity to participate.
Dr. Sherry Zylka
Dr. Sherwood Thompson was hired as a consultant by Big Sandy Community and Technical College (BSCTC) during the 2018 and 2019 academic years. His expertise in the field of diversity was beneficial to our effort to improve and promote diversity throughout all areas of our college. He conducted an assessment and surveys to gather information for recommendations to enhance diversity at BSCTC. Dr. Thompson also assisted us with our diversity plan that is required by the Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE). We were pleased with his consultant work and recommend him without reservation.