The Proposals Are Here

Dear all,

After 5 months of ceaseless campaigning by students, allies, and alums, the proposals for policy change are all here. I personally apologize –I needed the weeks of rest after LTN Day, but the 95 team under its new leadership has not been idle. We’ve formally submitted our proposals for policy change to the Dean of Students, and calms back from an encouraging and cordial meeting with our beloved President, Dennis Voskuil. While the going has been long, this really is the culmination of your work -as organizers, allies, donors, friends. Short of a brief tally of expenses this semester, we will be taking full advantage of the summer to live it up and rest. But look to your emails come July! We’re ready for the storm. In the meantime, our official proposals are listed below:

Eight Proposals for Our College  

We, students of color, LGBT students, and allies of Hope College, affirm our love for our campus and its integration of faith and practice, word and action. As we look to our college’s mission, we applaud the aims of Goal Four of the Hope for the World Strategic Plan, which aims to build a college “strengthened by its diversity…committed to the flourishing of every individual as created and loved by God.” Joining the administration in this shared goal, we affirm that the achievement of these goals is not inevitable, but must come from our own active commitment to its tenets.

We are grieved by the many accounts of violence–physical, verbal, and spiritual–perpetrated against students of color and LGBT students on campus. We recognize that these incidents of cultural racism and homophobia are symptomatic of larger, institutional weaknesses, which must be acknowledged and redressed in an effort to restore reverence for fellow students who bear Imago Dei, the Image of God.

We point to the 95 anonymous, eloquent stories gathered and attached here as witness to the reality that not all well in our college. We look to the changing stories of alumni over time, affirming the truth that student activism can bring tangible change, as it has in decades past. We applaud Hope for beginning the hard work of intergroup dialogue, which allows a polarized campus to come together and humanize one another. We also seek policy that affords minority students dignified places to gather, advocate, protest at need, and seek physical safety. For we must love our neighbors not only with speech but also with action, and just laws that govern both.

We hold these as rational steps we must take to fulfil the Strategic Plan, using effective policy change to counter racism and homophobia. Rooted in the rich and ecumenical Christian tradition of this college, we propose these policy changes that might allow the Hope community to offer tangible support and equity to LGBT students and students of color.

 

