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Do Something! From the Sidelines to the Frontlines
Monday, January 17, 2022
First and foremost, we want to acknowledge that our words today are connected to threads of the past, and hold both the tensions of our history and the possibility of a Humanity that is whole and complete for our future generations.
We acknowledge the indigenous peoples of our first nations, we acknowledge the caretakers of this land, and those stolen from their homes and exploited for their labor.
We acknowledge that from toil came triumph, and that from resilience comes brilliance.
We thank all of those seen and unseen who make it possible for us to be here today.
We are grateful to the land, and the water, to the birds that sing us new songs, to the sun for its warmth, and to the moon that provides us rest.
We are thankful to our elders for their wisdom and patience, and to the new younger generations for their wit and fire!
We see you! We thank you! We acknowledge you!
Today, as we observe the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday, we remind ourselves of the urgency in fighting for voting rights in this nation, and for human rights in this world.
We uplift the legacy of Dr. Bernice King, The King Center, and the King Family in Atlanta.
I would like to introduce myself. I am Shadia Alvarez, Executive Director of The Coretta Scott King Center and Vice President for Equity and Strategic Development at Antioch College.
I am the child of a movement for social justice and human rights in this nation and I come to you, as an Afro Latina mother, a daughter, and the child of immigrants from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. I humbly accept that I was placed on this earth to be a community organizer, to connect, to bring folks together, to learn, and to share, with the intention and purpose of being a contribution to humanity.
Saying those words seems easy but it is, in fact, complicated, messy. Our life experiences do not read as a neatly coordinated mission statement or colorful post-it notes. But sharing is necessary if we are to honor Dr. King’s legacy and if we are to stay focused on liberation for all.
I thank the Village of Yellow Springs for being a host as I have taken respite, and for providing warmth and cover as I have learned that whether we are on the front line, the sidelines, the back of the line, or moving all around, this life commitment requires rest, reflection, and collective healing.
So, today’s theme is completely appropriate for our times. We, collective we, those of us who believe in justice, who believe in self -determination, who are sickened by oppression of any kind, who are watching the corruption and the greed; we have growing concern over the type of life our children, and their children will lead if we keep going in the direction we are in.
For me, understanding the front lines, the sidelines, who is in the back of the line, is about understanding our position in this arrangement and being able to act in the best interest of collective liberation no matter what my positionality is.
In my experiences, I have learned to understand and differentiate between position and power, between moral obligation and responsibility, and to better assess where I am needed to be of support to create and/or further a humanistic agenda.
I don’t believe we need to explain the divisions, the disproportionate outcomes we see in every system in this country. Whether it’s education, healthcare, banking, or real estate, the lack of respect for the land and the preponderance of ways for us to ignore, judge, distance, and be pitted against each other is ever-present. The genocide of our people and a culture that normalizes murder allows for these injustices to happen with the cloak of formality and institutional policy.
Whether it’s water in Flint, alcohol shipments to the Rez, police occupation in Brooklyn, or Homeland Security on the border, the current arrangement is legal, sanctioned and policy-driven. It thrives on targeted and unethical conflict. It lives off fitting you into a box. It makes us believe that normal is acceptable and that time is on our side. The slumbering of our urgency is intentional. Our self-worth is defined by our closeness to white supremacy and, more recently, by social media posts and the number of likes we get or don’t get.
And yet those same tools give us unprecedented access to sharing our story and changing the narrative.
Is it possible to accept that we are moving too fast and at the same time moving too slow?
When we talk about moving from the sidelines to the frontlines, context is everything. Understanding our positionality in this arrangement, this social construct, is necessary for our survival. And yet we know survival is not enough.
My experiences, the lessons I have learned, have helped me define Humanity in the broadest of terms. They have taught me to take a stand for all living things, to be an advocate for those in need; not just in material ways, but in physical and spiritual ways. I see myself as a learner, always trying to know more about whatever it is I don’t know. Trusting that the universe will open my eyes to those things I cannot see, and make it possible for me to feel things out even when words are not spoken. To be vulnerable to the gray areas and allow for transformation to not be a “thing” but an active part of who I am and who we try to be.
So, the line for me is Humanity.
Being on the front lines requires an understanding of self, a love for all things, and stubborn courage that can both make us or break us. Being on the sidelines requires continuous observation, analysis, and comfort with moving forward, moving back, distinguishing strategy, and positional targets.
