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RecWell’s Justice in June

We’re back with a new “Promising Practices,” a newsletter feature on anti-oppression efforts around campus that can inspire us all. This time we’re exploring how social justice and physical wellness go hand in hand with Justice in June, a program RecWell’s diversity, equity and inclusion committee put together in (you guessed it) June of this year.

The committee had been offering monthly social justice engagement opportunities, but in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, committee members Luke Verdi (RecWell’s coordinator of student personnel), Amanda Preperato (assistant director of the Adventure Program) and Meghan Loughry (coordinator of the challenge course and climbing wall) felt it was important to increase their efforts. They created a weekly opportunity for full-time RecWell staff of all racial backgrounds to dig more deeply into anti-racism work. The three collaborated heavily to create a curriculum that contextualized recent protests, addressed implicit biases, and provided actionable steps toward becoming more anti-racist.

With an eye on accessibility for a diverse staff of 45 people, Luke, Amanda and Meghan scheduled the Zoom sessions on different days and times to allow as many people as possible to attend. “With that said, we did try to generally schedule them toward the end of the work day,” Luke said, “It can be hard to go back to work when you’re still unpacking everything.” The group also shared resources in a variety of formats (videos, articles, etc) beforehand and structured meetings to allow for folx who had not had the chance to read them to still participate meaningfully. “We tried to build conversations where you didn’t have to read each exact sentence in an exact article,” he shared.

For one thought-provoking session, they asked RecWell staff to take an online implicit bias test. “It was powerful to hear people saying ‘I can’t believe this bias was unearthed, I couldn’t believe that about myself’and to see that personal reflection happen in real time,” Luke said of the response.

Ready to start your own Justice in September (or October, or…) series? Luke’s advice: LISTEN. “Absolutely the biggest thing, in my mind, is listening to what people have to say.” He also suggests that organizers create space for people who are feeling heavily impacted, approach the work as a lifelong learner, and be sure to share airtime. “It’s lots of hard work, and it’s emotionally taxing work,” he shares, “So it has to be a collaborative effort, especially including people with different opinions and different lived experiences. Different is really good.” And remember that vulnerability can be tough but is worth it, both for your own growth and for your team: “At first, when all this happened, I was thinking I don’t know who I can talk to,” Luke shared of his own reaction to heading to work after George Floyd’s murder, “But after going to the first session, I realized there’s a lot more people I can talk to than I realized.”

Do you have a Promising Practice you’d like to see featured? Email allison1@umd.edu with details.