  1. We call for a larger staff roster and budget towards expanding ethnic diversity, across all departments and faculty groups, including the Center for Diversity and Inclusion. While Hope maintains its goals of expanding ethnic diversity across its departments with new faculty openings, it has historically struggled to recruit and maintain Christian faculty of color in positions, or offer them tangible paths for career equity. Objective 2 of Goal 4 of the Strategic Plan specifically addresses this, and we are heartened by the steps that have already been taken. We propose that a suitable titration point of this include not only a raw percentage increase of faculty of color, but also a staffing of faculty of color in every academic department, as we approach the end of the decade. Furthermore, we propose that administrative staff of color be hired in a variety of support groups on campus as well, including CAPS and Financial Aid office, where their representation and insight would vitally improve the situations of students of color. Likewise, we note that while Hope’s students of color make up 18% of the college’s demographics, the Center for Diversity and Inclusion maintains at this point just two faculty and staff devoted to empowering minority students and fostering campus-wide allyship in a diverse world. If Campus Ministries maintains nearly a dozen chaplains, staff, and faculty members to minister to all students, surely similar organizations like CDI need commensurate staff and funding to maintain their work. While Hope continues to stand by its commitment to opposing racism, institutional support is a vital way it can make good on its promises, by actively equipping students with faculty mentors who can train and support them. We look forward to seeing CDI’s faculty/staff roster increased to at least five positions held by ethnic and/or sexual minorities, offering both academic and personal mentorship to the benefit of all students. (See Stories: #10, #30, #33,  #69, #74, #75).
  2. We request that KPI 4 of Objective 1 in Goal 4 of the Strategic Plan, which calls for intergroup dialogue on campus, be broadened at the end of 2018 to include a direct administrative response to activism and advocacy. This particular KPI is set to be replaced with a long-term KPI in regards to dialogue, and represents an admirable step as Campus Ministries, Student Development, and Academics begin these difficult conversations. Once the goal of cultivating dialogue is accomplished, we ask that the long-term replacement include in campus decision-making not only dialogue and dialogue-based groups, but also activists and advocates of minorities on campus. Organizations like Campus Ministries could gain valuable insights from acknowledging and adapting in response to the insights of movements of advocates of LGBT students and students of color. Moreover, we request that the language of KPI 4’s replacement affirm both the necessity of intergroup dialogue and student activism in decision-making, without assuming either can make meaningful change on our campus alone. (See stories: #84, #85, #86, #94).
  3. We unreservedly laud and support the brilliant, student-led campaign to raise funds for the Hope Dream Fund, investing in a scholarship for DACA students at our college, and seek to ensure that the generous donation of Hope’s givers can expand the reach of this scholarship long-term. Indeed, as long as the eligibility of DACA students remains threatened by the anti-immigration lobby in Congress and the White House, we ask that our college continue to irrigate and extend the Hope Dream Fund. Accordingly, we as students and alums promise to raise awareness and additional funding for the Hope Dream Fund, and to make this scholarship among the primary objectives of the 95 Stories agenda for the 2018-2019 school year. In an age where undocumented students and first-generation-American students suffer a new wave of reprisal and xenophobia, we can counteract that with good allyship. (#1, #2, #11, #18, #21)
  4. We propose two changes to Hope’s Policy of Non-Discrimination: (a) that Hope’s Policy of Non-Discrimination include gender identity and sexual orientation as protected identities, and (b) that the phrase “committed to the concept of equal rights” be amended to remove the words “concept of,” so as to better reflect the stated values of Hope College and its constituents. Hope College maintains an extensive roster of legislation under its Title IX statement rejecting discrimination of all kinds. Jennifer Fellinger, a Hope PR representative, publicly reaffirmed to a reporter this year that “[a]ll members of the Hope community are called to honor the dignity and worth of one another; the mistreatment of others is unacceptable.” In short, Hope already stands against discrimination and harassment as defined by Title IX. However, it has yet to include sexual orientation or gender identity among the list of protected identities under its Policy on Non-Discrimination, nor explicitly in passages of the Title IX rhetoric it maintains online. We ask that our statements better reflect Hope’s Christian values by including both gender identity and sexual orientation in the roster of possible cases of hate crime. The Policy on Non-Discrimination further states that Hope is committed to the “concept of equal rights,” a puzzling phrase semantically distinct from a commitment to actual equal rights. We ask that this statement be amended to read that Hope is committed to “equal rights,” better reflecting the values we hold as a campus. (See stories: #8, #38, #39, #40, #46, #47, #54, #55, #64, #68, #95)
  5. We propose that the Hope College Position Statement on Human Sexuality be removed. While acknowledging the stance of the Reformed Church in America, Hope remains an ecumenical nexus of Christians from across the wide tree of our faith. The position statement, while claiming to express Christ’s love for all, enables a language and posture of hostility to LGBT students–and an administration unable to assuage or counter discrimination. Hope has yet to make a Position Statement on the rise of Neo-Nazism and the Alt-Right in its policy, nor has it made a Position Statement on other hot-button issues of similar heft, like the Pro-Choice/Pro-Life debate. Hope’s choice to make a stand here against the identities of students already marginalized seems to negate the insistence that all students, including LGBT people, are considered equal. The consequences of this statement are detrimental to the health of our LGBT students, and in itself does little to affirm or support even those LGBT students who do seek to live the lifelong celibacy Hope College prescribes. Discriminatory stances, even when spoken in love, still perpetrate violence against minorities whose very existence is denied. The statement’s place on our campus is incongruous at best and a conscious attempt to oppress LGBT students at worst. We propose it be removed. (See stories: #8, #30, #40, #64, #68, #95)
  6. Accordingly, we propose that Hope College instead draft formal and firmly-practiced position statements condemning all manner of white supremacy, the publication and circulation of alt-right material, and the slogans and symbols of white supremacy, including Confederate flags, KKK symbolism of any kind, and phrases such as “The South Will Rise Again” on campus grounds. Unlike our divided visions of human sexuality, Christian beliefs condemning white supremacy are held much more widely at Hope, and should be put forward and defended in our policy and legislation. Even jokes by students participating in Nazi-style “Sieg Heil!” chants on campus must be formally condemned. We can affirm the value of each student’s cultural heritage without affirming supremacy.  (See Stories: #3, #21, #22, #25, #46, #80)
  7. Accordingly, we wholly ratify and support the work of LGBT students calling for a Gay-Straight Alliance on campus as a full-fledged advocacy group. While Hope-sanctioned organizations like GRACES offer intergroup dialogue on sexuality, we must not confuse dialogue for advocacy. Dialogue is not a safe place where LGBT students who fear physical and emotional violence can find support. We seek the freedom for our LGBT siblings to find a space that affirms and supports them, legally sanctioned as part of the larger Hope family.  (See Stories: #44, #54 #55, #58, #59, #60, #61, #62, #64, #68)
  8. We propose optional, voluntary gender-inclusive housing for trans and non-binary students and their allies. Impressed and heartened by the progress that has been made on other Christian campuses, including our esteemed neighbors at Calvin College, we campaign for several units of Cook Hall to be a welcome place for students of all genders. This move would be a wholly voluntary option, in which students may either explicitly request gender-neutral housing, or check a box that states they are open to living with a trans or non-binary person. Said gender-inclusive units in Cook, operating by request, would be supervised by an RA who has underwent Safe Space Training with GLOBE staff. Even the current Hope College Position Statement on Human Sexuality speaks primarily to sexual orientation and the legitimacy of sexual acts, but speaks little on the matter of gender identity. We argue that an all-gender dorm designed for trans, non-binary, and cis students to live and grow together does not contravene current Hope position statements, and must therefore be considered on its own merits. Trans and non-binary students often face the threat of physical reprisal for being out on campus. Gender-inclusive housing is not a luxury or an extra comfort, but a tangible way of providing not just emotional but also physical safety and security, just as we provide security to the cis women and men of our campus through their housing preferences. (See Stories: #69, #79, #87, #88, #91)

