K is included in the 2022–23 Colleges of Distinction online guide, which lauds schools for going beyond what typically drives rankings to offer a personalized education catered to students’ interests. It spotlights K through the K-Plan, the College’s framework for exceptional academics within the liberal arts and sciences.
“When we focus all of our attention on how schools stack up against one another, we lose track of what really matters: the students themselves,” Colleges of Distinction Founder Wes Creel said. “Every student has individual needs and their own environment in which they’re most likely to thrive. We want to extend our praise to the schools that prioritize and cater to students’ goals.”
High school guidance counselors, college administrators and the Colleges of Distinction selection team nominate excellent schools for inclusion before each institution is vetted to determine its quality through its support for students in all aspects of their lives. Colleges of Distinction judges its nominees on their teaching quality, student engagement, community engagement and outcomes through a selection process that includes in-depth research and detailed interviews with the schools and stakeholders.
K received accolades in each area along with honors for its undergraduate programs in science, math and technology; health and medicine; arts and humanities; multidisciplinary studies and social science.
“We pride ourselves on being an institution that prioritizes hands-on student experiences inside and outside the classroom to reflect a well-rounded education through independent scholarship, study abroad opportunities, civic engagement, career development and more,” Dean of Admission Suzanne Lepley said. “When students enroll at K, they should feel confident we will do everything we can in their four years to set them up for success for the rest of their lives. This recognition from Colleges of Distinction confirms that.”
K is also recognized among the top Colleges of Distinction in terms of equity and inclusion as it caters to the unique needs of their students regardless of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, gender or ability.
“A great undergraduate experience is more than just graduating and getting your first job,” the Colleges of Distinction website says. “Colleges of Distinction graduates are prepared for anything. They are strong writers, speakers and thinkers because their professors have encouraged and challenged them one-on-one. They have meaningful professional experience from internships and advanced research, and they know how to work together with people different than themselves because they have been active on campus, traveled abroad and pursued service opportunities. In other words, when you graduate from a College of Distinction you will be equipped to find better solutions in the workplace, your community and the world at large.”
A documentary film that had its U.S. premier at Kalamazoo College’s Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership is illuminating the struggles of indigenous people from Patagonia to Mexico.
Tony Nelson, the assistant director of student engagement in the Center for International Programs, hosted the showing last month of Minga: Voices of Resistance, an international production by Pauline Dutron and Damien Charles. Together, the acclaimed co-directors help denounce the destruction of indigenous territories, spotlight cultural heritage and show how indigenous peoples are organizing themselves to inspire solutions.
The film, Nelson said, does an excellent job of raising awareness around two issues: the strategic and patterned violence perpetrated against indigenous peoples throughout the Americas and worldwide, and the resistance of those peoples, while calling for others worldwide to take up the fight against it.
“Sometimes intentionally, and sometimes accidentally, we don’t hear enough from people who have been marginalized historically and economically,” he said. “The more we can give amplification to the voices of folks who are being strategically ignored, censored or silenced, the better, in my opinion. I hope documentaries like this, as well as testimonies from students, can make those voices louder so more people are aware and more people get involved.”
For seven and a half years, Nelson ran a study abroad program in Chiapas, Mexico, where he met the filmmakers.
“They were in San Cristobal for a particular event called the National Indigenous Congress, so I got to meet them when they stayed at my friend’s house,” he said. “They had traveled from Belgium all the way to the southern tip of Chile and South America via sailboat by volunteering to work the sailboat, and then traveled only by bus all the way up to Mexico.”
Nelson said that while he was skeptical at first of the filmmakers’ intentions, he’s impressed with the end product.
“I was nervous about them accessing indigenous communities in a way that might feel exploitive, but I stayed in contact with them,” he said. “They spent a year transcribing all of their interviews, and then a year translating all the different languages into Spanish and English. I saw the film and I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh. They really did this. They did an amazing job.’ They did all these travels, and stayed focused on the voices of the communities in a way that centered voices that don’t get amplified often.”
