I woke up this morning with a headache stemming from my neck and shoulders: a headache I blamed on my pillows but soon realized was actually tension. Before I had my coffee and actively engaged my “thinking” self, my body told me that today we (people of color) would need to fortify, to take care ahead of the SUNY New Paltz College Council’s vote on the Hasbrouck Complex re-naming.
I am writing this open letter as a non-tenured Puerto Rican faculty member who identifies as a queer woman at a predominantly white institution in a predominately white area to my fellow people of color at SUNY New Paltz—to all faculty, staff, and students—in the case that the council votes down the recommendation to rename. I write in solidarity and in love, with vulnerability and without fear.
I was unprepared last time—I thought surely they would vote to change the name with this much support from campus members. I left that meeting hopeless, infuriated, and questioning my worth/work in academia and at SUNY New Paltz in general. I know others did as well. I spent a great deal of time over the following days unpacking what had happened and how students felt about it in my classrooms.
This time, I am ready and I want you to be ready to. I want to suggest that you make a self-care plan, a community care plan!
I want to suggest that we take as much time caring for ourselves as we do trying to change the institutions determined to beat us down.
“I would call our work to change the world ‘science fictional behavior’—being concerned with the way our actions and beliefs now, today, will shape the future, tomorrow, the next generations. […] It is so important that we fight for the future, get into the game, get dirty, get experimental.” […] Remember you are water. Of course you leave salt trails. Of course you are crying. Flow. […] water seeks scale, that even your tears seek the recognition of community. that the heart is a front line and the fight is to feel in a world of distraction. […] that your grief is a worthwhile use of your time.”
― adrienne maree brown, Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds
Hopefully, this love letter will be for nothing! We will win this battle in our ongoing war for an inclusive and equitable college campus that roots out the settler colonial white supremacist cisheteropatriarchal foundations to imagine and manifest something better.But in case it isn’t:
you are not alone.
you are allowed to feel.
you do not have to explain those feelings.
you belong here.
you are loved.
you are worthy.
you are valued.
you are in community.
your power does not come from (and does not need to be validated) from “above,” it is in you.
and you deserve better.