Letters from the CDI

June 19, 2020: Juneteenth

Juneteenth in 2020 compels us to reflect beyond the 155 years of Black emancipation from slavery.

Juneteenth in 2020 is the momentum of a 400-year justice journey for freedom.

Juneteenth in 2020 is a lesson in why we must understand that Black history is U.S. history.

Juneteenth in 2020 represents the true beginning of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Juneteenth in 2020 empowers us to identify and eliminate anti-Blackness.

Juneteenth in 2020 demands us to speak louder than words.

Juneteenth in 2020 requires actions that dismantle systemic racism.

Juneteenth in 2020 celebrates Blackness.

Juneteenth in 2020 Black Lives Matter unites us.

This year, Juneteenth is celebrated on the final day of a relentless spring, but comes at the end of a week that has given us some moments of optimism and faith for some of our most vulnerable communities.  The Supreme Court rulings to maintain the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and protect LGBTQIA workers from being fired for their sexual orientation or gender identity represent the advancement of social justice in our society.  These rulings also build upon the victory of emancipation, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights, all connected to the possible future of freedom that Juneteenth represents.

In this moment, we see hope emerge, not as an empty promise, but as represented in the actions and courage of our people.  In every state in the union, from coast to coast, in cities large and small, suburban and rural communities alike, our people from every spectrum of identity have and continue to march for racial justice, have chosen to stand in solidarity with our Black community, demand an end to anti-Black violence and lynching of Black bodies, are grappling with the complexities of race, and honor the names and stories of George Floyd, Nina Pop, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, and Rayshard Brooks and too many others.  In the actions of our people, we see a beacon of hope, a moral compass towards justice, and the shift from a moment in U.S. history towards a social movement across the globe.

Juneteenth will also mark the launch of a summer of change.  The Center for Diversity and Inclusion, the Office of International Students and Scholars, and the Office for Religious, Spiritual and Ethical Life has to change our work, change our approach, change our content, change our standards, and change our actions.  This shift has already begun as we assess programs, develop campus partnerships, and design a centered space for our Black student community and intentional identity spaces for our undergraduate, graduate, professional, interfaith and international students.  We will be different, because we are different.

Happy Juneteenth!

Ezinne Arizor
Advisor, Office of International Students and Scholars

Sharon Chapman
Department Coordinator, OISS, CDI & ORSEL

India Baker Hudspeth
Advisor, Office of International Students and Scholars

Alayna Hutchinson
Advisor, Office of International Students and Scholars

Rev. Callista Isabelle
Director, Office for Religious, Spiritual and Ethical Life

Lara Jennings
Advisor, Office of International Students and Scholars

Natasha Mokeyeva
Advisor, Office of International Students and Scholars

Jeanne Pizarro
Advisor, Office of International Students and Scholars

Kaaren Quezada
Senior Advisor, Office of International Students and Scholars

Casey Schodl
Administrative Coordinator, Office of International Students and Scholars

Claire Seely
Advisor, Office of International Students and Scholars

Travis Tucker
Associate Director, Center for Diversity and Inclusion

Martha Turner
Associate Director, Office of International Students and Scholars

Alma von Gontard
Associate Director, Office of International Students and Scholars

Michelle Wagner
Administrative Coordinator, Office of International Students and Scholars

Desirée Waits
Advisor, Office of International Students and Scholars

Stephanie Weiskopf
Associate Director

Mark Kamimura-Jiménez, PhD
Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs
Dean of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion

June 17, 2020: Pride Statement

Just last year, we were taking a moment to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, a time (with respect to 1966’s LA’s Compton Cafeteria Riots and other protests pre-Stonewall) that proved to be a tipping point for the LGBTQIA Rights movement. A march to commemorate Stonewall took place in June 1970, which birthed the “Pride parades” that we know today. These parades occur in most major cities across the globe and provide an opportunity for the Queer community to come together, publicly in ways that are still deemed unacceptable in some parts of the world. Today Pride comes with thumping music, hours-long parades, and colorful floats adorned with your local drag queen and/or king waving as they throw you a pair of beads.

However, the truth is that Pride was never just about a parade. It was never about corporations, rainbow-colored socks, bowties, and t-shirts sold in big-box stores. You will find the real Pride in activists, community leaders, and LGBTQIA+ community members coming together to announce their whole selves to their community. As spring shifts to summer, America continues to deal with the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic, while also facing our original sin of racism, marked by the recent deaths of trans folx such as Nina Pop and Taylor McDade.