The film is now available to anyone through a Creative Commons license, which allows it to be shown for free, although it was special to have the premier at K.
“The film is moving and well done,” Nelson said. “Regardless of my involvement or even knowing the filmmakers, I would have been speaking to people about it to raise awareness. They’re activists in Belgium, and they have a long-term goal of trying to inspire more people to resist and stand up for what’s right.”
Co-director Charles, speaking from his home in Belgium, said he wanted to share something important in the world through Minga, a film that took more than six years from concept to completion.
“When I came in contact with these communities, I saw their point of view,” Charles said. “It’s not just the idea, ‘We have this territory we depend on and if someone wants to destroy it, we want to defend it.’ Of course, they want to defend it, but it’s much deeper than that. It also talks about how the Western world imposes its views of ‘development’ on communities that have other projects for their diverse societies. These deeper goals really impacted me and made me question a lot of things about our way of life, about our society and about the way we see the world around us. I wanted to share that experience of being in contact with people who actually have a different vision of their place in the world. I think being in contact with something so different makes you understand yourself better.”
Nelson hopes many will see the film, understand themselves better and be inspired to act alongside voices that are traditionally marginalized or silenced.
“In my opinion, change can only come with serious pushback and pressure,” Nelson said. “That’s why, I think, they’re highlighting the communities they are. I hope people draw motivation from this and see that these incredibly repressed communities have found a way to fight, stand up with dignity and stick up for their rights, even if it means going up against a Goliath like Chevron or Coca-Cola. These companies are picking fights and threatening these people’s livelihoods; threatening their way of life. If they can stand up for themselves, we can definitely fight against the XL Pipeline or communities being redlined. There are many struggles we can join with in fighting the systems that are threatening us, our neighbors, and loved ones.”
Anne Dueweke ’84 believes we cannot understand where we are unless we understand where we’ve been, especially when it comes to the racial climate of the United States and, closer to home, Kalamazoo College.
With her newly published book, Reckoning: Kalamazoo College Uncovers Its Racial and Colonial Past, Dueweke hopes to supplement existing histories of K with a racial and colonial history, sharing experiences of people of color at K and examining the role American colonialism, racial history and attitudes toward race have played in the founding and development of K through the years.
Reckoning begins with the founding of K in 1833 on land that was home to the Potawatomi people during the era of Indian Removal. It takes a close look at the events and attitudes affecting racial climate, both in the U.S. and at the College, through the Civil War, long periods of stagnation, the popularity of minstrel shows, the Civil Rights Movement and Black student activism on campus, right up to the recent activism of the changing student body and diversity, equity and inclusion efforts by recent College administrations.
“K’s story is not a unique story,” Dueweke said. “It reflects what’s happened in the country and reflects what’s happened in a lot of institutions of higher education. It all plays out here. … Sometimes the College would be ahead, sometimes it would be behind and sometimes it would be right there with the rest of the country.”
Most histories, told from the perspective of powerful white men, have felt unsatisfactory to Dueweke as a woman. “They also didn’t explain why we still have such stark racial disparities,” she said. Reading histories focused on race and colonization, such as A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn, Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi and An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, helped her understand. “I hope this book plays a similar role for the College, that it helps explain why things are the way they are, why many students of color don’t feel comfortable here.”
Myers Education Press is publishing the book and marketing it to higher education institutions for use in courses on topics such as social justice and history of higher education.
“If people here found it useful that way, I’d be really happy,” Dueweke said. “It was a hard project. I could never have done it if I hadn’t been completely engrossed in it, and I wouldn’t be completely engrossed if I wasn’t so invested in this institution. I really feel that this institution has the potential to go much further in achieving equity with how the campus is experienced and how the educational programs are delivered in terms of race and ethnicity.”
‘It Was Hard for Me at First to Understand What the Issues Were’
Dueweke graduated from Kalamazoo Central High School and chose to attend Kalamazoo College because it had a small student body, robust study abroad program, good academic reputation and beautiful campus.
