Welcome from Co-chairs: A Community that Stands for Black Lives
By: NAFSA Rainbow SIG Co-Chairs
Jenna Tantillo (she/her) & Valerie Pierce (she/her)
Hello and thanks for being here.
We’re so grateful to be in community with you as we continue adapting to our increasingly dynamic world. Even just a year ago, we could not have imagined how differently our lives and our field would look today! With so much going on, it’s as important as ever to join together, even virtually, so it means the world to have you here for our first Q-Log blog.
This year alone we’ve witnessed extreme climate events, a catastrophic global pandemic, the shriveling of our field, an abusive administration, and ongoing racially motivated violence including the police murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and many other Black individuals. We spent the summer protesting, whether on the streets, in our communities, or online; and the fight continues. We now approach a polarizing election that has us all feeling something on the spectrum from concern to anguish. And still, we must continue to work, pay bills, stay healthy, show up for our friends and families, and hopefully find moments of joy in the midst of it all. We hope this blog series can bring you some of the sweetness and connection that we all need.
Depending on our lives and intersecting identities, the compounding issues highlighted this year impact us all differently and at varying degrees. And while it’s easy to feel distant from others because our struggles can seem so different, we know they’re all related. In her 1981 article, The Uses of Anger, Audre Lorde, a self-described Black feminist, lesbian, mother, warrior, and poet, writes, “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” This reminds us that we don’t have to be in someone’s situation to care or to take action. It reminds us that our oppression is intertwined, just as our liberation is intertwined. We have been harmed in the community and we must heal in the community. The Rainbow SIG seeks to be a space where that collective nourishment can be gained and important conversations can be had, so we may co-create the just and equitable field and the world that we seek to inhabit.
The potency of the Black Lives Matter movement this year has asked us to look inward when considering where to dismantle biases. It reminds us that we each have a role to play in actively unlearning the white supremacist ideals that have been deeply ingrained in our subconscious and in our institutions. Even within forward-thinking spaces like LGBTQ+ groups, harm is often still being perpetuated. As the SIG moves forward, we want to highlight our commitment to an intersectional focus on our inclusionary practices. We’ll be particularly critical to how racism, ableism, and cisnormativity show up in our communities. The unlearning needs to happen on an individual and collective level and we are committed to both of those journeys.
As we look forward to things to come, we also understand that the problems we currently face are not positioned to fade anytime soon. This is our lifelong work and it will take continued effort. This means we must find gentleness in order to sustain our fierceness. We must care for ourselves and each other; we must find joy. Audre Lorde says in her 1988 book of essays, A Burst of Light, that, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” This self and community care will equip us to show up for the sustained effort it will take to attain the individual and collective level-up that is so urgently needed.
Though we are deeply saddened to have not gathered in person at the NAFSA conference this year, we appreciate your willingness to engage virtually and your commitment to increasing inclusivity within NAFSA and the education abroad space overall. We know that there are many virtual places to be, and we’re humbled that you have chosen to engage with the Q-Log. Just as with our in-person spaces, we hope our virtual communities offer a platform for you to be seen and heard. These spaces can feel like a deep exhale, a cool drink of water, a big morning stretch. They’re spaces where we may continue the important dialogue and generate momentum towards our shared liberation.
Thank you to all the contributors to the Q-Log, to Rainbow SIG volunteers, to members, and to readers for joining us. Thank you for prioritizing queer voices, creative expression, and community building even while the world demands so much. You are seen and appreciated and we are so honored to be co-creating with you.