We ask that our college’s student leaders, honorable president, Hinga-Boersma Dean of the Chapel, and board of trustees seriously consider and swiftly implement our proposals. While we would gladly clarify or elaborate on the policies suggested here, we want to remind the college that talk without action is not neutrality, but an active choice to join the oppressor. We assert then instead that the college must consider our proposals holistically–including its intersectional policies regarding race, gender identity, and sexuality. We believe that these different oppressions are not identical, but nevertheless flow from the same systems of privilege that infect the church, violate the image of God in each human person, and sabotage our Christian mission and evangelism. We affirm that just as sexism hurts both men and women, racism and homophobia hurt both the minority students and the health of the entire student body. To borrow from 1 Corinthians 12:20, “[a]nd the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ Many parts make the body of Christ. And while Hope has been quick to represent–and sometimes overrepresent–the beauty of its minority students on admissions and alumni media, these proposed policy changes would represent us also in administrative decisions, and not only the glossy cover of a Hope magazine.

We call for each policy proposal to be seriously considered and effectively implemented within the next academic year. We stand resolute; we will not be divided and conquered. We remain strengthened by our diversity as each other’s allies and accomplices.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages, 

Amen

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Further Up, Further In

Hey 95ers,

LTN Day, y’all. We did it. On a rainy, rainy Saturday, some 1300 goodies and homemade treats went out to some 384 students in 330 gift bags, all decked out orange and blue and packed with resource booklets for new students. We raised some $1770 in donations for the generous faculty, alums, and friends of Hope College, with special thanks to Hope Church, Grace Episcopal, and Holland UCC. Including bakers, packagers, and all three LTN-day welcome crews, we estimate some 70+ volunteers made our event possible. From banner painting to faithful donorship from our allies, to mountains of oven-fresh chocolate chip cookies, and a little help from the the Brave Commons network and the Wheaton College LGBT squad, we’ve been provided for, supported, encouraged, and pushed. We’re looking forward to appearing in articles on MLive, the Anchor, and the Holland Sentinel soon -all of whom graciously sent journalists on site! ❤  Look at all these chickens!

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Braving the rain with waterproofed posters!

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Devante and Rev. Beth Carroll: Not. Having. Fun. At all.

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Resident Snark-in-Chief and culinary goddess Angela teaching Josh how to be Allergen-sensitive when packaging cookies! ❤

The movement started in a drafty rental with six students armed with a laptop, a packet of nails, and a preamble for 95 Stories we had not yet even begun to gather. All we knew is that from our coalition of furious gay Asians, straight black women, and Poe Dameronesque seminarians, we’d spent our college careers hearing these stories. THey were out there all right. We just had to get our town to see the pain that has been festering for so long.

Five months, a Vespers protest later, and a full Ninety-Five stories later, the 95 Stories Project has become a movement. It involves students, allied alums, and seminarians. It has effectively plugged Hope students with dependable support from Brave Commons, neighboring LGBT movements on Christian campuses, and the effervescent Soulforce (who are visiting this weekend YAY!). We’ve been able to equip a mighty team of freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and super-seniors engaged in activism, dialogue. And I can say with impossible pride that, really, the kids are all right. THese underclassfolks have run up against the administration in meetings again and again to negotiate how LTN Day and the Petition of Proposals can succeed on campus. THey’ve challenged their peers -they’ve built mighty alliances with neighboring LGBT clubs in other schools. THey have fundraised, conquered their fears of public speaking. And that is divine work, and nothing Nathaniel or Heidi or I had anything to do with.  This is the Lord’s doing, and it’s marvelous in our eyes.

Allies and alums, lookout, y’all. Devante and VV, the official new leaders of the 95, are fierce and bold and brilliant, committed to the disruptive but nonviolent ways our movement has changed this college. They and the team will be pushing further into the murk of campus policy and are working with dedicated admin trying to shape future legislation at Hope. I’ll release the petition tonight or tomorrow, but in the meantime, this is to say –these muffinhuggers are just humbling to meet.

To all you out there reading, I hope the work of these current students gives you courage, just as it gives me courage now. I wasn’t ready for the revolution in 2014, baby freshman that I was. I still wanted to believe that the Middle Ground was always right, that dialogue without activism could succeed. I would, quite frankly, have been one of the people horrified that something sacred like Vespers had been “desecrated” by the pain of students of color and LGBT students. I was not down for the revolution.

Seeing the students here, in this college, of all places, encourages me –and it damn well should hearten you too. This is the vanguard of a soulforce that has risen again and again to engage admins, students, and community alike. It has listened and learned from the leaders of the POC and LGBT communities on campus, and leaned in on their wisdom. It has found a way to honor the brave work of old activists while recommending and then doing the work that comes next.

It is with both relief and some sadness that I announce my retirement from leadership of the 95 Stories. I write only to say that this bright ship full of luminous minds and bodies is captained by the very best. As we go forward pushing for our direct Policy Changes, the 95 Stories Project still has the hardest work ahead.  But we’re ready, Holland. This town is ready. This college is ready.  And Aslan, She’s on the move, gurl.

