Simone John, Dean of Multicultural Education Edward Carson, and Wade Davis
On Monday, January 21, The Academy’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day program began with an engaging, community-wide conversation with Wade Davis. Davis is a former NFL player, thought leader, public speaker, and consultant on gender, race, and orientation equality. He opened the conversation with three rules: ask only "what" and "how" questions, be disinterested in the need to be right, and be disinterested in the need to think of oneself as a good person. He encouraged students to let their world be intersectional and to expand their understanding of others by asking questions of and reading about people whose world is dissimilar from their own.
Davis is the Academy's 2019 Katherine Krall Guy Social Justice Speaker. Guy retired from the Academy in 2017 as the longest serving female faculty member in the school’s history. Throughout her 40-year career at Governor's, she championed all issues pertaining to social justice, and, in her honor, the Academy is committed to bringing a nationally acclaimed social justice speaker to campus every year.
After a Q&A opportunity with Davis, the community divided into two groups for further discussion. Those who identify as male or gender fluid, discussed masculinity with Davis. There is a growing sense by some that being masculine is a negative thing- it is not. The group discussed ways to dismantle the unhealthy nature of toxic masculinity. Those who identify as female, discussed being a woman in a masculine world with Simone John, a poet, educator, and facilitator. She asked students and faculty to reflect on how socialization impacts identity, specifically gender identity, through a variety of individual and partner exercises.
The conversation continued after lunch when students and faculty gathered in breakout groups across campus. The groups were facilitated by student leaders with the goal of having a shared learning experience amongst all faculty and students in smaller groups. The focus of the conversations was inclusion.
The day concluded with closing remarks by Dean of Multicultural Education Edward Carson who organized the day’s program. Carson quoted W.E.B. Du Bois, the late 20th century scholar and civil rights activist who once exclaimed, "The problem of the 20th century is that of the color line.” Carson remarked, "And while prophetic, it continues to be true in the 21st century. King furthered Du Bois’s color line calculus by speaking toward the inequality of race, gender, class, and sexual orientation. Yet, too many only heard King say 'I Have a Dream,' which was not the complete narrative. By celebrating race, gender, class, and sexual orientation on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I hope that students, faculty, and staff gained an understanding that King’s dream extended into the complex nature of the identities we all share." Carson continued, "By inviting Wade Davis and Simone John to campus, our community witnessed the actuality of King's vision from two activists living in their identity. It made sense to have them introduce the notion of intersectionality to our community. They were outstanding guests."
Davis is the NFL’s first LGBTQ+ inclusion consultant and currently consults for numerous professional sports leagues on issues at the intersection of sexism, racism, and homophobia. Furthermore, in solidarity with the #MeToo movement and Time’s Up Now, he is developing curricula and initiatives to remove institutional barriers that women face in the workplace. You can learn more about Davis by clicking here.
John is a poet, educator, and freelance writer. She completed her MFA in creative writing at Goddard College in 2014. Since then, John has devised youth poetry workshops examining topics from the values of hip hop culture to the power of poetry as a form of protest. When she isn’t working with talented young people, John writes documentary poetry that blends current events with her lived experiences as a black woman in the United States and abroad. Her work has been published in The Pitkin Review and Elohi Gadugi Journal. You can learn more about John by clicking here.