We often do not realize that being on the front lines requires us to understand that we will get it more wrong than right and that we must be in a space willing to share our stories, engage, and be vulnerable with each other.
Our positionality must match our effectiveness. We cannot remain static in the fight for justice. We must move, sway, be flexible, open, and clear on our vision and purpose. We must be consistent in crisis and keep the fire of urgency alive.
We are tasked with keeping ourselves awake, even as we tire.
We must accept that sometimes we are more accessible from the back of the line. Sometimes we can move faster from the sidelines. Sometimes our work is to coach not to lead, to experience not to process, to hold hands and lock arms, to ask for forgiveness, and to accept defeat.
Being in the front teaches us how to lead, what works, and what doesn’t. It requires intentionality. It requires us to be purposeful, thoughtful.
Those of us on the front lines have often been anointed, by the Church, the institution, the community. Whether we carry titles or headings, whether we are looked at as the chosen ones in our circles or pushed to the front by our elders.
The front line requires us to be in an action stance, aware of the consequences but deliberately committed to better outcomes for all.
Today, we see that social media has the power to determine who is in the front line by the number of likes and the number of followers. This is both exciting and dangerous. Those called to the front line, be it by the community or by an influencer status, must think deeply about our responsibility to the collective.
Am I here in service of our community? Does our presence cause uplift?
Are there enough of us to keep us accountable?
For us to work together, to be in relationship, to be a part of any movement, as we decide where we fit on the line, requires us to ask courageous questions, and to operate from a workable shared covenant:
The covenant I most often use comes from the Peoples Institute for Survival and Beyond, an antiracist national group of organizers, founded by the late Dr. Jim Dunn and tenant organizer Ron Chisom and The King Center, Kingian Nonviolence Institute.
Taking a stand for Humanity requires:
Perseverance & Humility – A constant questioning of who I am: Are these the right reasons? What is impacting our decisions? What pressure impacts our resolve?
It requires us to struggle together, and be aware of our growing edge – the place that feels uncomfortable but also pushes us to new understandings.
It requires a recognition of Humanity and divinity in all. It is not just about disagreement but about discerning the way of life I need to understand to connect. How can I be a vessel of trust, so I can ask those essential questions that will get me to the heart of the matter as opposed to the details of our difference.
It requires curiosity, sincerity, genuineness, and courage that is rooted in Humanity and integrity, not power-over and/or power-for.
Together, we need to model working from a place of understanding, that is rooted in reparations. What do we need to understand, so we can repair the harm done? What do we need to dismantle and how do we need to approach creation? Healing cannot be attained if we are not willing to understand and bring to light the harm.
It requires us to understand that there is no quick fix, that what was done to create these systems cannot be undone overnight, and/or without multigenerational coalitions for justice, who are rooted in their own experience and are able to honor those around them.
The great Coretta once said:
“To me, the Beloved Community is a realistic vision of an achievable society, one in which problems and conflict exist, but are resolved peacefully and without bitterness. In the Beloved Community, caring and compassion drive political policies that support the worldwide elimination of poverty and hunger and all forms of bigotry and violence. The Beloved Community is a state of heart and mind, a spirit of hope and goodwill that transcends all boundaries and barriers and embraces all creation.”
Now, someone in the audience is saying: “How can we have caring and compassion in the face of genocide, in the face of murder, in the face of bigotry and violence to our community?”
I recognize that. I feel that. And I would posit that the genocide, the murder, the bigotry, and the violence will not stop until we redefine the very nature of our existence.
As long as we believe power-over is what is needed, we will lose.
When Martin talked about love, it was from the place of creating new definitions for what it means to be human.
When Bill Chappelle and Jim Dunn talked about “Help Us Make a Nation (HUMAN) here in Yellow Springs”, it wasn’t to ignore those realities, it was to organize against those realities, and lift up Humanity so that those realities are no longer in existence.
They are no longer normal.
They are no longer part of the fabric from which the quilt of Humanity is made. The threads are compassion and understanding. The yarn that weaves it together is connected by human culture, not capitalism, not imperialism, not even socialism.
Our very definition of power must be what does not exist as it is today.
Now, I get it, that is hard to see. How can we even envision that type of world? We must. We might not be there in physical form when it comes to pass. But we must start with what is immediate.
We must start with voting rights. We must start with healthcare for all. We must start with schools that teach us to ask essential questions and to feel.
We must start at home, with our families, with our closest friends.
We must believe that the frontlines and the sidelines are not out there, somewhere else, but all around us. And that if tomorrow is the march, then today it’s the dinner table, the program we watch together and discuss, the songs we listen to, and the places we live.
