Campus Director of Equity and Diversity
A word from the Campus Director of Equity and Diversity about this issue of Amplified.
Welcome to the inaugural issue of Amplified, the official journal and newsletter of the Office of Equity and Diversity at WSU Vancouver.
I wanted to create an accessible publication that amplifies historically underrepresented voices, elevates inclusive spaces of equity, challenges systems of dominance, and promotes healing and love to affirm every human being. I wanted to develop a journal in which authors use poetry and prose to share their professional and personal lived experiences in ways that are genuine, creative, relatable, and aspirational.
Accordingly, during late summer 2017, I invited faculty, staff, administration, and community partners to submit articles with one or a combination of the following themes: intersections of identity and oppression, love as a form of social justice, community action and self-care, and coping with local/national/International tragedies. This inaugural issue of Amplified captures these themes with three honest, inspiring, and provocative pieces of literary nonfiction.
“Today I Rise” is a powerful story of tribulation, perseverance, and triumph written by community organizers, leaders, and partners: Sarah Chivers, Teresa Kirchner, Dana McKee, Ophelia Noble, Heather O’Shea, Nicole Perkins and Sarah Wilson. You may contact these authors via The Noble Foundation or via email: email@example.com.
“Speaking Your Names Because” is an honoring of humanity and envisioning of a just, unified society written by me, Obie Ford III, campus director of equity and diversity. You may contact me via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
“On the Need to Both Acknowledge and Reject Whiteness” is a reflective piece that explores and wrestles with whiteness as both a racial identity and a system of oppression, written by Renny Christopher, vice chancellor for academic affairs. You may contact her via email: email@example.com.
I hope these articles move you to visualize the possibilities of building inclusive community and motivate you in taking action to realize that vision. Thank you for reading the inaugural issue of Amplified.
Obie Ford III
Campus Director of Equity and Diversity
Today I Rise
by Sarah Chivers, Teresa Kirchner, Dana McKee, Ophelia Noble, Heather O'Shea, Nicole Perkins and Sarah Wilson
Today I rise from the ashes of generations past. Generations beaten to endure; beaten into submission; beaten into obedience by a system designed to ensure oppression would last. Would last generations …
Today I rise from the passion of generations past. Generations that instilled everlasting life, love, and unity through education, political activism, social responsibility to ensure generations would last. Would last generations …
Today I rise from the community that needs someone, to rise, from the bowels of racism and social oppression, from emotional desolation and economic devastation, to begin providing a bit of cultural education … Today I rise.
Today I rise: a black woman, a woman who is black, or maybe just a woman indicative of my RIGHT to the FREEDOM of choice, this freedom brought to me by many women rising from different races, cultures, nations, and lifestyles. But within this FREEDOM of choice … I choose to RISE.
Today I rise with the voices of the forgotten, abandoned, unliked, unwanted to take a stand alongside the righteous, ethical, and honorable. Realizing that life’s problems are solvable … Because we rise, TOGETHER.
Today I rise from the trauma of assault, PTSD, and anxiety caused by time spent in the military; today I rise from fear in a rigorous attempt to heal my triggers. It is my right to RISE and speak my truth, although the immediate response is abstruse …Yet, still I rise.
Today I rise from the pain of my family, taking a moment to speak a new narrative; a narrative of communal hope, compassion, and love. I spoke this to the wind and it came back in my womb as the mother who has the temperament to do what she needs to do ... I rise.
Today I rise from addiction and pain with an understanding of losses and gains; I rise from the feelings of being socially isolated; having my right to privacy continually violated. I rise as a member of a subjugated people; however, I rise to conquer it all ... today I rise.
Today I rise from the self-limiting thoughts; taking lessons from the past to gain the security and acceptance of challenges that life is wrought; I rise through ambition, while owning my flaws and all; I rise with the blessing from my Father God …
Today I rise from courage to educate and disempower the unjust, with the strength to heal and pull my community further. Today I rise as a part of the whole, with a singular vision of a community that is complete.
Today we rise together. Women strong, women proud, women united with our feet on the ground. TODAY WE RISE TOGETHER. ■
Speaking Your Names Because
by Obie Ford III
I speak your names to honor your lives,
to share your goodness both far and near.
I speak your names to acknowledge your lives,
and to affirm that you were here.
I speak your names, and many more
are worthy of being spoken.