She studied abroad in Madrid, performed a career internship in the publicity department at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts and completed an oral history project and biography with a local artist and poet named Ben Tibbs for her Senior Integrated Project.
“I had a great education and experience here,” Dueweke said. “It was transformative, it was challenging, it was very mind expanding in so many ways, I made a lot of good friends.”
After earning her B.A. in English in 1984, Dueweke earned an M.A. in Spanish literature from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. She became a mom and did some free-lance work before starting work at K as director of the Academic Resource Center in 1998. In 2000, she became director of faculty grants and institutional research at K, a job she held until 2019.
At the time, Dueweke was unaware she was joining the College staff after a period of turmoil and tension over multicultural efforts. She started in student development at a time when racial issues were a frequent topic of discussion, often framed as lack of diversity.
“I thought, ‘I wonder why this is such a difficult place for Black students and other students of color,’” Dueweke said. “As a white person, it was hard for me at first to understand what the issues were.”
Dueweke had always considered herself an advocate for students. After helping to conduct multiple student-led focus groups on students’ experiences with racial climate in 2013, she saw a need for her advocacy to involve more engagement with diversity, equity and inclusion work.
For the next two years, Dueweke incorporated leading DEI committees into her work at K. Then, in January 2015, she was participating in an anti-racism training for faculty and staff at the Arcus Center with local non-profit Eliminating Racism and Creating/Celebrating Equity (ERACCE).
The training began with the history of the United States told through the lens of race and colonization, with a timeline crossing the whole room.
“When I was looking at that timeline, I was really struck that the Indian Removal Act was passed in 1830, which was right around the time Kalamazoo College was founded in 1833,” Dueweke said. “I wondered how the founders interacted with the Potawatomi and other indigenous people, what they thought about the Indian Removal Act, and what the impact was of their being here. I began to think it would be interesting to write the story of the College by focusing on issues of race and colonization as a way to better understand why the College is where it is when it comes to these issues.”
Reckoning, Celebrating, Showcasing
Dueweke applied for and was granted an Arcus Center Fellowship for 2015-2017 to support her project to examine the College’s history through a social justice lens.
“The increasing diversity of our student body … represents the future, yet the College’s structures, practices, policies, systems, norms, and values have been shaped by 180 years of serving a predominantly white, middle to upper-middle class, Midwestern population,” Dueweke wrote in the application. “This work will involve placing the College’s story within the larger context of U.S. history … paying close attention to the effects of colonization, racism, … including how the College has both perpetuated and fought against these societal forces. As a result of this work, I hope that the College can come to terms with threads of racism … and other ‘isms’ woven through our institutional history, celebrate themes of social justice that characterize the College’s past and present, and showcase the stories of people in Kalamazoo College’s history who have been marginalized and silenced.”
While Dueweke initially thought she could complete the history in three years, working on it in addition to her full-time job ended up taking more than six years. She was grateful to be able to extend her fellowship, even after she left her job at the College in 2019 and started working as a resource developer for the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi in Dowagiac.
In addition to reading many U.S. and regional histories, her research involved archival work and oral histories with alumni of color. The Arcus fellowship provided funds to hire student assistants, buy books and travel to interview alumni or visit archives.
“The oral histories were all compelling,” Dueweke said. “One thing I really struggled with, doing this as a white person, is not trying to tell the stories of people of color for them. I did want to relay their experiences, so I relied a lot on their own words from the oral history interviews, and then from people who are no longer alive, from published writings or interviews that they had done.”
Online, Dueweke found the petitions for federal recognition filed by the three local Potawatomi bands, in which the tribes tell their history. That proved vital for the beginning of her book. Fortunately, one of the first known African American students to attend K, Rufus Perry, went on to be a prominent and prolific writer so Dueweke was able to draw on his own words in sharing his story.