Due to these deaths and others, Queer and Trans leaders are calling for the “cancellation” of Pride, a recognition that until members of the Black community (namely Trans Black people with an emphasis on Trans Women of Color) are not free, then our celebrations must stop. It is a bold, powerful assertion that we at the CDI wholeheartedly support. Trans black individuals continue to die at a staggeringly higher rate than their White trans counterparts, with many of those deaths being unresolved and underreported. These deaths are unacceptable. We, as a center, will continue raising their names and striving to be a space of support for you on your journey through WashU.

For as much as the story of Pride has been about unity and community, we must name that the LGBTQIA+ community has victimized itself with internalized biphobia, transphobia, and homophobia that unfortunately has pushed some community members to feel siloed. The CDI will continue stating that we value all of our members of the LGBTQQIP2SAA+ community. We value your intellect, your activism, your fierceness, and everything that you have and will continue to do to make Washington University a healthier, more empowered space. Always know that our area is open to you and that we will strive to build experiences that speak to your lived experiences.

The Center for Diversity and Inclusion is looking to create the first-ever Student Commission on LGBTQIA Justice/Equity. The goal of this group would be to provide student perspectives, guidance, and critique to the Center for Diversity and Inclusion on issues concerning gender and sexuality. If you are interested in participating, please contact us at diversityandinclusion@wustl.edu. A representative from the CDI will follow-up with you as we are beginning to form the group.

Finally, make sure to visit the CDI Instagram (@wustlcdi) and Facebook group to see a series of Pride Month spotlights from one of our student leaders, Marc Ridgell. Through his project (black queer informative project), he is helping to teach all of us about the history and intricacies of the LGBTQIA Rights Movement. Thank you, Marc!

The fight and struggle for equity for all individuals under the Queer and Trans umbrella will live far beyond June; we are here to support you in that truth now and in the future.

Signed,

Center for Diversity and Inclusion

June 4, 2020: We must say their names

David McAtee – James Scurlock – Tony McDade – George Floyd –  Sean Reed – Ahmaud Arbery – Nina Pop – Breonna Taylor – Botham Jean – Laquan McDonald – Sean Bell – Sandra Bland –  Freddie Gray – Tamir Rice – Eric Garner – Aura Rosser – Michael Brown – Philando Castille – Alton Sterling – Atatiana Jefferson – Trayvon Martin – Amadou Diallo – Emmett Till

“Keep my brother’s name ringing.” – Terrence Floyd

Dear Students,

We must say their names.  We must say their names loudly so that they are ringing.  We must say their names until their names become liberty bells ringing for freedom. While we fight for racial equality and justice, we will say their names.  When their names are ringing, their stories are shared, their lives are honored, their spirit is remembered, they become guiding ancestors, and their names and stories provide us with purpose.

In this moment, we must also consider our names and stories, and what purpose will the ringing of our names communicate to our friends, family, to our Black community. This moment of Black Death in our country is a reflection of a centuries old racism pandemic which has infected, impacted, and at times made unrecognizable, our country, our community, and our university. This is also your community, your education, your university; this is your space to claim, to decide the ringing of your name in this story.

If we are to hear the ringing, we must pause, we must listen to and understand the power of the words: Black, Undocumented, Indigenous, Anti-Racist, Christian, Bisexual, Equity, Lesbian, Diversity, Gay, Inclusion, Trans, Muslim, Queer, Intersex, American, Asexual, Love, Atheist, Latinx, Community, Asian, African, Agnostic, Pacific Islander, Desi, Caribbean, Middle Eastern, all these and many more embody the diaspora of Blackness. These collective intersectional identities are why Black Lives Matter is ringing around the world.

We cannot only listen, but need to break the silence.  We must call out the racial injustice experienced by our Black community over and over, we must not become numb to the violence we witness against Black bodies. With each uncountable killing of Black and Brown bodies we must name the pervasive policies of our government and institutions, identify with keen awareness the acts of white supremacy in our language and practices, be unwilling to allow continued ignorance of our friends and families, be repulsed by the failure of our leaders to address the systemic racism that sanctions the education and funding of hate, bigotry and murder.  Let these words ring because otherwise these murdered souls disappear.  Their voices only exist through our choice to speak their names, tell their stories and lead us to take action.

In my last message, A Letter for Sean and Ahmaud, I explained that diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) work and education has life or death consequences.  At this moment, I would like to invite you to take action on this work  as a community.  Over the next couple weeks, we will connect you with opportunities across the campus to engage in reflection, dialogue, education and develop an action plan. I encourage you to attend an all campus vigil this Friday at 11:30am, “Ring Their Names: George Floyd, Nina Pop, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Sean Reed, Tony McDade, the named, and those names and stories unknown”.