Moving from the sidelines to the front lines requires purpose and practice, discipline and diligence, urgency and calm, rhythm and blues.
And for those of us called to share these visions, possibilities, these new ways of being, we recognize that it will at times be painful.
Our liberation does not live within an institution or a system. The current institutional arrangement is designed to create order, policy, and rules that disproportionately impact People of Color. And in the absence of People of Color, they will still disproportionately impact those most vulnerable.
We can discuss white institutional culture or we cannot. But the most honest analysis will tell you that in order for us to move the line of Humanity, we will need to undo structures, transform these systems, and place spirit, culture, and care at the center of any arrangement.
And that, my friends, will come at a price, a price all of us pay. Systems collude with each other, defend each other, and they will come for us.
And we must go forward anyway.
We must get used to the idea that our very being is uncomfortable to others. We must be grounded in our community and networks enough to know that when our brilliance is ignored on the inside, your peeps are there for you on the outside.
When we are attacked, marginalized, and ignored, we fall back, reconvene, and call on our ancestor Muhammad Ali’ and we “Float like a butterfly and sting like a bee!”
Folks, we must hold the courage to do what needs to be done, even if it comes at a price. We will be made to look bad, be perceived with ill intent, and sometimes even our own will contribute to the questioning; even when we have the best interests at heart, even when we experience a penalty in the present only to assure we are saved in our future. All of this is a manifestation of a culture that places value in power-over, instead of All-power.
And it’s tough. It’s tough when you know what you did had to be done to keep the fire going but those impacted only see the immediate results.
It is hard when you move from the front, to the back, to the side, and people equate those movements to loss, and cannot see how your movement just made more space for them.
Leadership development is not about position, it is about practice.
Sometimes we need to move in order to be more effective, more accessible, more connected to the true purpose. Sometimes we must hold the tensions of what an institution shows, versus what our community needs.
Sometimes we must say truths even if it comes at a cost. And sometimes we must be raw instead of strategic.
Our revered sister, Bell Hooks, who is now in the pantheon of the ancestors once said, “Sometimes people try to destroy you, precisely because they recognize your power – not because they don’t see it, but because they see it and they don’t want it to exist.”
Our community, our grounding, our awareness of your line, and the people who walk with you, are your elixir.
It is your protection. It is the necessary ingredient to keep you focused on where the line needs to go, what we are fighting for, and what we need to determine our next steps.
Being on the front line demands that we always ask questions. When making any decisions ask “Who does this benefit? who does this impact? Does this bring us closer together? Does it uplift those most vulnerable? If it does, show me the evidence. If it does not, how do we fix it?”
It requires us to step out of what is normal, comfortable, and what is politically correct.
And so, as I come to a close, I want to share that as we think of our own lines, our movements, our marches, we pay attention to those that might be considered to be in the “back” whose experience needs to be “in the front.”
I have found that inside institutions it is those with the least amount of security, those without tenure, those that are hourly and considered “help” that can speak the truths of the institution, the system, the movement.
In marches, I have found that those who stay in the back are often the elderly, mothers, physically differentiated, at times our most vulnerable.
I would say to you, that is where wisdom is. Speak to those folks in your community, institutions, groups.
Find ways to make sure their voices are heard.
The gift of the front line is its ability to withstand the winds of transformation. The gift of the sidelines, and our back of the line, is that they keep us honest. They are the artists that sing the songs and write the poems, the musicians that play the tune that keeps us going.
With time, with hope, with faith, our lines become circular arrangements, a wonderful circle of experience, testimony, joy, pain, and deep love.
Ultimately, that keeps us moving whether forward or back, whether side to side, whether in reflection or respite
It is that which makes up our Humanity and propels us to new ways of being and futures where we can all be whole and complete.
Ashe MLK Planning Committee, Antioch College, Village of Yellow Springs, and the 365 Project. May we walk forward in faith and organize for justice.
Shadia Alvarez ‘96
Executive Director of The Coretta Scott King Center
Vice President for Equity and Strategic Development
Interview by Matt Walker ‘04.
MW: “Thank you for meeting with me. If you could say your name, where you’re from, which class year you are in, and yeah, start with that.”
AH: “Hi, my name is Angel Harris. I am a second-year. I’m the class of 2024. And I am from Atlanta, Georgia.”
MW: “And why did you choose to attend Antioch?”