“It got much harder to write as it reached the point where people will have their living memory of the recent history, especially the last chapter,” Dueweke said. “There will be a lot of people who remember those years who may or may not feel the same way, people who have their own interpretation of those events.”
‘The Shape of Things’
Reckoning opens with the time of the Native American displacement and the founding of K by Baptist missionaries.
The book relates some experiences of Rufus Perry, the first known African American student at K. He escaped slavery as a young man and went on to become a well-known minister, scholar, writer, newspaper editor and advocate for Black people.
It delves into the impact of the first president, James Stone, and his wife Lucinda, who were progressive and abolitionist. As forward-thinking as they were, Lucinda Stone’s published writing still demonstrates the paternalistic and assimilationist thinking common among white progressives at the time.
The third chapter, “The Shape of Things,” covers the period of time from after the Civil War until the end of World War II.
“That was a long, long time period, and it was a period of real stagnation in how people thought about race in this country,” Dueweke said. “I think that shape is still there; that shape is still very strong. There’s been progress since then, certainly, yet there’s still white supremacy, the country is still run by white people. That really affects how white people think and operate and it has a huge effect on people who are not white.”
The book goes on to address the racial climate at K in the ‘50s, with blackface performances remaining popular on campus despite community objections, and the slow rise of some awareness as K attempted to engage with a broader world, implementing the K-Plan in the early ‘60s. The Black Student Organization formed soon after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968 to advocate for the institution to make itself relevant to Black students.
The College took steps forward and back in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s as calls for diversity and action were met with opposition or were overshadowed by other challenges on campus. Progress often seemed to move at a snail’s pace.
In the conclusion, Dueweke addresses some of the positive progress in racial climate at K in the past 15 years along with some of the continuing struggles. She is aware she could face some criticism for her work from those who feel she did not get it right.
“Race is a really fraught topic,” Dueweke said. “You can’t really work in areas of race without getting into the fray.
“I see this book as a first pass. If other people find portions of the history they would want to elaborate on more, delve more into—that would be really wonderful if people got involved in expanding it.”
Support for Reckoning from K
Dueweke said she received a huge amount of support, encouragement and guidance from Mia Henry, former executive director of the Arcus Center, and Lisa Brock, former academic director of the Arcus Center, among many other people. The current leadership has also been supportive and contributed to publication.
“It’s been really wonderful that they’re willing to embrace a history like this,” Dueweke said. “There are other histories of the College and I see this as a supplement to them. It tells the story from a different perspective.”
Provost Danette Ifert Johnson said it has become apparent over the past few decades that most history is based on a subset of people’s experiences.
“It’s important for us to get that broader knowledge that includes all the perspectives and not just the perspective of the group that’s had the privilege and been in the position of being able to dominate the narrative,” Ifert Johnson said. “It’s important for us, from an institutional perspective, to understand that as much as many of us love K, it doesn’t mean that the same kinds of things that happened in a lot of other places in society over the past almost 200 years didn’t happen here. It’s important for us to be honest about that, to know where we’ve been, because it does inform where we are and where we’re going.”
Ifert Johnson said K has come a long way in terms of diversity—32 percent of the student body at K are domestic students of color—and the administration’s current focus is on inclusion.
“Numbers don’t tell the whole story,” Ifert Johnson said. “Diversity doesn’t necessarily mean that people feel fully included and like they belong in all parts of this community. How do we make sure that all of our students, all of our faculty, all of our staff, all the members of our campus community really feel like this is their place and their voices are valued, their experiences are valued? That’s something we’re working on. I don’t think it’s as fast as any of us would like, but we’re continuing to move forward.”
The College ordered 100 copies of the book, some of which will be available at the library. Plans are still in development for how best to share and distribute the rest. The book is also available at the Campus Bookstore.
“I think there are a number of different ways that it can be integrated into the College and I hope that it will be,” Ifert Johnson said. “I hope that people do read it when they get a chance. I think it’s really informative. It provides a different perspective on the history of the College and one that is important for us to know and understand and acknowledge.”