 

Seven Days

Dear Ninety-Fivers!

Seven Days left! What a time to be alive! It’s with unbridled delight we announce that all the goodie bag swag has arrived! With your help, we’ve raised some $1536 –exactly what we need for the event, with just a little set aside for the 95 Stories’ future work!  Your generosity has sponsored some 800+ activist pins and decals, to be offered to anyone who wants some on LTN Day! Alongside 400 paper bags stuffed with our beloved Alma Mater’s colors -or’nge and blue!  Dear donors, friends, and givers, this is on you. ❤

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And this ain’t even half the swag! But I’m keeping the Philosopher’s Stone.

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Just look at them shiny buttons.

The day’s fast approach, we’re fine-tuning parts of our project to go smoothly with the suggestions of our administration at Hope, and working to really making this a welcoming day to all –especially the amazing generation of admitted students of color and LGBT students. We’re ready. Holland is ready! We can’t wait to spread the love! 🙂

We Still Need More Bakers! If you can make some chocolate chip cookies, portable desserts, or other treats, let us know ASAP. Just email me at joshuakam1996@gmail.com!

And we STILL NEED WELCOME CREW PEEPS!  If you can meet at Hope Church at 7:30-10 am, 11am-1pm, or 3-5pm, come on down! We still need folks to sign up and show up -especially at the earliest time, to hold up huge welcome banners, offer bags and bags and bags of goodies, and spread the love to both admitted and current students! ❤  Can’t wait for y’all to come down!

We meet at Hope CHurch, 77 W 11th St, Holland, MI 49423 (There’s parking there!) before walking out to Devos Fieldhouse laden with sweet treats, Gluten-free goodies for those with sensitivities and booklets of invaluable resources for minority students!

The movement is moving, folks, and who’d’va guessed it involved chocolate chip cookies, but what the heck!

Courage and candor,

the 95 Stories Team

Love Thy Neighbors Day: Volunteers Needed

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Dear Ninety Fivers,

The summons have gone out! We’ve just sent emails to some 165 allies, friends, and supporters across the Hope/Holland community. Love Thy Neighbors is happening, and we’re here with a new blueprint for what that looks like. This is both our newsletter for volunteers, and also an account of our goals, actions, and hopes for the Hope College administration.

Volunteers Needed!

The stories are published. Our Hope and Holland family is listening. Now we’re calling for your support. You’ve come to the meetings, hung out with the team, and asked for ways to help. Here’s how.

Apply for leave early. Save the Date. We’ll need everyone!

On April 14, a Saturday, from 9am-5pm, we’ll need more than 100 volunteers taking shifts to make Love Thy Neighbors Day a roaring success!  Running alongside an admitted students day, the 95 Stories Project wants to peacefully achieve 3 things:

1) Celebrate the life and beauty LGBT and POC students bring to Hope by being proud, out and about all over campus, with huge, hand-painted welcome signs explicitly for prospective minority students. “Welcome to Hope! You are loved; you won’t be alone!”

2) Welcome prospective students with hundreds of packets of homemade baked goodies of all kinds, packed with little resource booklets for minorities to navigate their new life at Hope!

3) Work with Hope’s admin by publicly offering our list of policy change proposals before the President, student body president, and deans of student life and chapel.  The spirit of these proposals is to encourage students to love their neighbors and fellow minority students. We affirm student activism –and it doesn’t always look like a protest. Sometimes it looks like this. 🙂

Here’s Five ways You Can Help:

Join the Baking Crew! (Holland community folks, local businesses, alums).  We’ll need volunteers to bake some 2000+ cookies, rice krispie treats, and vegan/Gluten-free stuffs, pack them in a sterile location TBD, and hand them out with huge smiles throughout the day. We also need sandwiches and snacks to fuel our welcome crew. If the art of good food is your forte, sign up here

Join the Welcome Crew! (Calling POC/LGBT students, our straight/cis/white allies on campus, and local pastors/clergy) –We’ll be holding up bright, beautiful welcome signs for shifts throughout the day all over campus. This is NOT a protest. Feel free to book several shifts throughout the day! We’ve decided not to hold up any posters of the 95 Stories themselves, which are directed to current students, not prospies. We want to affirm that prospective students still indeed have a vibrant community of minorities, allies, and actives –and connect them with their POC and  LGBT communities for the best possible life at Hope! Sign-up sheet is here!

Staff the “Ask a Hope Student” Booth (for Hope students of color and LGBT students) We need unofficial ambassadors of the college!  We honestly do love Hope College, and want to offer a small booth where prospies can ask a Hope student about life as a minority on campus, and ways we unite, organize, and celebrate ourselves in the larger context of the historic Christian faith here! Sign up at the bottom of the volunteer roster here!

Give to the 95 Stories. We humbly ask Hope patrons and alums for your financial support as we peacefully call for policy change on campus, this year and the next. Proceeds will finance the posters, paint, and glossy info booklets for the day! Our target is some $2000 dollars -we have 34 days to raise the target amount. Student activists have invested massive amounts of time, work, and personal sacrifice into these events; your support would allow our reach to go even further! Our GoFundMe page is right here.

