I had the pleasure of attending the Every/One’s View town hall in April where Pedro Noguera, Distinguished Professor of Education, spoke on the “From the Crisis of Connection to the Pursuit of Our Common Humanity.” I had casually heard of this topic but had never quite understood the effects, relationship, and applications it could have on our society.
Professor Noguera’s lecture began with background on the evolution of our nation’s population and demographics: we’ve become more diverse in the last 15 years, poverty has risen in communities of color, life chances of an individual are more dependent on their parents’ income and education in the US than any other nation, the US has become one of the most unequal among the advanced industrial countries.
Examples were provided of both national and global crises: the war in Syria and the Middle East, global warming, police abuse in Black communities, HIV/AIDS. There is so much exposure to suffering and inequality that we are slowly becoming numbed and overwhelmed by these issues that divide and threaten us. He noted, we perceive these issues to be apart from us and the lives we currently lead, so we remain in our siloes because doing otherwise seems too difficult.
The lecture turned to how we can avoid these feelings of being overwhelmed by the differences and suffering around us. One example was building trust in our communities during times of crisis. During the Ebola crisis in West Africa, Dr. Mosaka Fallah organized his community in order to form trust and educate them about the disease and passing awareness. They did not find a cure but, because of their mutual trust, they were able to contain the spread of the virus in their area.
He told us how others have countered the narrative of helplessness: formed bonds over mutual beliefs despite a climate of apartheid, providing free healthcare to students in New York City schools despite a large population of student homelessness, and teachers turning around one of the worst schools in Massachusetts – resulting in over one third of the students receiving scholarships to college.
A large group discussion led by Javan Cross, Resident Director and the evening’s moderator, turned to how these themes affect those in the room personally. We talked about how we might build connections within and outside of our immediate community. What small steps could we take to be part of solutions to the challenges concerning us? This could be as simple as getting to know people outside of our immediate group or circle, or joining a campus organization that is completely new to us. Another point of discussion was how exposure to these topics and issues could help us take the deliberate steps to create a new narrative of connectedness despite our differences.
All in all, the April Every/One’s View was an interesting, enjoyable, eye-opening evening where many Bruins were able to learn, listen and share.