Reckoning: Kalamazoo College Uncovers Its Racial and Colonial Past
By Anne Dueweke ‘84
Book launch event
5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday, April 7 Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership 205 Monroe Street Kalamazoo, MI 49006
Details: About 25 copies of the book will be available and dinner will be provided. Dueweke will speak about the book, do a reading, and answer questions, followed by an informal reception.
A playwright from New York City will conduct a free and open-to-the-public community discussion at Kalamazoo College days before his latest show, Blacks+Phats, is presented at K’s Festival Playhouse.
Kevin Renn will discuss his experiences as a Black playwright at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, February 22, at the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership, 205 Monroe St. Renn is known for productions such as Showcase: A Musical Rehearsal, which details a challenging final practice session for a group of theatre students the night before a performance; Mulatto Boy, about the only student of color at a private school where he runs for student body president; and Jungle Juice, addressing six friends who celebrate their college graduation and end up confronting their uncertain futures and a troubling secret.
Blacks+Phats uses characters such as Goldilocks and the Three Bears, the Black Panther Party and Michael Jackson to take a satirical look at Black cultural issues, body image, fetishism and their representation in modern society. The play will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, February 24–Saturday, February 26; and at 2 p.m. Sunday, February 27, at the Festival Playhouse, 129 Thompson St.
Tickets for Blacks+Phats are available through the Festival Playhouse online box office. Adults are $15, seniors $10 and students $5. K students, faculty and staff are admitted for free. The Thursday production includes a talkback session with Renn and Director Janai Lashon. Please note the play includes potentially triggering references to sexual assault and eating disorders, and masks and proof of COVID-19 vaccinations are required for admittance to the theatre.
A performance duo with more than 20 years of storytelling experience will provide Kalamazoo College students, faculty and staff with a livestream presentation to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Storyteller Emily Lansana and vocalist Zahra Baker form the Chicago-based partnership In the Spirit, which celebrates the power of the word to connect, uplift and transform. They will present “We Shall Not Be Moved: Stories and Songs to Celebrate Resistance as a Form of Revolution” at 2 p.m. Monday, January 17. The performance—sponsored by the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership, Student Development and the Black Faculty and Staff Association—will celebrate dynamic leaders and everyday people who have contributed to changing our world, in addition to King’s commitment to social justice and radical change.
In the Spirit traditionally celebrates the Black experience using pieces that highlight significant moments in history. Their repertoire includes African and African American folktales, stories from history, inspirational stories, original tales and personal stories. The livestream will be viewable through Vimeo.
Zoe Barnes ’18, now a graduate student at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville (SIUE), has received the 2021 Student Leader Champion Award for her efforts in advancing social justice throughout her university, in the community and through her chosen profession.
“I’m very excited because it’s a wonderful honor,” Barnes said. “Social justice is a buzzword to some, but it’s a constant, ongoing process of challenging what we know and checking our own biases. In school psychology, social justice is important because if you look at a school and see who the teachers and staff are, you will often see groups dominated by white staff members. They don’t reflect the increasing diversity of students, especially in public schools. Social justice can help us challenge the status quo.”
Several students at SIUE, including Barnes, expressed their interest in social justice to faculty last summer. The professors sensed an opportunity to connect them all, leading to the formation of the Graduate Students for Social Justice, a group that talked about injustices on campus and developed ideas for addressing social justice within their respective programs.
Barnes is a member of that group and also recently served as the social justice chair of the Graduate Organization for Child and Adolescent Psychology Students (GOCAPS) at SIUE. Her service led a faculty member to nominate Barnes for the NASP honors.
Barnes said the K community helped her develop an interest in diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice after she arrived from a predominantly white community in Grand Rapids, Michigan. At that point, Barnes started seeing more peers who looked like her. Students of color provided an energizing space where she could discuss the discrimination and microaggressions she experienced on campus with others who could relate.