Share the link with other allies!

Sign the soon-to-circulate online petition of policy change proposals for the college. We’re still connecting with Hope community leaders and minority students for input and insight releasing this, and you are welcome to sign it.  Top priorities include campaigning for an expanded budget and staff roster for the Center of Diversity and Inclusion at Hope, and supporting the work of students pushing for increasing LGBT recognition from Hope’s policy and practice. We’re turning these into Hope leadership in person on the day!

In the meantime, we ask everyone to, save the date, volunteer, and commit. We need dedicated allies who’ve got our backs in this journey of making Hope a wider, deeper, more Christlike campus. We, the LGBT and POC communities (and LGBT folk of color) of the 95 Coalition, thank you for the work you’ve done already. We love you all; and look forward to making LTN Day a success! Updates to come soon. See ya there.

Courage and candor,

The 95 Stories Team

P.S. Forward this to everyone you know and love in the Hope Community. All hands on deck!

 

#95

And with that, it is published. No. 95 of 95 Stories on our Twitter and Facebook.

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We have published all 95 Stories. All 95 Stories (while still accepting and including more  submissions) have been platformed.  Alums have poured in support. Current students have risen up to give us this heavy compendium of stories. Different experiences, different identities, different kinds of oppression. And yet each of these voices have offered us both their courage and vulnerability, and I can’t begin to say how proud I am of each of you who wrote. And each of you who listened, and reposted, and shouted out these stories from the Dutch-red rooftops of this dear city.
We started as an idea: shared by three housemates, three neighbors, and a seminarian. One blog, a google form, and a small fortune spent on of posters. An alliance of LGBT men of color and straight black women committed to exposing racism and homophobia.  Not equating or muddling these two kinds of oppression. Not losing our distinct and proud identities, trying to be each other allies all the same. A community of folks pissed off for each other’s sakes, demanding more for a college we love.
Three and a half months later, Hope students of color and LGBT students (and those who are both) have submitted 95+ Stories of discrimination. Some sassy, others sad, some snarky, and all still triumphant against oppression.
Storytellers, this one’s for you. Oppression also works so differently for different minorities. The hand of white supremacy acts differently to Asian Americans and African Americans. Likewise the same systems of privilege strike LGBT folk and People of Color differently. But you have all laid your different stories side by side, not to dissolve or equate those differences, but to show our college what solidarity can look like. It’s work that has grown far larger than the little band of humans that began this, and that’s all you. This is all you.
Dear storytellers, thank you for letting us be the platform where your eloquence could shine. We are humbled. Dear listeners, readers, allies, questioners, critics, and friends –thank you. Our mentors of color, our friends in the Holland community, Western Sem, and Hope –thank you.
The work continues. April 14–Save the date!–is Love Thy Neighbors Day. We look forward to liasing with students, alums, community members, and the honorable administration of our college to make our day a smashing success, welcoming minority students aboard the vessel we call Hope.  Our stories stand visible to all; this is not an easy college to be a minority. But it’s a place where our families have grown, and keep growing. We ain’t going anywhere.
So too the work of drawing up ways of proposing long-term Policy Change that can bring tangible support for LGBT and POC students. That too is underway. Watch this space!
The road is long, but for a moment, we just want to honor the courage and candor of our students. Our secret supporters, team members, storytellers, white allies, and straight allies.  I, for one, refuse to believe this is a complacent college. A college of indifferent oppressors and passive allies. I refuse to believe the lie that Holland and Hope are either communities beyond saving, or communities with no need of saving. At each step of the way we have seen brave activists and speakers and listeners and allies come alongside ths work, and push us forward. This is a city on the move, and indeed –a college that changes lives.  As the season of longing Lent plods on, we’re refreshed by your strength.
Lord, let our prayer arise before You as incense.
Hope is ready.  Let’s go.

Two Thirds and Third Ways

Today, we have crossed the 2/3 mark of our stories. We have, with much consideration, released a five-story series from one narrator -chapters of a long story whose eloquence moved us deeply, which we hope will move you too. It touches on sensitive spots on the body of our college, recounting a 2014 alum’s experience with a class taken about sexuality and love in the Christian tradition. The course emphasized dialogue, and the vulnerability to hear and speak dissenting opinions. It encouraged debate and engagement. The alum’s voice here, however, depicts it as one of their most traumatic experiences at Hope.

We’ll let the story speak for itself. What we as a team in publishing this want to affirm, however, is publishing this story is not an attempt to undermine dialogue and hard talking across the aisle. For such work has always been necessary. We chose to platform this story because many of our allies–including the faculty members who run courses like this, committed to change– need to also remember there is a deep, deep personal toll on marginalized students on campus. It comes with much sweat and tears, and in some cases, blood –and fear of physical reprisal.

We on the 95 have not shied away from this kind of hard talking. We have stayed in the conversation–to reach out through the hipster-coffee-theology dates that our college so loves. Through the community panel. Through the acts of demonstration and protest. Many of us have served and actively do serve on panels discussing matters of race and LGBT issues on campus, engendering that dialogue -GRACES and Vox Populi. We applaud and value the voices of the allies who create courses, panels, and clubs (against overwhelming administrative opposition!) where this dialogue can happen.