“The dawning of a new day is near,” you say.
“Fix what is systemically broken.”
Kendra James, Yvette Smith, Laquan McDonald, and Brendon Glenn;
Samuel DuBose, Natasha McKenna, Ezell Ford, and Ronald Madison.
Trayvon, Tamir, Freddie, Sandra, and Philando;
Tee Tee, Jaquarrius, Chyna Doll, Sherrell, Ally, and Jojo.
Sean Bell, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, and Amadou Diallo;
Alton Sterling, Michael Brown, Tyre King, and Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow.
Fort Lauderdale, Oslo, Boston, Newtown, Roseburg, and San Bernadino;
Las Vegas, Mogadishu, Charleston, New York, Blacksburg, and Orlando.
I speak your names to amplify voices silenced by oppression,
to validate lived experiences of shame, erasure, and subjugation,
to empower targets to reject the face of marginalization,
and encourage allies to use advantage to fight exploitation.
How do we reconcile the trauma of our past,
and oppose perpetual states of rewind?
How do we see one another at last,
and resist the ease of being colorblind?
Proactive movement you instill and justice you provoke.
You challenge us to dismantle the status quo,
and embolden us to, "stay woke."
You teach conditions of the human experience,
and what it means to love and to heal.
I speak your names through action, words, and art,
I sit. I stand. I kneel.
I speak your names as a mural of hope,
to reflect freedom and re-envision all communities;
to serve, love, inspire, create, and elevate every human being,
because of our differences and multiple identities. ■
On the Need to Both Acknowledge and Reject Whiteness
by Renny Christopher
I'm a person of northern European descent, and, according to the racist ideology that has been developed, sustained, and promulgated over the past 525 years (I'm using 1492 as the start date, since it marks the beginning of the European colonial era), that makes me white.
I am framing the idea in this way because there is nothing at all natural or biological or inevitable about being white. Had I been born 600 years ago, I wouldn't have been white. I would have been Irish or Prussian or Saxon (there was no united Germany yet), but there wasn't an idea of a white race, because there wasn't yet anybody against whom northern European ethnic groups wanted to collectively define themselves.
Europeans defined themselves by ethnic or local or religious differences until their expansion into what they so parochially called the “new” world (it was new only to them, not to its indigenous inhabitants). After their encounter with indigenous peoples in the Americas and their raiding of sub-Saharan Africa to capture a workforce to employ in their “new” world, Europeans invented the concept of race slavery. (Previous forms of slavery had not been based on race). Europeans and their American descendants produced the concept of the white race to distinguish themselves from the races they defined as "lesser."
The main and most important point that I want to make is this: those of us who are white need to do two seemingly opposite things. First, we need to acknowledge that history has placed us into this category of whiteness and to acknowledge the privilege and advantage that identity has given us, and second, to reject the racial construct known as “whiteness” and begin working to dismantle it.
Modern concepts of race are both completely fictitious (there is no biological basis for race in the species Homo Sapiens Sapiens) and yet completely, devastatingly real in their effects. The idea of race is a social construct, but that social construct has possessed the power of law, the power of arms, and the power of influence for these last centuries. Because the idea of whiteness was developed in order to construct an ideological justification for colonialism, race-based slavery, and genocide, there is no “white” without “supremacy.”
The trick is to own the privilege we have been afforded by our “white” skin, while simultaneously rejecting identification with the corrosive idea of whiteness. Those of us who are constructed as white have what Ta-Nehisi Coates calls “the passive power of whiteness—that bloody heirloom which cannot ensure mastery of all events but can conjure a tailwind for most of them.” Those of us who are white have benefitted from that “bloody heirloom” whether we want to or not. We need to acknowledge that privilege. And then we need to start dismantling it in the name of equity and equality. If we do not, then we do nothing but prolong the bloodiness.
I can be proud of my Irish ancestors, themselves the victims of an ideology of ethnic supremacy, for making it out of the oppression of colonized Ireland and becoming part of the American experiment. I can even be proud of my German ancestors, who left the economic oppression they lived under and became part of the American experiment. I can be proud of these ancestors—always recognizing that they were immigrants to the United States and always remembering that whatever I say about immigration I say as the descendant of immigrants—without being proud of being “white.” To be “white” is to be part of an idea whose very basis is superiority and dominance over others.