AH: “This has been a very hard question for me because I got accepted to 66 schools and I got $2.4 billion in scholarships. And somehow out of every single school I chose Antioch. I don’t know if it was fate, or destiny or whatever you want to call it. One of the reasons I chose Antioch was because it was this small school. I feel like I can do a lot, I can change something or make myself well known in the area, in the community, instead of going to a huge school of thousands of students. When I got here, I was like “What is this?”. Because, of course I’m from smack dab in the middle of the city, where the city is full of culture and, let’s face it, Black people. Then I get here in Ohio and it’s cold. I’m used to 105 degree weather, and I find that the college is in the middle of cornfields, quite literally. And my parents were like, “Are you sure you’re at the right place?” And I was like “I think so” hahaha. But that’s a question I get asked a lot. I just saw an opportunity to go away from home, travel… Now I have a car so I get to travel in-between states and see places as I go back and forth or home. I just chose you guys because it felt right in the end, ultimately. Do I regret my decision? No. But I would change some things, I believe, most definitely.”
MW: “Let’s talk about that. What would you like to change? What are the top two or three things that come to mind when you say that?”
AH: “I think, and this is just my personal opinion, I think Antioch is better for transfer students that transfer in from another college or older transfer students. And I say that because I came here straight out of high school, and I was not prepared. I come from a privatized city, in Atlanta. And I came here. I never lived with anybody a day in my life. Especially because of COVID. And I was the COVID class. So I didn’t get to do the tours and stuff like that. I would say, if we had virtual tours, because I know we have virtual meet-and-greet and whatnot… But I just feel like after you get accepted that you could do all that stuff. I wish we had a little bit of that before.”
“Also, a clear line on the website of the statistical standards of the population here because I had to personally email staff at Antioch, because, of course, I was thorough with my college search. I had to email Antioch and be like “Can you send me a statistical population for here?” They were like “Here’s a copy from back in 2016. This is really old. But I hope it’s still the same.” It wasn’t when I got here. But I think I would change the recruiting process, basically the way we get students. And have like a virtual setting and an in person setting. Maybe have “a getting to know Antioch” workshop.”
MW: “For prospective students?”
MW: “That’s great feedback.”
AH: “I don’t know if they still do it here. They probably don’t because of COVID, which is understandable, but I feel like if there are students that want to spend the night on campus and want to get the feel of campus or whatnot, or just be on campus for a day and probably go to a class or whatever the case may be. I think that would be nice too, just so people could get the feel. Because I worked with the Dean of Students this year and last year, not Bill, I worked with Louise Smith ‘77 during her time here. And then I’ve been working for ResLife for about a year now. So I’ve been cross-training on both jobs. After all of my time here, I’ve learned that a lot of freshmen were just like, “I wish we would have got to spend the night.” Getting feedback from all these freshmen, I was like that’s kind of how I felt when I got here. You know? If they were like “Spend the night, eat the food…” But that would be my second recommendation.”
“And then the last thing is, I feel like we should do a program where, and I’ve talked to a lot of students about this, but we should do a program where we can have meal cards. And, since we have a good connection with the town, it can be if we don’t like the food at Birch. Since so many students complain, we can go in town and swipe our cards and get a meal at the restaurants in town. Or it’s a certain amount of credits you can use at Tom’s to buy stuff with. Or however that can work out because I think that would be a great system that will take care of the food problem. If you don’t want to eat here you can eat in town.”
“But these are just ideas that I’ve had on my mind. I don’t know if they’re possible. But those are the only things I would tell you about Antioch. Other than that, everything else is wonderful for me.”
MW: “Those are excellent recommendations. I’m so glad that we’re going print them in the newsletter so people can see and be like “Look at this – this student had this great idea.” So, I’m super excited to put that in the interview. That’s great. very tangible, you know what I mean?”
“I’m so curious, what you were into in high school when all of this aid and all of these colleges were climbing all over each other to get you to come there. What kind of student were you? What types of activities was it that really gave you that edge? What are you all about?”
AH: “I come from a standard Black family, not standard, but my dad’s a mechanic and my mom’s a medical assistant. She used to work at a hotel and then she got her medical assistant license at a community college, a technical college. My dad did the same with his mechanic stuff. They never went to college so in their mind, everything that I was doing was like “Why are you doing this?” So, nine times out of ten I had to fundraise money for everything that I wanted to do. And there’s certain stuff that they’re like, “Okay, we’ll give you the money for that, we see the reason.” And other stuff they were just like “No”.”