“Being at K, and just being surrounded by people who look like me and had similar experiences really helped me,” Barnes said. “Talking helped put a name to the discomfort.”
Barnes double majored in Spanish and psychology and minored in anthropology-sociology at K. After a gap year, Barnes looked for help in determining her career path. At that point, she talked with Suzie Gonzalez ’83, spouse of K President Jorge G. Gonzalez.
“I went down this route to school psychology because of Suzie Gonzalez,” Barnes said. “I was thinking about what I wanted to do with my life when I met up with her. She was a school psychologist and she definitely inspired me.”
Barnes earned her master’s degree through SIUE in December and now is seeking a clinical child and school psychology specialist degree with an expected graduation date of May 2022. She will be honored at NASP’s 2022 annual convention in February.
“I would love to make an impact however I can as a school psychologist,” Barnes said. “When I picture my career, I want to be firmly planted in a school district. I want to walk down the halls and recognize all the students and know their educational history. Early intervention is a huge part of school psychology and I would love to support them from the very beginning.”
A Kalamazoo College student organization is showing local girls that they don’t have to assimilate to anyone’s standards to see themselves as beautiful.
Sister Circle, a supportive group dedicated to young Black women, reached out to local schools this spring to propose natural-hair programs and workshops that encouraged children to embrace their diversity and celebrate each other’s distinctive appearance.
“I wanted to address some issues that we faced when we were children that weren’t really addressed by our parents or our education system,” said Udochi Okorie ’22, who founded Sister Circle in her sophomore year. One of these issues is the pressure to conform to societal norms or standards that don’t include or specifically ban natural styles.
“We felt natural hair wasn’t socially acceptable and that can cause trauma for African American women,” she said. “We wanted to get into the community and do an event for elementary, middle and high school students that centered around loving their natural hair. That was a dream of mine and we were able to do it this spring. We got such a great response from the community.”
On campus, Okorie and other members of Sister Circle seek support from fellow women of color in a safe, affirmational place.
“We recognize there aren’t a lot of spaces on campus where we’re able to express ourselves, and not just because we’re at a predominantly white college,” Okorie said. “There have been higher-education spaces where we felt like we were ignored, undervalued or spoken over when we spoke up.”
In coming together as Sister Circle and as a Black community, they have found affirmation that helps them navigate these challenging higher-education spaces. And now, they’re taking that off campus to support the next generation through the Love Your Natural Hair Program.
Sister Circle members including Okorie contacted the Mary Jane Underwood Stryker Center for Civic Engagement, who introduced Sister Circle to local elementary schools El Sol and Woodward. When Sister Circle described their goals for a natural-hair program, school administrators jumped at the offer.
“Luckily, we had people who also experienced issues with beauty standards, whether they were people of color or just administrators who recognize the differences between their students,” Okorie said. “A lot of people were really welcoming and said, ‘Yes, I recognize that this is something we need at my school.’”
The issue of learning to appreciate natural hair has always been close to her heart and sharing that issue with Kalamazoo children has been rewarding.
“In the last workshop, we did some affirmations,” Okorie said. “We talked about different types of hair and what products to use, which can be really hard when a lot of the products are not meant for your hair type. We talked about how to manage your hair and we drew pictures and asked the kids what they like about their hair. The students really enjoyed it and said it was effective, and we got a really big response from parents. During the event, I almost cried because of how the girls were responding and how their perception of their natural hair is changing.”
Further, Okorie hopes that outreach will continue long after she graduates so more girls will know the appreciation for natural hair that she has and the self-confidence it’s brought her.
“I hope Sister Circle and the Love Your Natural Hair Program are my legacy at K,” Okorie said. “I want natural-hair appreciation to be something that’s shared, especially in kindergarten through 12th grade, so every student can recognize the beauty of it.”
A Kalamazoo College English faculty member has helped develop a project that ensures his field will be inclusive and engaging with scholars from underrepresented groups.
