This summer, from July 28 to July 30, the Place-Based Justice Network will host its annual Summer Institute, a virtual experience centered on two focus areas: (1) building practices of accountability and (2) transforming power.
The past 18 months have been grueling, to say the least. We’ve found ourselves in the face of multiple pandemics---COVID-19, rapid climate change, an eroding democracy, economic downturn, and the racial uprisings of last summer. In July, we will be over one year from the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, yet still embroiled in a paradigmatic shift from colorblindness to anti-racism. While this year has seen statements drafted, statues removed, academic buildings renamed, curricula (and faculty, to an extent) metamorphosed, and admissions ratios expanded, higher education as an institution still portends a much greater historical reckoning.
As we work to become more fully inclusive, anti-racist, multicultural organizations in a transformed society, the words of Arundhati Roy ring as true as they did last August:
“Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.”
During this year’s Institute, we have intentionally constructed a three-day experience that allows for vulnerable (un)learning and wisdom sharing at multiple levels of accountability.
Through PBJN offerings (Leadership Retreat, Continuous Learning sessions, BIPOC Healing Circle, White Affinity and Accountability Circles) held this year, we’ve witnessed power dynamics emerge in our relationships and within our institutions. Indeed, when we understand that the tentacles of power reach well beyond the individual and interpersonal into institutions and even societies, it can feel overwhelming. While we may be inclined to act with urgency, we find ourselves grasping for more authentic relationships, a set of collective values, and, most of all, community. In our own anti-racist praxis, at our institutions and in our lives, how can we honor the need for repair and healing in conjunction with the ever-evolving nature of accountability and justice itself?
To unpack these questions, we will present a series of framing dialogues, featuring leaders in our field that embody the values of the Network and the larger themes we hope to explore during the week.
By bearing witness to these and sharing our own oral (hi)stories, we not only aim to uplift and (re)center voices of color, but also hope to engage participants in a narrative-driven changemaking process that they may carry back to their own institutions.
In conversations regarding race in higher education, many turn to sharing, redistribution, and reparations, namely financial capital. This commitment to acknowledging harm and restoring once-extracted capital, while admirable, is not enough. When we restore the system and its power to the same state in which the harm originally occurred, we forgo an incredibly valuable opportunity to transform power and, by consequence, the system itself. This is transformative justice.
While primarily used as a framework to address harm in interpersonal relationships, we invite participants to imagine what this transformation could look like beyond our students, our colleagues, and our community partners. Specifically, what are the places in your institution where “a small shift in one thing can produce big changes in everything”?
During the PBJN Summer Institute, we ground our programming in a power-conscious frame, centering individuals’ identities and experiences in gathering and reflection spaces. Through several points of connection---conversation, bursts of brilliance (lightning talks), somatics, and creative engagements with yourselves and one another---during the conference, we hope that seeing the work of others rekindles a sense of joy and inspires you to do yours in a different way.
Ultimately, we hope participants will return to their institutions, committed to interrupting and dismantling the old, imagining the not-yet, and co-creating the new in their own communities and beyond.
Registration for the 2021 PBJN Summer Institute is now closed. Registration for PBJN Institutional Members (students, staff, faculty and community partners of current Network members) $15, $25 for non-member individuals
Our intentions for this gathering are to:
As a pioneer of community-based experiential learning in higher education, Nadinne Cruz was Director of Stanford’s Haas Center for Public Service where she founded and directed the Public Service Scholars Program; executive director of HECUA (Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs; and Eugene M. Lang Visiting Professor of Social Change at Swarthmore College, where she piloted a service-learning Democratic Practice Project. As an Elder in retirement, Nadinne is interrogating her experiences with inter-generational racial trauma, exploring how to integrate personal healing with addressing systemic injustices, and is supporting the leadership development of transformative educators she mentors.