“Freshman year, I started off as a Fine Arts major. So, I majored in Dance and Chorus and Artistical Studies, which was like drawing and whatnot. And so I took seven classes per day at a majority white school for my freshman year. It was pretty nice. I got heavily bullied which led to me being transferred to a predominantly Black but wealthy, upper class Black high school, where I changed my course of study to Science. To get into the school you had to test really high in the application tests, which were out-of-this-world hard. But I studied and I got in and I got a full scholarship to go there for free.”
MW: “This is all for high school?”
MW: “Wow. Okay.”
AH: “We have charter schools in Atlanta. So some require you to have a talent or they require you to be recruited for a sport or to test in. For me, it was testing in for this school. And then I did debate, which I ended up being a state champion in. And I did poetry slam, which I ended up being a state champion in. And I did basketball which my school ended up being national champions in. I did beta club. I did softball. I was so close to getting my EMT license at school, but I finally did get my EMT license my senior year as a 17-year-old. I just couldn’t be on the back of the truck. You have to be 18 or older. But I did get to ride on some calls because I finished at the community college. That school ended up being great. I started my very own blood drive. I got the Red Cross to come to our school. It was amazing. I did so many accomplishments. It was crazy.”
MW: “Sounds like it – thank you for your service! Thank you for your service. I just have to say “WOW!”.
AH: “I transferred again. I ended up at the high school I graduated from and at that school was a president Mu Alpha Beta which is a math honor society. And I did a 20-hour math challenge. So I sat in a room with a computer and a projector. And me and my brother who was about to graduate and three of our friends sat in a room and solved a 20-hour math problem. It was kinda crazy.”
MW: “That’s awesome.”
AH: “I did softball again. I got inducted into the high school hall of fame for sports for softball. So it was really nice and if you go to my high school you see my picture up on the wall. It was really nice. At that high school I did a mix between Science and Fine Arts. So, the only fine art I did was chorus and then I did a few dance classes, which I got countless amounts of solos for that. For me, a lot of the stuff I did was just to prove people wrong. I’m a big girl, so a lot of people will say like, “Oh, you can’t dance because you’re big.” or “You can’t be a professional dancer because you’re big.” And a lot of people are like, “Well, you can’t sing particularly well, because a lot of big women or Black women can’t sing. and I’m like, “Oh, okay.” I went on to my state championships in chorus. I did a solo at the homecoming. It was the 30th of homecoming. And all the alumni came back. And I got a solo to Michael Jackson’s “Remember the Time”. And it was really big and it was really well because I had to make my own costume because my high school would not provide a costume for me because I was a bigger woman. I went on stage and I just I danced my heart out, I danced my heart out. And a lot of people were clapping and screaming. It feels good once you’ve done an accomplishment. I was in national honor society at that school. I was in a lot.”
MW: “Okay, let’s pause right there. I mean, it seems like we could go on for hours talking about your high school achievements – amazing!
AH: “My major is actually Neurosurgery and Biomedical Engineering. I want to double major in those.”
MW: “Amazing. Yes, that’s the next question. You know, you just said your major. I’m just curious what your interests within your major are and what Co-Ops you’ve done?”
AH: “I have done no Co-Ops pertaining to my major. But I have done co-ops that I believe changed my view on the world. The Co-Op that I did for the last two years, is Home Inc. in town. And Miss Emily, she’s an amazing director. And the staff is great there. We’re nonprofit and we build homes and fundraise for housing, in the area, in our community, and out, for people who don’t specifically qualify for anything else because Yellow Springs is very expensive to live in. We just built Glen Colleges on Xenia Street. I was there for that whole project and I called countless amounts of people in town. And I really got to know the people in town and see how caring some people are and seeing the impact that you have on people who think they don’t have a chance anymore. And it’s really nice. My Co-Op at Home Inc. showed me that I can do the smallest thing by giving somebody a call and it will make them day. That smallest thing of hope will turn into a fire. I remember giving this lady a call and telling her she didn’t make the application process. And she wasn’t mad. She was like “I actually just got my section eight” because I helped her call the state and helped her find the website and do all the paperwork. It really changed my view on the littlest things. I didn’t see that they mattered. I love doing the littlest things for people. But when you actually get to see how big of an impact they are, and it comes full circle, that’s what mattered for me. So I love Home Inc. I still work there just for a job during my study term. I don’t think I’ll do another Co-Op there only because I want to do something more inclined to my major. I did work at Friends Care, as just a side job, upon my millions of jobs here. But I worked at Friends Care. I helped do countless amounts of laundry and watch all the residents there. So, it wasn’t a Co-Op, but it pertains to my major. So it was really nice. It was really nice. I got to hear stories of how Yellow Springs used to be and everything but…”
MW: “Cool. What about your major – what within that major interests you? What are some of the specific things that you’re drawn to be in that major for?”