Join us: https://tinyurl.com/ringtheirnames

Ring their names,

Mark Kamimura-Jiménez, PhD
Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs
Dean of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion

The Center for Diversity and Inclusion is collaborating with campus partners to provide the following virtual programs. Registration information can be found here.
  1. International Student Dialogue: Understanding the U.S. Context of Current Political Protests in the Wake of George Floyd’s Death on  June 9, 3-4:30pm
  2. A Gathering Space for Action on June 12 (Open to WashU Students)
  3. White Allyship Workshop on June 17, 2-3:30pm (Open to All)
  4. Student Initiated Summer Purpose Project for Racial Justice (Open to WashU Students)
  5. Summer Racial Equity and Justice Workshops (Open to WashU Students)
  6. Summer Education Series on Race, Ethnicity, & Gender (with Vice Provost Adrienne Davis) (Open to WashU Students)
  7. The Racism Pandemic Town Hall Series (Open to all)
    • June 18, 2-3pm – The Racism Pandemic Town Hall: Is It Juneteenth Yet?
    • July 23, 2-3pm – The Racism Pandemic Town Hall: Athletes of Color & Athletics in 2020
    • August 20, 2-3pm – The Racism Pandemic Town Hall: Who is an Essential Worker
    • September 24, 2-3pm – The Racism Pandemic Town Hall: Revisiting the Asian Pacific Islander and Desi American (APIDA) Experience in College
    • Other topics for the academic year will include: Gender Identity, Educational Access, The Silenced Experiences of Women of Color, Mixed Race, etc.
Additional Resources

Anti-Racism Resources:
http://bit.ly/ANTIRACISMRESOURCES
https://arc-stl.org/
Resources from Habif Health and Wellness here.
Learn more about diversity and inclusion topics here.

To be informed of CDI happenings, follow us on facebook and instagram and sign up for our newsletter by emailing diversityandinclusion@wustl.edu.

May 8, 2020: A Letter for Sean and Ahmaud

Dear Community,

I want to foremost recognize the grief, pain and loss of the Reed and Arbery families as well as those who have lost loved ones from COVID-19.  I also want to acknowledge the feelings of our minoritized communities who are share the compounding weight of these tragic events.  While we should be taking this time to celebrate the accomplishments of our graduates and reflecting on the memories of time at WashU, we are instead faced again with the realities of white supremacy, xenophobia, systemic and institutional racism as the context for which we end our week of reading and exams.  The shooting deaths of Sean Reed, Ahmaud Arbery, and the incredible numbers of COVID-19 mortality rates represented in our Black, Asian, Latinx, and Indigenous communities demand our attention.  While they shouldn’t have been the names and stories of this moment, they are, and now must be names we remember and stories we tell.  We are Washington University in St. Louis, but we are from Indianapolis, New York, Georgia, all over the U.S. and the world – these are the stories of our family and friends, and Sean and Ahmaud are their names.

Every aspect of our society has been designed to inequitably displace power and access to resources.  Institutional racism is playing itself out in real time – our minoritized communities are systemically being eliminated by decades of policies with structural implications for where you live, funding of education, access to health care and food, and career opportunities.  This must be a time when we should come together as a united community, we can no longer accept attacks on Blackness, state sanctioned xenophobia, and compliance with White supremacy.  We must say it – Black Lives Matter, we must understand it – Black Lives Matter, we must remember it – Black Lives Matter, because Black Lives Matter is the canary in the coal mine signaling the deterioration of justice and our humanity.

For quite some time in my career, I have been reminded that our work isn’t life or death, we are not physicians, first responders or air traffic controllers, I disagree.  Any person associated with the diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) education (P-20+) whether as practitioners, students, researchers, faculty is doing work that has life or death consequences.  The impact COVID-19 has had on our communities of color and the uncountable murders of Black bodies demonstrates the pervasive and dominating power or racism in every corner of our country.    Our choice to prioritize and align our values as a university with diversity, equity and inclusion during a moment at which we are faced with the most unprecedented challenges of our time, reaffirms the profound importance this work has on the future of our society.  Eradicating racism is about life or death, we could have prepared for the fight against COVID-19 and stopped the senseless killings of Sean and Ahmaud.

I hope you remain safe but not silent.

