Diversity Week 2019 kicked off Monday morning with a Chapel presentation on “Diversity in Christ” from Dr. Christina Edmondson, dean for intercultural student development at Calvin College, and a student panel representing various identities within the LGBTQIA+ community. The convocations provided powerful opening sessions for a week designed “to celebrate and engage in important dialogue surrounding Belmont’s diversity and inclusion initiatives.”
Dr. Edmondson (above) opened chapel Monday morning challenging the problematic Western belief in “inevitible progress,” or that things will get better as time moves on. She argued, however, that time does not heal sin, and the problematic ideas many Christians have about race and injustice will not simply go away with time. “I pray that we be experts not of the law, but of love. May God save us from the foolishness of using our theology and the law to avoid compassion,” she said. “I pray for the ability of grace to see grace and to see sin as sin, even if the sin has been going on a long time.”
The student panel (above) focused on notions of intersectionality, how all of a person’s varied identities inform their experience of the world rather than simply defining an individual by their career, gender, sexual orientation, presentation or other attribute. As one panelist noted, “A big part of bias is just assuming your experience is universal.” All of the panelists emphasized the importance of listening well to narratives other than one’s own, leading with kindness and standing up for minority communities and voices as keys to making progress in a frequently fragmented world.
Spoken word poet Amena Brown–who has released five albums, two books and been featured at the National Poetry Slam and the Creativity World Forum–spoke on campus Wednesday, sharing faith-inspired perspectives on topics ranging from understanding one’s roots to celebrating women of color to imagining Jesus’ thoughts on social media.
Also, as part of Diversity Week, the Gabhart Student Center hosted the Ability Exhibit, a traveling exhibit designed to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities through respect for others, comfort during interactions, and awareness of disability issues. Using a multimedia approach, the exhibit offered suggestions for becoming disability allies and educators.