AH: “Well, I picked the major sophomore year in high school. Everybody told me I was crazy. And I’ve never changed my major, not and once. And it’s because I want to do neurosurgery. I want to be a neurosurgeon.
AH: “And I want to make prosthetics also, or do prosthetical research for limbs on the body, through lab work. And Biomedical Engineering also includes gene engineering, finding cures for stuff. So I think I want to do that kind of work in the field. But I definitely want to become a neurosurgeon because a lot of people in my family have dementia and brain damage. My mom just got brain damage a couple of months ago from an 18-wheeler accident.
MW: “Oh no, I’m so sorry.”
AH: That just motivates me more. The field that I’m going in needs people, specifically people of color and women. It’s gonna take me a long time, like 10 years to be exact. But I’m just waiting for it. I believe that I’ll get there when I get there. You know, a couple of setbacks aren’t the end of the world.
MW: “I believe in you. I think you’re going to do great things.”
AH: “And if not, if that doesn’t work out, Medical Litigation. What can I say?”
MW: “Oh yeah, there you go. Either way, I think either field will be benefited by your participation. That’s amazing. That’s amazing. I mean, I want to keep asking so many questions. I feel like I should sort of start to get into wrap-up mode. I’m just wondering if there are any other topics you would you like to discuss or any comments you have on anything going on around here or just anything you’d like to speak on in general that you’d like me to publish?”
AH: “I think that there’s a lot of people, alumni and community members, they don’t see students often and they don’t communicate specifically with students often that live on campus. But we struggled a lot; with getting things we want done, really getting things through. We struggle a lot. I’m not saying that the campus is bad or anything, but there are a lot of nicks and knacks that can be tweaked and fixed to fix the community life. How students socialize here, how we interact together. I’m the President of Dance Club. But because I am the president of dance I don’t get a lot of people to come. I’ll get my closest friends. And I feel like that’s because our communities kinda divided. I would say it is divided racially and socially, on a social, class level. I love Antioch because it allows people to be who they want to be. And we have a huge LGBTQIA+ community. But in terms of just standing together on things, I think there’s a huge disconnect, probably because of our backgrounds and where we come from. I feel like it’s a cultural shock to many people. They’ve never lived with a black person before. We’ve never lived with a white person before. And I think there needs to be a class on how to live, how to communicate. Because a lot of students come here already preset and not open to feedback or conversation and not with open mindsets. And I think there’s no activities for community engagement, positive community engagement. Because what we see a lot at Community Meeting and on CommCil, and stuff like that… Sometimes people are kind of attacked and misunderstood in front of a group of people. And instead of that being a good thing. It’s a bad thing. Because now those same group of people who probably have never met this person now have a bad outlook on this person. I think we just have to learn ways to bond as a community. And all the alumni stories that I heard, the Antioch community was jumpin’ back in the day. And I just wanted to get that feeling back. I feel that there’s a major disconnect between the students. And not even just between students, between the students and staff members. So I think that’s something I would add.
MW: “That’s great.”
AH: “I’m sorry. It’s just on my mind and I want it to be…”
MW: Yeah, that’s exactly what I asked for. It’s great. You have such clear, debater, policy-style plans to improve it. I feel like we are getting somewhere by this discussion.”
AH: “I know there’s tons of new management and leadership and everything, on campus. And we’re figuring out because Antioch doesn’t have a structure, they’ve just been Antioching their way through everything. But I feel like once you get in good policies and once the students learn how to communicate with their leadership, it will be wonderful. Once we get those policies in, once we have a structure, everything kind of has a tunnel to build down through. And right now there is no tunnel. We’re just all sliding our way down the slope. Which is fun sometimes because amazing things come out of chaos. But also, I feel like right now we have organized chaos. That’s the only way that I can describe it but we’ve had countless good things come out of it.”
MW: “What’s your what’s your favorite thing about Antioch?”