Associate Professor of English Ryan Fong is one of four scholars from around the country who founded Undisciplining the Victorian Classroom, a digital humanities project that reimagines how to teach Victorian studies with a positive, race-conscious lens. The title was inspired by a recent essay by Ronjaunee Chatterjee, Alicia Mireles Christoff and Amy R. Wong in the Los Angeles Review of Books, titled “Undisciplining Victorian Studies,” which itself borrowed from York University Professor of English literature and Black studies Christina Sharpe’s call for scholars to “become undisciplined” as a way to undo racist theories and the limited, predominantly white scopes that scholars have inherited.
“The three other founders and I wanted to create a set of resources for how to bring this work into the classroom to infuse our teaching,” Fong said. “The website developed as a result of those conversations, and we collaborated with one another to build the site and involved other scholars from around the world to create our first batch of teaching materials.”
In addition to Fong, the founding developers are Pearl Chaozon Bauer, an associate professor of English at Notre Dame de Namur University; Sophia Hsu, an assistant professor of English at Lehman College, CUNY; and Adrian S. Wisnicki, an associate professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
The K community can take pride in the team’s project because many of the lesson plans featured on the website draw on those that Fong first developed in his classroom through his own pedagogy. Take, for example, the lessons regarding the work of Mary Seacole, a British-Jamaican nurse, healer and businesswoman who set up the “British Hotel” during the Crimean War. Seacole hoped to assist with nursing the war’s wounded but was turned away when she applied to be in the nursing contingent. Instead, she traveled independently and set up her own “hotel” for tending to the wounded, making her popular with service personnel, who raised money for her as she faced extreme poverty after the war.
“A lot of what we’ve been doing in the project is creating resources to help instructors teach materials like Mary Seacole’s,” Fong said. “She wrote an important travelogue and memoir about her experiences, and the teaching materials on the site will help teachers contextualize this work and teach it alongside people that we already know and love like Charles Dickens and Charlotte Bronte. We’re hoping that we’re giving scholars tools to incorporate new materials into their classes or perhaps even conceive and remake whole new classes.”
In addition to lesson plans and syllabi that involve writers such as Seacole, the Undisciplining the Victorian Classroom website provides Zoom-based broadcasts with recorded conversations, featuring professors to further promote a diverse base of historical writers.
“We’re recording conversations with colleagues about what we do in our classrooms,” Fong said. “It gives us a chance to share how we teach and how we can expand the materials and approaches that we have typically used. Hosting these has given me a lot of opportunities to share what I’ve developed at K. Bringing the expertise that I’ve been able to gain into these conversations with teacher scholars around the country and around the world has been really exciting.”
In the short term, Fong said the site’s success will be evaluated through the number of people visiting the website. Yet ultimately, the hope is to get experts and scholars throughout higher education excited to collaborate with the project while empowering everyone who does the work of teaching literature in colleges and universities—from graduate students to adjunct faculty and tenured professors.
“Around the world, we’re all really working toward these goals of social justice, anti-racism, and diversity, inclusion and equity,” Fong said. “If we’re working in alignment with those principles and we’re doing it thoughtfully as scholars, then I feel like that we have the potential to make an impact not just in higher ed, but all over.”
A Kalamazoo College student has developed a partnership with peers at Albion and Hope colleges to create a four-part series of Black History Month events which will run February 26 through March 1 titled “Reality is Wrong, Dreams are Real.”
Destiny Hutcherson ’21 said she feels it’s important for Black students to have a space where they can meet other Black students and talk about experiences that are unique to them, especially when there is a lack of Black representation on campus that Black students could turn to in times of need; representatives who understand their culture and customs, and most importantly, could relate to their struggles not only in college, but also the world. These events—planned with some guidance from the Kalamazoo College Council of Student Representatives, the Office of Student Activities and the Intercultural Center—could provide that, especially with other Great Lakes Colleges Association (GLCA) schools participating.
“What you want to do is turn to people who look like you when you need advice,” Hutcherson said. “I was fortunate to have a Black advisor as a first-year student, but a lot of students don’t get that. I wanted to make something that could close that gap in the pandemic and help students find someone they can relate to.”