Once again, we urge both our allies and our institution (which is less of an ally) to remember that dialogue is not all it takes.  Making dialogue the only channel of minority dissent is ineffectual, and quickly becomes a way for the majority to maintain its oppression. In response to the work of the 95 Stories project last December, PR staff of Hope College announced broadly that we have dialogue groups on campus that discuss Christian sexuality. Hope affirms its commitment to “talking about” these issues, while offering panegyrics against discrimination in general without naming their expressions on campus. This is symptomatic of a larger misconception –that simply talking about an issue will somehow win hearts and change policy.

Again and again, black, brown, and gay students are funnelled into dialogue as an end-all-and-be-all of activism at Hope College. It is the college’s response to anything from Charlottesville Nazis to the validity of trans people as people. And mind you, these spaces for dialogue were hard-fought, and created by our allied faculty against immense institutional opposition. Dialogue has indeed made headway in softening and moving the hearts of this campus. But it is not the only kind of work that has moved the heart of this college. The work of dialogue has been trellised with acts of quiet defiance, throughout the history of our college. Marchers on the Vietnam Conflict, salty LGBT-authored editorials dating back to the 1970s, outcries against abject and brazen KKK posters on campus in 2011.  For our allied faculty to announce that dialogue is the “only thing that has worked on campus” whitewashes and straightwashes the labor of the very communities of color and lgbt circles you advocate for.

For as much as dialogue is need to win over our would-be oppressors through charity and soft words, direct action has also been necessary to make very clear to the college that some things will not be tolerated. And perhaps most importantly, to offer students like this storyteller icons of defiance and courage instead of only demanding of them courage and vulnerability. Here, dialogue is a place carefully tone-policed. We must always be calm. We can be upset, but never angry. Or if we are angry, we are to channel that into the nobler work of speaking to our oppressor in language they will understand. Now we are allowed to cry in dialogue meetings –and more often than not in these hard talks, we do –because she can’t hold her partner’s hand in public without fear of violence. Because he feels he can’t speak about racism without becoming the angry (i.e., dangerous) brown man in the eyes of his peers.  Our grief is acceptable, but not our consequent outrage.

Dialogue, admittedly, is not the place for pure anger. But our indignation must find out. It must find non-violent ways of resistance that actively disrupt the systems of power on campus –the spirit of perdition that moves the hearts of the powerful conservative donors of West Michigan. Dialogue on its own is not built to contain that, but peaceful Christian protest can contain, transform, and perfect our anger and hurt into meaningful change. Change that works within our families to unify us, and without our families to rally our allies, and make very clear that problems are not going away just because we talk about them.

And, so we return to the stories. We affirm the Third Way –the need for dialogue. But we shall let this alum’s voice speak of the steep, steep cost our allies demand of us when they encourage dialogue and actively undercut all other forms of dissent. Hard talking is important –but the real work happens in other quarters too.

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Eight Days -25 Stories More

The recent outpouring of stories has been moving and humbling. We’re right on the 70-story mark, with more being published tomorrow and Thursday. Thank you once again, for this chance to platform your voices of color and LGBT voices as we surge forward. Our 95 Stories goals seemed ambitious and unvaultable in the opening days in November. Three months later, spanning alums from the 1990s to now, we have a multiplicity of voices. Gay, bi, and lesbian students. Black and Latina women. East Asian and Arab alums. Trans folk. People of color in the sciences, in athletics, and in the humanities (because it happens even in majority-democrat departments too). LGBT folk in religion. Hope’s a supple and diverse place full of these voice.  Tell yours here.  We’ve got eight days, and 25 spaces left for your stories, with more we’re releasing every day.  Tell yours.

 

Love Thy Neighbors Day -April 14

In a buzzing auditorium at the Herrick Library, last night we proudly announced our work of activism for this semester. We’re overjoyed to announce it officially on our blog: Hope College’s very own Love Thy Neighbors Day, April 14.

We, a coalition of black, brown, and LGBT students, are rallying with our Holland/Hope allies to celebrate current minority students, to broadcast minority student resources through booklets of information, and to welcome, reassure, and affirm admitted students that they are Loved, and that they will not be Alone.

To this end, on April 14, a Saturday, we invite Hope students, alums, and Hollanders to:

  1. Hold up large banners and posters openly welcoming our students of color and LGBT prospective students to Hope. April 14 is an Admitted Students Day, and we recognize Hope strives to reach minority students through such events, with varying success. Recognizing that many minority high schoolers feel apprehensive already about entering a predominantly white/non-LGBT affirming institution, we want to assure our prospies that Holland and Hope have a thriving network of friends and allies. If you’re looking at coming to Hope –don’t be afraid. You are loved; you won’t be alone.
  2.  Bake Cookies! In partnership with the greater Holland community of soccer moms, church parents, bakers, pastors, and activists, we and our allies want to bake a storm of sweet treats (g-f and vegan treats included!) to hand out to prospective students throughout the day. Like our posters, we strive to be able to reach students that Hope’s administration may not be able to reach, and to extend the warm hand of old-style Dutch hospitality to students who often feel it the least when they arrive in Freshman year.
  3. Ratify a Proposal of Culture and Policy Changes in partnership with students from Hope multicultural student organizations. The reason we’ve held off demanded direct policy change has grown out of our desire for intersectionality and allyship –we cannot speak for all our intersections, but we can speak with them as we chart a new course for Hope College, and ask our college admin, faculty, and students, to respond in kind.

