by Anna Kubiak
March 26, 2021
“It’s about being authentic. I didn’t live a perfect life, but I lived it perfectly to my standards,” Oraid Edwards said, addressing the Zoom meeting on March 2nd when GCC faculty and students gathered together to talk about race in America.
Edwards, a member of Batavia’s Just Kings community organization dedicated to ending racism, contributed his personal experience as well as his professional expertise in the hopes of connecting with a community sharing his desire to address the difficult conversation surrounding racism.
“How do we restructure our way of thinking?” Edwards implored the discussion members as he reflected on the circumstances that keep African Americans under the thumb of discrimination. His perspective represents fellow minorities whose struggles display the need for change. It’s a question he said he hopes each person will ask themselves and act on as they engage with their communities.
The meeting, coordinated by GCC’s Office of Alumni Affairs, was part of the Inclusive Excellence Committee’s Common Read Project centered around the novel The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. It was a reflection of the college’s Strategic Plan to encourage the expansion of opportunities that will foster student interaction and competency with diversity and inclusion.
“The Hate U Give is a personal reminder that all people need to strive to improve relationships with all human beings,” Jennifer Wakefield, assistant director of Alumni Affairs, said. “We have to continue to seek understanding from each other despite our different backgrounds.”
Students in attendance had the opportunity to express themselves in an open platform and many expressed their gratitude for the opportunity, conveying its uniqueness. The Hate U Give is a story that many people relate to and one that the college hopes will make students feel welcome to express themselves and interact to promote inclusion and equity.
The Inclusive Excellence Committee’s Common Read Project continued their outreach by hosting two more open discussions on March 23rd and 24th on the platform Discord. Additionally, the book has been included in the curriculum of many English and Reading classes, where students will read it as a required text and be asked to discuss important aspects of each chapter.
English Adjunct Professor Lori Kubik, who is incorporating The Hate U Give into her classes, said that the chance to teach this book is important to her because it offers the chance to gain perspective. “Many people from my community do not understand how people of color are affected every time they do daily activities like shopping or driving. They take advantage of knowing they are safe when they get pulled over and when they are in their own homes. Not everyone feels that safety,” she said.
This project is the latest of the efforts by the Inclusive Excellence Committee to promote equality in all areas of the college. Committee member and Professor of ESL Kate Klaiber said, “Our goal is to make everyone feel welcome and included. We do helpful work. We do good work. We are there to support students and just to make sure that these themes are being discussed.”
This Common Read Project is important to the committee given the powerful Black Lives Matter movement that took to the streets this past summer to protest the death of George Floyd. Klaiber explains that part of the work she is hoping to do includes “teaching students what the BLM movement is about,” adding that “exposure to different ideas helps you grow as a person,” an ideal she is striving to cultivate through her work in the GCC community.