This does not mean that I need to be ashamed of the color of my skin, which is quite a different thing. This does not mean I need to feel guilty about what my ancestors and others of previous generations did. It does mean that I need to be responsible for the content of my ideas, and of my actions. I need to refuse to align myself with the ideology of supremacy. I need to work against that ideology. I need to work for equity.
James Baldwin wrote:
White being, absolutely, a moral choice (for there are no white people), the crisis of leadership for those of us whose identity has been forged, or branded, as black is nothing new. We—who were not black before we got here, either, who were defined as black by the slave trade—have paid for the crisis of leadership in the white community for a very long time and have resoundingly, even when we face the worst about ourselves, survived and triumphed over it. (“On Being White...and Other Lies,” Essence, April 1984.)
Baldwin wrote that more than 30 years ago, and the moral leadership among white people that he calls for has not yet emerged. It is long past time. It is necessary to recognize Baldwin as a great American writer, not exclusively an African American writer, but an American writer to whom all of us should pay heed.
In that same essay Baldwin wrote: “Because they think they are white, they cannot allow themselves to be tormented by the suspicion that all men are brothers.” Although I would substitute “humans” for “men” and “siblings” for brothers, I call upon all of us who have been made “white” by history to consider those who have been made “black” and “brown” by history and to allow ourselves to be tormented by the idea that all of us are indeed siblings. White supremacy has tormented everyone whom it has defined as not white; we need it to torment us whom it has defined as white until we dismantle it. ■
Submit an article to Amplified!
Amplified is the official online journal and newsletter of the Office of Equity and Diversity at WSU Vancouver. Amplified publishes original poetry and prose that amplify historically underrepresented voices, elevate inclusive spaces of equity, challenge systems of dominance, and promote healing and love to affirm every human being.
Toward that end, Amplified invites submissions from internal and external constituencies, including WSU Vancouver faculty, staff, students, administration, community partners, and our neighbors near and far. You are welcome to await the next call for article submissions or submit an article anytime. Submit your article as a word document here.
Upcoming and Recent Events
Office of Equity & Diversity
- 4 – 6 p.m. Feb. 1, Dengerink Administration Building, Rooms 129/130 –Faculty and Staff of Color Community Reception. Come together in community, connection, and celebration. More details to come.
- Nov. 1 – 3 – 22nd Annual Faculty and Staff of Color Conference, Vancouver.
- Oct. 13 – WSU Vancouver Diversity Advisory Board Meeting
- Sept. 26 – Oct. 1 - 102nd Annual Meeting and Conference of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, Cincinnati.
Diversity Council and Collective for Social and Environmental Justice
- Nov. 15 – “American Outrage,” a film by Beth Gage and George Gage. Tells the story of two elderly Western Shoshone sisters who put up a heroic fight for their land rights and human rights. CSEJ Open Form co-sponsored by the First Nations Club.
- Nov. 13 – “Marie Equi: An American Radical for Social Justice,” talk by Michael Helquist, historian, journalist, editor and author of an award-winning book on Marie Equi. She was a Portland physician, openly lesbian, and women’s and workers’ rights advocate, who risked her career and life to champion peace and those without power in early 20th-century America.
- Nov. 8 – Festival of Lights, organized by WSU Vancouver International South Asian Community and sponsored by Diversity Council and ASWSUV.
- Oct. 27 – Diversity Council Retreat at Fort Vancouver, Vancouver.
Student Diversity Center
- Nov. 8 – Panel discussion, “Creating Space: Making our Classrooms and Campus Conscious of the Needs of Undocumented and ‘Dacamented’ Students.” CSEJ Open Forum co-sponsored by ASWSUV and the Student Diversity Center.
- Nov. 7 – LGBTQA Empowerment Conference.
- Oct. 24 – Challenging Ableism: An Intersectional Approach, co-sponsored by ASWSUV and WSU Vancouver.
Southwest Washington and Portland Metro
- 2 – 5 p.m. Dec. 9, Vancouver Housing Authority, Community Room, 2500 Main St. Vancouver – Photographic work by community members of South Kelso highlighting community problems needing urgent regional attention.
- 2018 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast: TBA
- 5 p.m. Feb. 20, Karl Miller Center, Portland State University, 615 SW Harrison St., Portland – Partners in Diversity - Say Hey!