Thank you for participating in Strides for Social Justice.
Strides for Social Justice provides you with an opportunity to engage your body and mind by walking around Eugene and learning about racism, past and present, along with the creative ways that Black people are using to overcome and the support they received from allies from many racial and ethnic backgrounds.
But there is more.
Strides for Social Justice also invites you to engage your heart.
Eradicating anti-black racism and other forms of oppression is long-term work that starts and ends with our hearts. The impact of historical discrimination lives on today in many ways. These problems do not just negatively impact the lives, dreams and capacities of black people either. As Dr. King said, an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. The time is now for a real commitment to ongoing change, not based on a threat, but a commitment to creating the vision of democracy and equality on which our country’s principles of democracy rest.
And it starts with you.
Yes, history reminds us that change is often fueled by the masses, but sometimes it starts with the power of one. Lyllye Reynolds-Parker’s steadfast commitment to student success helped hundreds of black students as well as students of all racial backgrounds graduate from the University of Oregon. Shaniece Curry’s decision to mobilize Black Students into a group that became the 2015 Black Student Task Force helped to make the University of Oregon more welcoming for Black students, who had long been denied equitable treatment. Dave and Nancy Petrone’s $1million leadership gift to build the UO Black Cultural Center—named for Lyllye Reynolds-Parker-- created a home away from home for Black students on UO’s campus. Rev. Ben Cross’ ongoing efforts engage the First Baptist Congregation in Eugene in education about racism and inspire the congregation to live out their faith in ways that reflect the love and antiracist teachings of Christ.
What commitment are you willing to make? Without a personal commitment, investment and sacrifice, nothing will change. We challenge you to ask yourself: “What can I commit to doing now and throughout the rest of my life that will be the most powerful (not the easiest) use of my time to eradicate antiblack racism?”
We are inviting you to engage in racial justice as a lifestyle. It is messy and will cost you time, resources, peace and privilege. However, we also have a roadmap to get you started called LACE, and it begins with love.
In the November 2020 National Service for Healing and Wholeness, Rev. Michael Curry offered the following about love:
“We don’t think of it this way very often but love for each other is a value on which our democracy depends. On the Great Seal of the United States, above the bald eagle are banners on which the Latin words, e pluribus unum are written. Those words, e pluribus unum, literally mean, “one out of many.” One nation from many diverse people.
But do you know where those words come from? They come from the writings of Cicero who lived during the time of the Roman Republic. Cicero said, “When each person loves the other as much as himself, it makes one out of many.” Cicero who gave us those words said that love for each other is the way to make e pluribus unum real.”
L.A.C.E. or love, authenticity, courage and empathy, is a self-coaching framework to bring about transformation individually, interpersonally and systemically, beginning first with love as a value and a lifestyle. In fact, love is the value through which authenticity, courage and empathy are enacted. L.A.C.E. works to raise awareness, facilitate connection and inspire transformation. In this context, we are using L.A.C.E. to inspire racial justice individually, interpersonally and across society.
Historically, Blacks and allies across all racial and ethnic groups have disproportionately carried the burden of addressing issues of discrimination and racism. They have been asked to show love and forgiveness in the face of hate and violence. However, L.A.C.E. offers a different way.
L.A.C.E. calls each individual to action, beginning with self-reflection, but also moving beyond self-reflection to actionable change. LACE asks everyone to show love, but it especially encourages those who are in positions of power, authority and abundance to be the first to model and demonstrate love to those who have been oppressed.
In the words of Dr. King, as captured in the 1967 book, Where Do We Go From Here?
“Power properly understood is nothing but the ability to achieve purpose. It is the strength required to bring about social, political, and economic change… Now, we got to get this thing right. What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive, and that love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.”
For the purposes of Strides for Social Justice, L.A.C.E. serves as a self-coaching tool for reflecting, journaling and activation. Below, please find some questions and points of activation to get you started moving through the routes using the L.A.C.E.-hearted way.
Think about an area in your life where you feel hopeful, joyful, and are comfortable with vigorous discussions and even debates. What is that area? What will it look like to have a similar level of hope and joy when thinking about and discussing race and racial justice?
In what ways are you currently kind to yourself? What does it mean to be kind to yourself in issues of race and racial justice? What will it take to make this happen?
What role does patience (choosing perseverance and restraint) generally play in your life? Where has patience worked to create a better way of being, connecting, doing and changing in your life? What will it take to create patience around issues of race and racial justice?
Activate: As you engage with each of the routes in Strides for Social Justice, where do patience and kindness fit into how you are responding to the information? Who do you need to be, and what do you need to do to engage with the material in ways that grow self-love (educating one’s self about racial history; preparing to be an antiracist) and patience (choosing steadfastness when the route or information gets tough)?
What values characterize you at your best? Name them. What do those values look like when you embody them? What does it feel like when you show up in that way? What impact does your authenticity have on others?
How will you bring your values to bear in your understanding of, being and doing around race? How would you like it to impact yourself, family and colleagues? Is who you are when you are discussing race a reflection of the best version of yourself?
Activate: Make a list of the different ways in which you can align your values about life with actual practices for racial justice? What does that look and feel like? What will it take to incorporate these practices into your lifestyle?
Think about an area in your life that has changed for the better? How did you work through the times you felt stuck, trapped or disconnected? Who did you have to be and what did you have to do to move forward to where you are now? How can you do the same with race and racial justice?
Activate: As your move through the Strides for Social Justice routes, identify ways in which antiblack discrimination and racial inequities are operating in Eugene today. As you think about those, identify racial justice-related areas of growth and action for yourself. Commit to learning, trying and reiterating (failing, failing better, succeeding) at a vigorous and challenging pace.
Think about a time in your life when you have become newly aware of the pain, mistreatment or exploitation that others around you are experiencing? What was your reaction? How did you move beyond any embarrassment, shame, guilt, anger in order to identify a role for yourself in making things better? How did you take care of yourself while taking steps to show up and behave differently?
Activate: Make note of how your body is reacting to what you are reading, listening to and moving through the routes. For Blacks and other POC, the information may bring about sadness, anger or resolve. For Whites, it may bring about a similar sadness, defensiveness or anger. We ask you to take care of yourself, but also to use the emotions that come up as an opportunity for learning more about how you show up and participate in this realm.
For more information about the L.A.C.E.-Hearted way, please visit www.thelaceheartedway.com
To learn more about how L.A.C.E. is being used at the UO, please visit: https://inclusion.uoregon.edu/lace
Alex-Assensoh, Yvette. 2021. “Using Neuroscience and Positive Psychology To Enhance College Teaching and Learning”, The National Teaching and Learning Forum. Volume 30 (2): 1-3.
Curry, Michael and Sara Grace. 2020. Love Is The Way: Holding on to Hope in Troubled Times. Penguin Random House: New York.
King, Martin Luther, Jr. 1967. Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? Beacon Press: New York.
©Yvette M. Alex-Assensoh, All Rights Reserved, 2021.