The conference’s logo, done by Stanton Greenstone ’21, features a flower growing from concrete alongside the moon and a star. The flower symbolizes students growing even in tough situations. The moon and star represent faithfulness in Ghanaian art. The “Reality is Wrong, Dreams are Real” title refers to Tupac Shakur, who once talked about being a flower who grew in difficult circumstances. It also touches on something timely, Hutcherson said.
“Tupac rapped in the 90s, but this is something that’s even more apparent now,” she said. “The reality we have is rough and it’s not inclusive to Blackness sometimes. Even though that’s the reality, in some ways, it’s wrong because I feel like one day dreams will overtake that. I don’t want this just to be a sad event, looking at the realities of what’s happening to Black people. I want it to be about what Black people want to do with their lives. A dream can be as simple as graduating college for a Black person and that dream is reality. My dream was creating something that cultivates Black space.”
The Black History Month events are open to current K students and include:
Art Therapy with Kwame Akoto-Bamfo at 4:30 p.m. Friday. Akoto-Bamfo, a globally-famous Ghanaian sculptor, is known for projects such as an outdoor sculpture dedicated to the memory of the victims of the Transatlantic slave trade, on display at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which opened in 2018 in Montgomery, Alabama. Students participating in this session have received art materials provided through the mail.
Game Night at 8 p.m. Saturday. The night will begin with an ice breaker and mocktail hour for Black students to network. That independent time, Hutcherson said, will be especially important to Black students as most events also are open to allies. The rest of the night will involve games and possibly a showing of Coming to America, the 1988 comedy film starring Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall.
Seminar sessions that begin at 11 a.m. Sunday. The day will feature 10 to 11 breakout sessions, including topics that deal with being an ally, and identity-based discussions that deal with being Afro-Latinx, queer and Black, and more. A Black doctor will also speak about navigating the health care system as a Black person.
Balance, Beats and Breaks at 6 p.m. Monday. Students will enjoy mindfulness practices with raptivist Aisha Fukushima, a performance lecturer, social justice strategist and singer/songwriter.
“I know that we’re at a predominantly white institution, but my goal is that we have a good number of Black students registered for it,” Hutcherson said. “I’ve centered my focuses on identity-based events at K, and I believe this is another event that is designed for filling in a gap that Black students have not had in the past year, especially seniors.”
“In the future, in a perfect world, I would also like to open this to Black alumni so it’s not only events for students, but a larger affair with other thinkers who will come in and mentor Black students,” she added. “It would be about healing, education and networking, so that it’s tailored to be a conference on giving Black students hope emotionally, and sending them on a path to generational wealth. I’d like this event to be as joyous as an HBCU extravaganza.”
A renowned professor, author, scholar, activist, TED Talk speaker and Kalamazoo College alumnus will help K celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with a virtual event at 11 a.m. on Monday, January 18.
Colorado State University School of Education Professor Dr. D-L Stewart ’95 focuses on empowering and imagining futures that sustain and cultivate the learning, growth and success of minoritized groups in postsecondary education. His work is motivated by an ethic of love grounded in justice and informed by the lived experiences of individuals with multiple marginalities, along with the effects of systems of oppression. Stewart will deliver a keynote titled “I Wish I Knew How it Would Feel to be Free.”
The address will share a title with a song performed by Nina Simone in the 1970s, a time when any gains from the Civil Rights Movement, led by many including King, were threatened with a white flight to the suburbs, protests against school desegregation in northern urban cities and the beginnings of mass incarceration. Stewart will compare those times to our current times and note many similarities.
The event, which is open to the public, will include an opening address and introduction from Asia Smith ’21. Access the event at the scheduled time here through Zoom. The passcode is MLKDay. For more information and any accommodations, email Director of Intercultural Student Life Natalia T. Carvalho-Pinto at firstname.lastname@example.org.