At this time of protest over systems of power, oppression, racism, and police brutality, Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life lifts up the voices of our graduate students in response to the #BlackLivesMatter movement. On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2015, our Publicly Active Graduate Education (PAGE) Fellows launched a new blog salon, #PAGE2Ferguson, which features articles, poetry, and prose as a means of conjoining multiple perspectives and processing this moment, together. Welcome to the PAGE2Ferguson Blog Salon.
"How do we respect and invite one another into our multiple modes of response?" As PAGE Fellows processed and discussed our role in the aftermath of the November grand jury's ruling in Missouri, we engaged in many email and video conversations. The opening question was one of many that were prompted in the last few months, as a handful of members of Imagining America's PAGE program grappled with how we best show our support for the growing movement against institutional racism, structural violence, and police brutality.
As Fellows, we have chosen not to remain publicly silent in response to the tragedies in Ferguson, New York, Cleveland, and the countless other cities which are home to continued police brutality, an unjust legal and policing system, structural violence and white supremacy. We support the growing #BlackLivesMatter movement, its young leaders, and the numerous voices which have, and will continue to, lead through actions, words and art.
We feel compelled to make our engagement and processing of the current events public. We feel called to make visible the multiple ways we each analyze, grapple, hurt, empathize and understand the events as they unfold. We feel responsible to share our own voices and experiences, while also raising questions that prompt conversation and dialogue.
Our response won't take the form of a single collective statement because we felt that a single document could not adequately encompass the complex, layered nature of our responses. Instead, we are working with the open and flexible format of a blog salon, inviting contributions in our most authentic voices: poems, songs, artistic pieces, essays, collaborative writing, transcripts of dialogues, performance recordings, and more. However, we are united in our intentions and goals for the salon: to stand as a community to make our simultaneous hope, outrage, frustration, mourning, processing, and solidarity both visible and public.
We have invited multiple perspectives from within the Imagining America community to contribute to the salon: PAGE Fellows and Co-Directors, who convene the salon; National Advisory Board members, who show support; and community partners, many of whom are part of the struggle on the ground and in the heart. This is a space to consider our involvement and experience of the #BlackLivesMatter movement.To consider the multiple experiences of those not adequately represented by #BlackLivesMatter, such as Brown, trans, or disabled allies. To consider how these movements have been received by White majorities. What is uncomfortable? What remains to be worked out? What frustrates you? Where can we make an intervention?
This salon is the launching point for continued dialogue and action - to show our commitment to this movement in which we fight for recognition of institutional racism, for the value of Black lives, for awareness of our intersectional identities that we each bring to movement building. Imagining America is what unites us, and we are proud to stand together, nurturing each others' voices and experiences. Join us as we help one another learn from and process this moment.
We welcome reflections and dialogue. Please, consider leaving a comment on the posts.
- PAGE Co-directors & 2014-15 PAGE Fellows
"Silence is the voice of complicity" v "That's not what we're talking about right now"? Notes on intersectional quilting
Reflecting on #BlackLivesMatter activism in Iowa City, Jennifer Shook discusses the tensions arising within spaces of protest. When considering the marginalization of other groups, including the sexual assault of women, queer, and *trans folks and violence against Native peoples and immigrants, she asks, "How can we connect [these struggles] without hijacking?" Jennifer Shook is a University of Iowa PhD candidate in English and Graduate Certificate student in book history and book arts at the Center for the Book, and a PAGE Co-Director.
Ferguson and the #blacklivesmatter Movement: Practical Questions and Musings
Enger Muteteke tackles questions about #BlackLivesMatter that she has encountered in recent months. Driven by her commitment to social justice, Enger posits, "When we sidestep dialogues of race, class, and gender, engaging in these vital discussions only when tragedy and injustice occur, we become complicit in perpetuating behaviors of microaggression on a daily basis." Enger Muteteke is a Master's student in Social Responsibility and Sustainable Communities at Western Kentucky University, an Assistant Pastor at a church in Glen Burnie, MD and 2014-2015 PAGE Fellow.
Talking #BlackLivesMatter Offline and Outside of the Classrooms and Lecture Halls
While noticing fervent social media discussion of #BlackLivesMatter, La Tanya S. Autry has been troubled by a lack of public discourse around the movement. Taking matters into her own hands, she investigates the question, "Is it possible to have a productive talk about Ferguson at the proverbial water cooler?" La Tanya is a PhD candidate in art history at the University of Delaware and a PAGE Co-director.
In this vivid poem, Naphtali Leyland Fields captures her experience at a #BlackLivesMatter protest. Standing in solidarity with others "along the main road of a small town in the South," she reflects on the gravity of this movement and the fight for justice in the face of systems of inequality. Naphtali Leyland Fields is a student at Virginia Tech, pursuing her MFA in Directing and Public Dialogue and 2014-15 PAGE Fellow.
"My Art Museum Mission"
Inspired by "the life and thoughtful words" of Maya Angelou, this poem by La Tanya S. Autry figures forward a powerful vision for the future of art institutions; that one day, they may become sites of equity, social justice, and inclusion. La Tanya states, "I am working toward a time when art museums are truly centers for all people."
Letters of Love and Struggle
Three graduate students, Alex Agloro, Katie Lennard, and Jessica Robinson, exchange letters expressing their heartache in the face of racially motivated violence, but also a commitment to radical love as a means of counteracting structures of racism in society. These letters show the emergence of a community of scholars who are able to come together to process the injustice they see. Alex Agloro is a Ph.D. Candidate at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California and a Visiting Scholar in American Studies at Brown University. She is also a PAGE Co-director. Katie Lennard is currently a doctoral candidate in American Culture at the University of Michigan and a 2014-15 PAGE Fellow. Jessica is a doctoral student at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in the Department of Education Policy, Leadership and Organizational Leadership. She is a 2014-15 PAGE Fellow.
On Teach-Ins, State Violence, and Institutional Racism
Elyse Gordon discusses how her understanding of state violence deepened after learning more about the roots of institutionalized racism at a teach-in. Through this experience, she came to see "why anger against racist police pulsed so fervently at the marches and protests" of #BlackLivesMatter. Elyse Gordon is a PhD candidate in Geography at the University of Washington in Seattle and a PAGE Co-director.