This four-part celebration of our diversity is, to everyone’s surprise, not a protest.  We are not attempting to humiliate this college. Instead we seek to actively coopt its language of universal acceptance and extend that to the very minorities Hope tries so hard to reach. Goal 4 of Hope College’s Strategic Plan for the upcoming years states, “Hope College will be a community unified by its inspiring mission, strengthened by its diversity, and committed to the flourishing of every individual as one created and loved by God.” In light of this mission, we want to assure brown and black students that they are not alone, and that the brown and black students and alums have actively contributed ot the art, music, governance, and policy of this college. Let no one tell them this is a white man’s college. We seek to reclaim, reassure, and rejoice in our place in the Pine Grove.

We’re part of the story too.

Why then, do we do this? Faculty and admin have argued that any act that exposes hidden racism or homophobia really hurts the college more, by scaring away affirming students and allies. Perhaps. But that is to suggest that the whistleblower is more culpable than the perpetrator.  Others want to stress the good work done in the field of dialogue and round-table discussions Hope is so fond of. Surely highlighting these is a viable third way that can be touted –where the real work is done. We assure you that dialogue has its place -alongside the sweat, tears, and palpitations of activism. We need both.

Exhortation –We seek to exhort current students not just to see stories of racism and homophobia that they or their peers have done, but also to the see out, proud, glorious bodies of minority students. Catch us in the pine grove, or strolling through Devos Fieldhouse in all of our colors and rainbows and stripes. Catch us not only in moments of outraged protest but silent, affirming joy.  Because both of those are part of who we are. “Besides, they shall see how beautiful I am, and be ashamed,” said Langston Hughes in an era of Jim Crow.

Let them see us beautiful.

 Visibility.  Students of color seek students of color. By standing, silent and radiant, and beautiful throughout campus, we want to affirm our own physical beauty and place in this college, while welcoming new students to shine in the physical beauty of their bodies –in any shade that might come.  We want LGBT students -closeted or otherwise–to know there are out, proud, rainbow folk who love and care about their health, even in a college that doesn’t yet affirm them.  We recall being freshmen and thinking we were the only ones.  Not this year.

This year they’ll know they got family.

To reclaim, to reaffirm, and rejoice –that’s our goal this semester. For alongside the just outrage of minority students, is the unshakeable joy of folk who know God loves them, in all their colors. For alongside the protest of Vespers is the unsnatchable exultation of trans students who know they too bear imago Dei. Who reject the oppression of LGBT folk masked as martyrdom. Who reject the spiritual amputation of people of color renamed as asceticism. It is that anger that lets us rejoice. It is that rejoicing that makes us protest in churches.

And now we reject the notion that Hope is destined to be a conservative, white institution. We reclaim the truth that brown, black, and LGBT bodies too are the lifeblood of this college.  We affirm the the truth that the first class to graduate from Hope was one-third Japanese. We affirm Hope’s storied commitment to global missions and international outreach blossomed in the 1900s before it ceded evangelism to nativist evangelicalism. We affirm that Hope has been found by entrepreneurial Dutch immigrants who came to Michigan the way our own parents migrated here in the last hundred years –with Hope. Hope in God. We, the gay, the brown, and the immigrants, are woven into the life of this college, and it is this life we share on Love Thy Neighbors Day, April 14. It is no coincidence we say this on Ash Wednesday. Even in Lent, rejoicing. Even in the face of discrimination and violence, joy.  Not a protest, but a statement. And our joy is more terrifying to our oppressors than our rage.

We need you! Allies! Students of color! Assorted LGBT folk! ❤ We need volunteers willing to hold signs for whatever hours they can! Families welcome! We need volunteers to bake, package, and distribute sweet treats for all diets on visit day.  If you’re interested, kindly email Josh at joshuakam1996@gmail.com.  We’ll keep you posted asap with a spreadsheet for sign ups, but this is just to announce the great news!

Keep sending in them stories, y’all!

Love,

the 96 Stories Team

 

On White Allies

 “You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did.” -St. Stephen, Acts 7:51
This is long.  Read it all the same.
If this echoes the thoughts of Letter from a Birmingham Jail, it’s because that’s exactly where this stems from, along with the furious speech of St. Stephen. I’d much rather you read those than what I’ve written, but to my if this fits the bill, let it do so.
I wish our allies would be as outraged at oppression as they have been at what they deem imperfect protest. These are the same folks who go back to conservative families and avoid discussing politics because they want to “Love” Uncle Carl and not hate. These are the quiet libertarians and soft liberals who sanctimoniously feel they must correct the tones of their minority friends on election night with admonitions to “just Love each other.” Y’all.
These are the same self-serving liberals who are not be found at the acceptable rally, the acceptable signature drive or LGBT poetry slam or brown people’s celebrations.  Who feel that being political and naked of this fact is an act of worldly corruption and never an act of justice. Those who would have brown and black bodies dancing “ethnic” in church, but never have them picketing racism.

