Throughout the act-up, artist Abby Wilkymacky from Mind Flower Studio created an image to visually represent and map the topics discussed in the conversation.
By Josephine Mueller ’21
The LOVE Pilot Program kicked off its second semester with an act-up on Feb. 25, “Mapping and Dismantling Systemic Racism.”
After last semester’s teach-in events, the LOVE program is moving toward action. Speakers at the first act-up included Alex Otieno, assistant professor of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice; Tonya Bah (T-Bah), strategist and member of Free the Ballot; and Kelsey Koelzer, women’s ice hockey head coach. They talked of how they’ve experienced and encountered systemic racism, institutions that reinforce or push against racism, how Arcadia can develop and advance, and how it’s crucial to further anti-racism work even when exhausted.
Bah noted how personal systematic racism is; she explained that when a cashier asked if she wanted a receipt, it triggered her.
“I'm Black—would I like a receipt?” she said. “Do you know what happens if I walk out of the store and I'm challenged by anybody in law enforcement, whether or not I've actually purchased the items that I carry on my person? It can run the gambit. I could be tossed up against the wall. I could be followed in my car. The idea of anybody asking me after I use my money and purchase something if I would like a receipt, triggers me.”
Public funding, redlining, public policy, voting, the power of community, the lack of Black leadership in sports, racialization, and access to resources were all topics explored at the act-up. Otieno talked about how when he lived in Kenya, his Blackness was not the defining part of his identity, but it changed when he moved to America. He also echoed sentiments from the previous semester’s teach-in on microaggressions: Like Dr. Favian Guertin-Martin, he too experienced a time when he was on campus on a Saturday in casual clothes and was not allowed into Boyer Hall because he was not recognized, and Koelzer explained that while it sometimes feels like a constant uphill battle, you have to keep going.
“There are instances where I just want to be Kelsey,” she said. “I don't necessarily want to be first recognized as the Black girl who made it, so to speak, or the token who’s made it. But it's very easy for me to push those feelings down and flip the switch in my head to say, okay, you have this platform, you need to use it. A lot of what I say as a coach is about educating and being respectful and finding ways to get those answers for yourself. If you know someone's not comfortable with that conversation then you need to move on, but finding a way to educate yourself without putting too much of a burden on people of color within your community because you're not the only person asking those questions.”
This spring, the LOVE Pilot Program has organized participants into the following working groups, in addition to their affinity groups, to discuss specific areas affected by systemic racism and propose solutions:
Public Health Disparity: Pandemic Realities
Racialized [Mis]Representation in Arts and Athletics: A Dialogue
Potential Denied: [In]Equitable Access to Career Opportunity
Not So Sweet: Facing the History of Grey Towers Castle and the Sugar Industry
Who Counts? Black Lives and the PA Prison Pipeline
The LOVE Pilot Program is a space for Arcadia students, staff, and faculty to explore issues of identity, racism, and systemic discrimination, and to examine their own role within society as change agents.