“Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!” – Miss Frizzle
I grew up in the ‘90s and thus I had the privilege to experience some of the greatest children’s programs to ever exist. The Magic School Bus was one of my favorite shows, it was educational and wildly entertaining to my kid imagination. Miss Frizzle’s words have always stuck with me and I have always worked to heed her instructions to take chances, make mistakes, and get messy. These instructions call us to simply try, to move past fear, to question, to understand, to act.
In my adult life, I have recalled her words when thinking about social justice, equity, and inclusion. It has been my experience that engaging these topics is never ‘clean’ or easy – we almost never get it right on the first try, but we must try. In my work with the equity and inclusion advisory board (E&I) for the ACPA17 Convention, this sentiment has been how I have approached this work.
The E&I team has tried to center equity and inclusion considerations in every corner of the convention process. We have asked hard questions, raised concerns, and worked to advocate for members of our association who experience systemic oppression. We have attempted to avoid perpetuating that system in our processes. Although we have tried hard, we realize that we do not always get ‘it’ right, we make mistakes and we are open to hearing and learning from each of you. We will take note of what we learn and pass our lessons on to the ACPA18 team.
In the time leading up to the convention, we hope you will begin to engage with each other in meaningful and intentional ways. We hope each of you will interrogate the implications of our world, post-U.S. election. At the same time, how do we work to de-center the U.S. when engaging international issues? There is much to discuss, to engage, and for many of us, much to resist. For some, these feelings are not new, these experiences are familiar as they rest in the histories and legacies of our multiple generations. For others, this may be the first time that you have felt concerned or even afraid. We hope you will use this time to ask yourself: what does it all mean? What is our path forward as individuals and as an association? What does it mean to get messy in this work?
It is our wish that you will feel energized by being with one another, find strength in community, and seek opportunities to push us all forward. We hope you will use the time to engage the stories of marginalized groups, our experiences, our truths and realities. We hope you will interrogate what it means for us to host a convention in Columbus, a city named for a violent colonizer and settler: a person who is responsible for the pain and suffering of many people. What does it mean to be in Ohio? A state (like many others), that has experienced issues with state violence against Black bodies? What does it mean to be in a country, that has expressed dangerous sentiments of an entire religion (Islam), realizing that this sentiment pre-dates January 20th 2017.
We hope you will consider these and many other questions, we hope that your investigation might move your head and heart to do something and inspire change: while realizing that many of you already are in fact changing the world.
As for the work of the E&I team, we have attempted to hold many of the efforts from the previous convention, and to determine opportunities to do more. This year a significant portion of our work has taken place behind the scenes. We have worked to review every piece of communication and literature that has been released pertaining to the convention. Our goal was to infuse E&I efforts in as many places as possible throughout the planning process, and we wanted to push back on the notion that E&I work belongs in any one place, but that it is instead on all of us to be thinking about and interrogating.
There are already some wonderful resources available that we hope you will use to learn and take chances. Resources include a blog about inclusive language, considerations for Indigenous People’s Day and words from important voices of our membership. In addition to these, we have gathered information and resources related to equity and inclusion that can be found under the Inclusion tab as well as the Plan Your Visit tab on the ACPA17 website. Please review the available information and let us know if there are any questions, concerns, opportunities, or issues that we may have missed. The Equity & Inclusion Notification form serves as an additional resource should you want to bring awareness to any situation.
As for the convention itself, the following are just a few of the tasks the E&I team has worked on this year:
- Created a learning opportunity for the Convention Planning Team around microaggressions
- Review of facility names, with investigation of problematic histories and legacies of the room’s name bearer to submit for steering team consideration
- Review of every accepted program sessions’ abstracts and titles with feedback and education from a critical E&I lens
- Reviews of convention content from marketing material to featured speakers and everything in between
- E&I liaisons added to various convention committees as well as the addition of a Native Aboriginal Indigenous Network representative to the E&I team
It has been my pleasure to serve as the ACPA17 Equity and Inclusion Advisory Board Chair. It was a great learning opportunity and I feel fortunate to have been able to give back to this association and our field in this small way. If you would like to connect with me prior to the convention or during the convention, please do not hesitate to email me directly at acpaTJ@gmail.com, as we move forward I anticipate taking chances, making mistakes, and getting messy with you because it means we are trying, we are learning.
Together we can uncover ways to connect our collective potential to action at ACPA17 and beyond.
TJ Stewart uses he/him/his pronouns and he is currently a doctoral student in the College Student Affairs Administration program at the University of Georgia. Prior to starting at UGA TJ was an Assistant Director in the Student Life Multicultural Center at the Ohio State University where he maintained oversight on intercultural and constituency specific programs on campus. While at OSU, TJ also maintained leadership of the campus’s program based response initiative (Ohio State: No Place for Hate) to address trends happening on campus and across the country related to social justice and social identity. TJ holds a BA in Psychology, MA in Higher Education and Student Affairs, and a MLHR in Human Resource management all from OSU. TJ has served on the ACPA Convention Equity and Inclusion Advisory Board in the past as the Special Events Liaison for the 2016 convention. TJ’s research interest includes student activism, nuancing activism via resistance, critical race theory, digital activism, and Black women as leaders and change makers in social movements. TJ loves Rihanna and Beyoncé and serves as the Chair for the Equity and Inclusion Advisory Board for the 2017 ACPA Convention.