Bringing It

Bringing It #78: An MLK Reflection, a Project Story, and an Opportunity

January 19, 2022

Dear friends,

In this edition of Bringing It David offers a reflection on the occasion of MLK Day, and we share a great project story from one of our grantees and an exciting job opportunity from our friends at Imagining America. We also invite you to share with us reflections from this week’s AAC&U annual meeting as well as your thoughts on democratic education.

The Urgent Now and the Long Arc

In the early summer of 2020, appalled by the murder of George Floyd and other killings, millions in the U.S. and around the world joined Black Lives Matter protests against white supremacy and police violence toward Black people. I was one of them. Along with many white educators, my colleagues and I at Bringing Theory to Practice were pushed to reflect on the ways higher ed (and we ourselves) had lived with and tacitly reinforced systemic racism, as well as the ways BT2P might contribute to a reckoning with it. That June, we published a statement on those reflections and commitments, “Taking Seriously That Black Lives Matter,” in a Bringing It letter. On this MLK Day, I find myself looking back and taking stock.

It’s surely true that Black life and the racism that devalues it are being taken more seriously in higher education. I think of the Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation (TRHT) network, led by the American Association of Colleges and Universities and the Kellogg Foundation, which now includes more than fifty campuses. (We published a story about TRHT in our Spring, 2021 Newsletter.) I think of efforts to overcome racial disparities in mental health, led by the Steve Fund, the Jed Foundation, and the Healthy Minds Network. I think of the growing focus on racial justice in the civic engagement movement. Our work at BT2P reflects this commitment too. Our The Way Forward initiative, begun in the fall of 2020, was launched to advance positive educational change in the face of white supremacy, the pandemic, and its economic harms. The Way Forward grantees are pursuing projects on culturally-responsive pedagogy, equity-minded faculty development, and innovative programs that support refugee, indigenous, Black, and other students.

Yet my point is not to celebrate our progress, or larger accomplishments like TRHT, in reckoning with racism across the academy. I am more struck by how far we still need to go. And my thoughts return to two sayings of Dr. King – both famous and somewhat in tension with each other – that help me make sense of the moment.

On the one hand, he spoke constantly of the imperative to reject gradualism and make a radical commitment to justice, now, in the face of the crisis: We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today, he said in his 1968 talk, “Beyond Vietnam.” We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. And on the other hand, as I measure the steps forward toward racial justice – the grants, the programs, the workshops, the new curricula and pedagogies – I am reminded of the saying Dr. King drew from the abolitionist Theodore Parker: The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

I find myself inspired by the tension between these thoughts, between the urgent now and the long arc. The first is a call to action, but it sets a standard of change that may be impossible to meet. The second is a call to dogged persistence and the self-care to sustain it. As I think of Dr. King’s example, the past-two years, and the way forward, I try to live in the space between them.

– David

Grantee Update – Applied Theatre with Youth

When I met Chris Ceraso and Evelyn Diaz Cruz at an Association for Theatre in Higher Education conference, it was an instant meeting of the minds, spirit, and educational agendas. Quickly recognizing our mutual values and approaches, we excitedly joined forces. Together, we have presented at conferences for the Association for Theatre in Higher Education and the Association for American Colleges & Universities. (Our collaboration has also been supported by Bringing Theory to Practice with a Multi-Institutional Innovation Project grant and The Way Forward grant.) In addition, Chris and I co-edited an anthology of plays produced by our community-based learning course, which includes two plays by Evelyn: Represent! New Plays for Multicultural Youth (Bloomsbury/Methuen 2021).

This bi-coastal partnership inspired the three of us to create a second book with the intention of fostering a broader conversation among practitioners and scholars in the field of applied theatre. In co-editing Applied Theatre with Youth: Education, Engagement, Activism (Routledge 2021),  Evelyn, Chris and I were able to extend our conversations and shared resources on a national scale.

By documenting the inspired work of our colleagues throughout the United States and putting them in dialogue with one another, we hope to inform our readers about applied theatre’s intrinsic worth. For expression, self-confidence, agency, knowledge, and community are not luxuries; they are essential elements for personal growth and societal shift that applied theatre provides.

This collection of essays seeks to highlight the efficacy of applied theatre with youth in a myriad of settings, while also addressing the challenges of this work and offering insights into solutions. This book articulates the philosophical values that underpin these practitioners’ work, but it also acknowledges the ethical dilemmas involved. Moreover, it offers insight into effective collaboration, whether among team leaders, with community partners, or across different institutions.

– Lisa Brenner, Drew University

Opportunity Alert!

Our friends at Imagining America are looking for a Managing Director. The deadline to apply is February 7, 2022.

The Managing Director is the lead organizer of the national IA consortium, contributing to Imagining America’s overall strategy and leading key areas of work, including staff management and development and organizing the National Advisory Board, Regional Advisory Council, Leadership Forum, and National Gathering. The Managing Director leads administrative strategic operations, including HR and budgetary processes, provides leadership, communications management, strategic planning, and direct support to IA leadership, and engages IA’s diverse networks and constituents.

To view the job description and apply: Click here.

Educating for Democracy – AAC&U Annual Meeting

The American Association of Colleges and Universities is holding their annual meeting, on the theme of Educating for Democracy, in Washington DC from January 19th – 22nd. If you’re attending this year’s meeting (virtually or in-person) we invite you to share thoughts and reflections that stem from this gathering by emailing [email protected]. We’re curious which new models, practices, or solutions grabbed your attention. What obstacles to liberal education most concern you? How do you see liberal education in service to democracy being reinvigorated across the nation?

With thanks for everything you do,

David, Gianna, Kelly, & Todd