Now it is one thing to disagree with protest. Its policy aims. It is one thing to be like the brilliant faculty who facilitate work like GRACES of Multicultural Student Life, on campus, who have indefatigueably served and platformed brown, black, and lgbt voices. Many of such faithful friends have vocally opposed activists’ actions, but have long labored and will long labor to be good allies to the families they love. They have disagreed with our means, but quickly go on to do the labor they propose needs doing: the slow, glamorous, equally necessary work of dialogue. Their critique, though I contend against it, I accept and value. For their boots touch the ground they plow.

Again, it is one thing to disagree with a protest or a march or its ideals. It is another to join the oppressor in bashing it to prove to others your moderate stance. It is one thing to criticize a movement, and to offer ways for it to improve. It is another to actively condemn the people who have done it, to stomp off in a flurry of white feminist faux-rage at the merest intimation that you aren’t a true ally.  It is another to declare that the “cause is just,” villify the means, and then villify and ostracize the people who are doing the work you have not done. I swear, if a quarter of those who proposed to us last month to hold petition drives and hand out flyers actually had helped in the past four years to hand out flyers or petition drives, last year’s demonstration would be wholly and utterly unnecessary. If but a quarter had actively invited people to conversations on race –which is in some ways a subject far more salient and deeply buried than sexuality on campus– to dialogues and Special speakers of Color, we would not have this.  For we a college of many non-racists, but few anti-racists.  ‘Cause, y’all, it’s hard being a straight white homeschooler from Indiana or Oklahoma who’s recognized their own complicity and yet found themselves unwilling to hurt racist grandpa’s feelings. “Do nothing out of vainglory or conceit,” we were smugly reminded by our friends. No, just complicity and privilege. It’s far easier to pose as a moderate lefty who “understands the concerns” of racists, while disavowing, undercutting, and condemning the work of actual brown and black people making change.
This is not activism or allyship –this is virtue signalling. The sort of attitude that coastal Democrat theater kids raised in comfortable homes, and Reformed liberals who “haven’t been taught hate” espouse in moderately humane communities, without stepping on toes, without offending heir Trump-leaning uncles, without demanding personal inconvenience.  Don’t shoot; I’m a Democrat!

The worst part of this is the self-serving effect, if not the intent, of this kind of pseudoallyship. For those who claim to blithely support our causes without investing, while actively opposing any sort of activist boat-rocking, it becomes clear they demand to have their cake and eat it. For they cannot bear the thought of being thought of as Trump voters. That’s too dangerous for white women and men in the Humanities. But God forbid we come across as angry lesbians, who have no love for their fellow man. God forbid we interrupt the far more important work of deciding which tenor is the best liturgist in our congregation, amid our artisan communion bread and whitewashed sanctuaries. I thought our Lord desires mercy more than whole-burnt offerings, if Hosea means anything to us today. And so, seeing the clear drawbacks of standing too far left or right, they sit. Neither standing at the flag nor kneeling at the cross, these pseudo-allies sit, and reap the benefits of privilege while claiming to disavow them, while also punishing those who must make their own liberation.  This is not indifference. This is sabotage. This is not an absence of allyship but anti-allyship. Not neutrality but an offensive, and a punitive one at that. Done softly or sweetly or with intellectual reason or with rousing emotion, all the same the blow is dealt.  How long will you resist the Holy Spirit?

 

This is precisely the problem with institutions like Hope. Many decent humans, who do nothing. Many good hearts who mean well, who seek the good, but only so far as it preens their self-image as allies. Meanwhile the heavy lifting is shouldered, as usual, by the mighty, brilliant, and justly incensed black and Latinx women of this campus.  Meanwhile the activism is carried by brown gay seminarians. Meanwhile the march plods on, with your pink pussy hat or without it.
And all this not to condemn you. Not to write you off –for many of you, especially you white women, know intimately what it is to be written off for calling for equality while vaguely feminist men get celebrated for claiming to respect women. This is not an experience alien to you but deeply familiar. Dear white allies, be allies. You and I have been friends for a reason. Let’s be each other’s allies. Even if the means and method and place and time are not okay, talk to us. But be as loud at the violence of the oppressor we expose as you are in finding and offering better ways for us to protest. Do that which you would have me do. Stand in the gap. Stand or kneel or whisper or yell.
But in Christ’s name, my sibling, do not sit down.
“I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
-Martin Luther King Jr., “Letter from Birmingham Jail”

Community Talk @Herrick Library!

We are delighted to be partnering with Forward Action Michigan -Ottawa and Allegan County, for a community talk on the 95 Stories Project. Members of our team will be coming out to meet, speak, and listen to Holland’s many voices as we announce our plans for the semester and beyond! Students, alums, and West MI folks welcome to hear, speak, and ask questions!

And don’t worry if you have more questions or thoughts -we’d be delighted to catch a drink/snack and talk more at the Curragh of New Holland Brewing after!

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