Mark Kamimura-Jiménez, PhD
Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs
Dean of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion

Please visit the Center for Diversity and Inclusion to learn more about the following events.

Xenophobia and COVID-19, May 19 at 10:00-11:00am CDT

Moderated by Ariana Swei ‘22
Clioue Cheng-Stewart, PhD, Staff Counselor – Habif Health and Wellness Center
Yujia Lei, PhD, Licensed Psychologist – Habif Health and Wellness Center
Martha Turner, Associate Director of the Office of International Students and Scholars
Habif Health and Wellness Center Ally Against Xenophobia Campaign

The Racism Pandemic Town Hall, May 21, 2:00-3:00pm CDT
Alexis Handel, PhD, MPH, Associate Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Michigan
Larry Rowley, PhD, Founder and Principal of LBMC Associates, LLC – New York, NY
Darrell Hudson, PhD, Associate Professor of Social Work and Medicine at Washington University

Additional Information and Resources
Resources from Habif Health and Wellness here.
Learn more about diversity and inclusion topics here.

March 30, 2020: COVID-19 Open Letter

Dear Students,

It has been two weeks since we have seen most of you on campus and a lot has happened since then. The campus is not the same without you, and we are not the same without you. There are few moments that define our lives and the impact of COVID-19 the past few weeks has created a collection of moments that may redefine the life we know. While we come from different places, generations, and identities and while we are all a part of the same Washington University community, we experience life differently. So, we’d like to share some thoughts from our perspective as staff at the Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) on the impact of COVID-19 on members of our community that demand reflection and action in this moment.

Many of us are experiencing being displaced from the home we have created on campus through both the physical spaces we occupy and the social spaces that contribute to our sensibilities of safety and belonging.  These positive relationships among students, faculty and staff on our campus have been disrupted, and for many of us that weighs heavily upon our mental health. The physical distancing and social isolation we are all experiencing has created a sense of loneliness for many, but please know that you are not alone – we acknowledge your feelings and we see you.

The Center for Diversity and Inclusion stands against the racism and xenophobia fueling physical and verbal attacks on our nation’s Asian and Asian American communities which have created fear for safety among many, specifically within our Chinese community. Let us state clearly, these acts of hate must be called out as destructive to our values and our society. We also acknowledge that these acts of hate against our Asian and Asian American communities are a resurgence of othering that has existed for generations.  Our Asian and Pacific Islander communities in the U.S. have experienced state-sanctioned xenophobic exclusion, internment, and stealing of lands.  Most recently, systemic and institutionalized white supremacy has taken aim to weaken the collective power of communities of color by strategically decoupling the minoritized experiences and identities of Asian Pacific Islander and South Asian Americans.

The impact of xenophobic rhetoric further oppresses and is palpable in our immigrant, undocumented, LGBTQIA+, vulnerable and minoritized communities. We understand that going home for our LGBTQIA+ community may challenge your ability to be out, maintain a community of support and further contribute to this already challenging situation. We also recognize that our undocumented students may fear deportation and vulnerable communities will be challenged with access to healthcare, technology, information and basic needs.  We know this is your truth and validate your experiences by advocating and continuing to work as a campus community to address these concerns.

As this moment continues to impact all of us, we challenge all members of our WashU community, wherever you may be, to call out the bias, call out the hate, reach out to each other, continue to develop your relationships – see each other.  Let your reflection on this moment be about the actions you took in your communities, for your friends and family, and for your university to build what was started here in St. Louis and truly be a community that is stronger when we all return, because we are #WashUTogether.

Our hope is that each of you are seeking the support you need by connecting with your local networks of support or accessing the resources offered through the Habif Health and Wellness Center at 314-935-6695 (business hours) or 314-935-6666 (after-hours). Please know that the staff at the Center for Diversity and Inclusion is here for you and if you need to talk to us, share ideas, or just reconnect, don’t hesitate to call us at 314-935-7535 or email us at diversityandinclusion@wustl.edu.

 

Mark Kamimura-Jiménez, Ph.D.
Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs
Dean of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion
mkamimura@wustl.edu

Christi Smith, Ph.D.
Assistant Dean
Center for Diversity and Inclusion
christismith@wustl.edu

Stephanie Weiskopf
Associate Director
Center for Diversity and Inclusion
stephanie.weiskopf@wustl.edu

Heather Browning
Training and Education Specialist
Center for Diversity and Inclusion
hbrowning@wustl.edu

Michelle Wagner
Administrative Assistant
Center for Diversity and Inclusion
michelle.wagner@wustl.edu