AH: “My favorite thing about Antioch is… that’s a hard one. I would say that my favorite thing about Antioch is the comfortability feel. Coming from POC that says a lot. Because sometimes the town can be vicious, especially when Trump was getting elected and we had the KKK riding through town. It was wild. I think Antioch makes you feel comfortable. You’re in this little bubble. A lot of stuff you do at Antioch, I don’t think we would get away with in the real world as students and as people of professionalism. I don’t think we would get away with it in the real world. I love how it’s kind of like a family feel here. It’s a dysfunctional family, but a family nonetheless. That’s my favorite thing. You get tired of being here, away from your family, especially me because I’m eight hours away from mine. And then I go home and I miss my room, having my own room, being able to have my bed and stuff of that nature, and just hanging out with my friends until four o’clock in the morning or I don’t have a parent calling me to come back home or whatnot. But those are the very special moments to get. And I think that Antioch truly helps people, in a way, find themselves. But also, they help people figure out where they want to go in life. They give people the chance to experiment and try and mess up and pick themselves back up and start something new. So that’s my favorite thing about Antioch.”
Watch Angel’s interview on FOX 5 Atlanta here.
By Matt Walker ’04
MW: “Thanks again for meeting with me. I just have some basic questions. If you could just state your name, where you’re from, which class year you are and why you chose to attend to Antioch College?
RM: “Okay. Hello, my name is Robin McCoy. I am a second-year and I am in the class of 2024. What was the other question? I’m so sorry…
MW: “That’s okay. Why did you choose to attend Antioch?
RM: “I chose to attend Antioch because it’s very close to home. I live in Springfield, so I’m close by. And I’ve gone to schools in Yellow Springs since my sophomore year of high school. And also, education is really important to my family. So, I decided to come here.
MW: “Thanks for making that choice. My next question is, what’s your major and what Co-Ops have you done?”
RM: “I’m majoring in Creative Writing.”
MW: “Why did you choose Creative Writing as your major and how has it been?
RM: “When I first applied to come to Antioch, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do and it was like that my first year. Over the summer of 2021, I started writing just for fun and over time, I started to find an actual joy for it. I like the process of creating something based on my own imagination and that definitely made me want to go for creative writing. I’m definitely excited to take more writing classes.”
“For my spring Co-Op last year I was the Black Women at Antioch IG coordinator. And for my second Co-Op, which is this winter, I’m coordinating at the CSKC (Coretta Scott King Center).”
MW: “How have those co-ops been? How was it coordinating the Black Women’s group and what’s going on at the CSKC? How are you liking it?
RM: “The first Co-Op was good. I stayed at home for the spring and I just Co-Op’ed from there. And, also I worked at the nursing home that’s close by to the campus. The first Co-Op was really good. We did a lot of events. It made me realize I wanted to continue working at CSKC and also try to coordinate the group. I did that for working on campus during the fall.”
“This Co-Op is a bit different because I am living on campus. And that means I’m working thirty hours and so far, it’s really good. It’s just, I do a lot more than what I’m used to, which is fine. I like it.”
MW: “So you’re very busy there?”
MW: “And who are you working with? You’re working with Shadia (Alvarez ’96)?”
RM: “Yeah. I’m working with Shadia. I work with Clarence and Aniya, Rayna, Gael… It’s really nice.”
MW: “I’m curious about your first Co-Op. Were there any events or notable things that happened that you either enjoyed or did not enjoy?”
RM: “I really enjoyed my first Co-Op. My favorite event that I did for that Co-Op was probably the self-care day that we did. We went out to get hibachi which is really fun. And we talked about self-care, and it was really lovely.”
MW: “Nice. Do you feel like people had a good self-care routine going or was it a pretty big, new experience for them? What’s self-care like with the students that were involved?”
RM: “We talked about ways we could take care of ourselves especially being at school, and also on Co-Op, which is really important even though sometimes people don’t take care of themselves. I think those conversations on what we can do and what self-care is, really gave some people insight. It gave me insight, which is really nice.”
MW: “Do you feel like there was any self-care that was already popular amongst the group?”
RM: “Probably just taking a day of rest to really energize yourself and regroup. That was really common.”
MW: “And did you find that folks had the availability to take a day of rest?”
RM: “Yeah, I hope that’s what happened.
MW: “Yeah, it’s hard. I was trying to yesterday but I only got a few hours in. I guess you’ve got to get it when you can?”
MW: “And now, on your current Co-Op, you’re at CSKC, and it’s Black History Month. What event or aspect of Black History Month are you most excited about or looking forward to?”
