By Abby Dotterer || Contributing Writer
The “Day of Dialogue” on Wednesday is an-all day event which will strive to “continue to create and elicit community members to engage, not only in meaningful conversations towards increased inclusivity and equity on campus, but also in initiatives and activities to effect that change we want,” says Day of Dialogue Committee Co-Chairs, Professor Alexis Castor and Professor Jorge Mena-Ali.
In order to accomplish this goal, also “to recognize our diversity, our commonalities, and our relationships with one another,” according to the College’s website, there are several workshops being hosted on topics including “Gender and Identity Across Languages and Cultures,” “Guns in America,” and “Let’s Talk About Title IX.”
A major part of the Day is the Keynote Speaker. This Day of Dialogue’s is Nilaja Sun Gordon ‘96 who is an “actress and playwright who has used her singular talent to express her humanity, to bring people together, and to raise awareness of critical social issues,” says the College’s webpage on the Day. Gordon is the author of an Obie Award-Winning, one woman performance titled “No Child…” which ran off-Broadway from 2006 to 2007. This performance addresses issues challenged daily within the New York City Public School System including violence and race.
Other workshops throughout the day include “Beyond Bumper Stickers and Safety Pins: Be(com)ing an Effective Ally” which will examine and discuss “definition of allyship, the limitations to the social justice work that allies can effectively do, the common pitfalls that allies may fall into in their attempts to effectively work towards social justice and inclusivity, and the various proposed practices to effect appropriate allyship,” according to the session’s description. This session will take place at 3:45 P.M. in LSP 138.
Another session titled “Representing Race on Stage” invites and provokes participants to engage critically with the ethics and stakes of race representation in theatrical spaces. The session will be at 2:30 P.M. in Stager 215.
As co-chairs, Castor and Mena-Ali “coordinated the various aspects of planning such a significant event. Clearly, this work involves including people from different constituencies of the College, with students, faculty and staff all contributing their expertise, perspective and time working towards this common goal. From finding suitable spaces, to recruiting volunteers for facilitated discussions, to working with session organizers to generate a wide range of topics, the committee’s dedication is what made this endeavor work.”
The first Day of Dialogue was planned in 1991, “when students and faculty were concerned about race relations on campus and called for campus-wide discussion,” says the two co-chairs. “Similar concerns about diversity in race, socio-economic class, and gender circulated on campus in 2014-5, and, once again, students, faculty, and administrators thought this massive community attention to challenges in our community would be valuable. Again, faculty voted to suspend classes one Wednesday in the Fall and it was held in October 2016. The response was largely positive and faculty voted to hold a [Day of Dialogue] every two years.”
Mena-Ali’s experience with the 2016 Day of Dialogue can be described as this: “it was tangible evidence that F&M truly is a special place, an institution that is willing to spend time and effort to constantly assess the issues that affects us and to find ways to improve over time, an institution that truly embodies inclusive excellence as part of our core values.”
For recommendations on which sessions to attend, co-chairs Castor and Mena-Ali say, “This is a tough one––we have such an amazing array of sessions scheduled for the day than choosing one or a few in particular would be impossible. What [we] suggest in choosing potential sessions is to focus on topics that you may not be very familiar with, or that may push you a little bit outside of your comfort zone; that is where meaningful learning often takes place.”
First year Abby Dotterer is a Contributing Writer, her email is firstname.lastname@example.org