February 9, 2023

Musings

Pandemic Depression Poem
Posted: March 6, 2021

(Like a lot of folks, the global pandemic has changed the way I do a lot of things. That change led to depression, anxiety, and a wonderful therapist. One day when I was feeling pretty low, I wrote this poem.)

I don’t cry when I’m depressed.
My mind is too busy telling me how
powerless and worthless I am.
I’m preoccupied with believing it.
I don’t have time to cry when my fears are in abundance.

I don’t cry when I’m depressed.
But today, I took my temperature seventeen times
and measured my blood oxygen levels nineteen times.
98 on the right hand; 97 on the left.
Is that normal?

I don’t cry when I’m depressed,
nor do I tell others about it.
There has never been an instance in human history
when someone has actually stopped someone else
from being depressed.  It doesn’t work that way.

I don’t feel God when I’m depressed.
It feels like there’s some carbonite forcefield
around me that’s keeping Him away.
My brain says it’s because I’m not worth
the work of salvation.

I don’t cry when I’m depressed
but my therapist told me I should keep an
anxiety/depression journal because it will take away its power.
It’s not working though.
It feels like I’m giving it all the power (and wasting a seven dollar journal on it).

I don’t cry when I’m depressed
but I wish I did.
At least then, something tangible and real would come of it.
And not just insomnia, worry, and bullshit.
I usually feel better after a good cry.


Summer of Anti-Oppression Work
Posted: August 25, 2020

When I received the approval to teach a summer section of ANR 311 and to title it, “Developing Cultural Competencies and Confronting Prejudice”, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor had already been assassinated but the country hadn’t yet erupted into action after we would all see a police officer kneel on George Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and forty six seconds.  We were about six weeks into the pandemic and with internships and study abroad experiences cancelled, our students needed classes.  I simply chose a topic that I was passionate about and one which our students have routinely broached in Bailey core courses.  We had no idea how timely our learning experiences would be.

With seven students and myself, we were a small cohort of co-learners.  Unlike other Bailey courses, the aforementioned topic was already selected and I had written out our learning outcomes:

  • Identify norms from cultures different than their own
  • Recognize differences in education styles, values, and worldviews across diverse cultures
  • Summarize microaggressions and their effect on individuals and relationships
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the effect culture and prejudice has on effective teamwork
  • Analyze one’s own unique privilege and determine its effect on their worldview
  • Summarize anti-racism efforts and examine one’s own role in those efforts, if any

Needless to say, it was going to be a heavy summer.

But we attacked the subject with verve and passion.  We all worked together to determine how we would achieve the outcomes.  Experts were invited to be guests in our synchronous weekly sessions.  Books and videos were chosen.  I consulted with the best anti-prejudice educators from throughout the country.

Each week led us to tough conversations.  We examined the very basis of cultural norms and how they’re viewed by those outside the culture.  We examined our privileges and prejudices and created plans for how to aide in the dismantling of systems that have perpetrated racism, ableism, sexism, and other forms of prejudice.

As part of our slew of guest speakers, we welcomed alumni of the Bailey Scholars Program who offered valuable insights.  Taylor Berry, an Admissions Counselor at Western Michigan University presented on microaggressions in higher education.  Melissa Downer, an officer in the Ann Arbor Police Department Department spoke to us on the relationship between law enforcement and American racial violence.

To conclude our semester, co-learners each identified three concrete, out-of-their-comfort zone actions that they are committed to taking in the next two months toward anti-oppression efforts (an activity inspired by Layla Saad’s anti-white supremacy treatise).  It should come as no surprise that I was completely blown away by my student’s commitment to this important work. 

Mojadi is planning to volunteer at the MSU LBGT Resource Center.  Madge is going to speak out about the ableist microaggressions she experiences on a daily basis.  Ahmed wants to engage with cultural organizations on campus and learn about worldviews other than his own.

As part of his final assignment, Tommy wrote a poem about his frustration systemic racism:

You seem to be more focused on the color of the people in the streets

Instead of those who proudly wear the white sheets

The ones ingrained in our system that make us bleed

Who do not uphold the flag that has these needs

Anyone who works with me knows that I brag each semester that “This is the best class I’ve ever had.”  Our scholars make me optimistic for our future, even in the midst of great pain and unrest.  This semester held true to that legacy.  I have no doubt that these seven students will go on to pursue a more perfect society and world. 

They will make good trouble.

css.php