RM: “What I’m looking forward to for this Co-Op is probably the ‘Getting to the Root’ training that we’re supposed to do, because it’s heavily important to discuss issues and problems we face as people of color, specifically in ways we can dig deep and figure out what it is and how we can possibly fix it.”
MW: “Right on That’s awesome. I took the training in January. I know they just had one in February. So, you must be looking forward to the next one, the March training?”
RM: “Unfortunately, we didn’t have it because of the weather. We had to postpone it. But I’m really excited for when it is time for us to officially do it. I’m ready to sit in on it and talk.
MW: “Yeah, Have you participated in that training yet?”
RM: “No, I haven’t yet.”
MW: “I’m sure you will find it inspiring or intellectually stimulating. What about the letter that you wrote about Black History Month? That must have been a part of your Co-Op? Anything you care to comment on that?”
RM: “I was kind of nervous to write it at first because I didn’t really know what to say. But then I really had to think and I’m glad I wrote it. And I think that’s probably one of the best things I’ve ever written so far.”
MW: “Yeah, yeah. You’ll have to keep track of it. It could be useful in the future, for sure. What about Antioch? What are your impressions of it? What is it like to be a student here in 2022?
RM: “I really like it here. At first, when I was a first-year, it was really hard because I didn’t really know anyone and I sometimes start to doubt my own abilities, intellectually. But I just kept my focus and continued to work hard. And that’s what’s gotten me to this point, I guess. When you set your mind to something, you feel like you can do it. And you can do it better. That’s how I think so that’s how I feel.
MW: “Is that something you feel like you brought with you to Antioch or is that something you learned here?”
RM: “I think that’s something I learned here. For sure.”
MW: “Really? How’d you learn that? Was it through a class or mentor or another student?”
RM: “It was probably just going home and talking to my mom about it. Because I’d go home and tell her what I was worried about, that I don’t think I’m doing good. I’m essentially afraid to fail. And she’d always tell me that I would do good. And that I got this. She would tell me to always put my mind to it and if I can do that I will always do well. So I think that’s what really helped me.”
MW: “What’s your mom like? She sounds pretty amazing. Any words you have to describe her would be great!”
RM: “My mom is amazing. She’s very encouraging and she pushes me a lot so I can do my best. She’s also very supportive of what I want to do and I’ll forever be grateful, not only because she’s my mother, but because she keeps me going and makes me want to do my best and make her proud.”
MW: “Yeah, having a good relationship with someone in your family can be so helpful, especially in college, guiding your choices and helping support you. So yeah, with that in mind, I’m curious, what are your hopes? What are your dreams? What do you think you want to set your mind to?”
RM: “Well, what I think about, what I want to do in life, and how can I push myself to do it when I leave… I want to get a master’s in education. I want to teach younger children and teach English as a second language. I also want to go teach English in a foreign country. I’ve just been focusing on that so I can get there.”
MW: “That’s great – getting everything in place to make those dreams a reality!”
“Do you have any thoughts on how to find a balance of self-care on one hand, but on the other hand, dreaming big and working hard and trying to make your dreams come true? How do you ever find a balance there?”
RM: “I set time aside for myself so I can really take care of myself. Like Sundays – those are days where I don’t do anything. I just lay in bed or go home to see my mom and dad and the cats. That’s mainly what I do. I take a day of the week, which is normally Sunday, so I can recharge. And then, for the rest of the week, all the way until Friday, I work. I do what I need to do and after I do that I take time and focus on learning Korean. I’m doing that right now because I want to teach English there. I find it interesting. So I do that. I set times for myself. I feel like just putting some time aside is important. Especially in college when you’re overwhelmed with everything, it’s okay to take a step back and just relax and recharge.”
MW: “It made me think of a lot of things but I have to ask what got you interested in Korea?
RM: “I started listening to K Pop and watching Korean dramas which led to me wanting to learn more about Korean culture. And I started to do that. And then I wanted to start learning the language. So, I’ve just been doing that. It’s kind of a diagonal type of thing – you start with the pop culture. Then you want to learn about the broader culture. Then you want to learn the language. And it’s really fun. It’s really cool.”
MW: “I hope you find success there. Do you have any other comments on Antioch or CSKC? Is there anything you’d like to add or advice you’d like to give to other students?”
RM: “I’d probably tell people that it’s okay to worry about how you’re doing. But don’t put too much stress on yourself. Because when you put too much stress on yourself, that’s when you burn out and you feel like quitting. So just always take a step back when you feel like you need to take a step back.”
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