Protesting Oppression with Educational Reform (POWER) is celebrating its fifth anniversary with a Zoom event on Saturday.
The event will also commemorate two student-led protests at faculty meetings, one in 2015 that was the catalyst for the creation of the organization, and a 2017 protest. Those demonstrations led to mandatory inclusivity and diversity training for faculty, who discuss the impact of microaggressions in the classroom, how to facilitate difficult conversations and develop assignments to address the diverse learning styles of students, and how to create a safe classroom.
Saturday’s event will be attended by current organizational leaders and past organizers.
“POWER’s mission statement is undeniably necessary, so that called me to the org from the jump,” said POWER Co-Chair Eryn McCallum ’22. “I honestly didn’t even know much about Emerson yet and how crucial it is to have students holding the College accountable, but I knew if there was a group on campus fighting for diversity, equity, and inclusion through strategic methods, I had to be a part of it.”
McCallum joined POWER in her first semester, after former chair Lex Fernander ’19 informed EBONI members that there were open leadership positions for POWER. McCallum became a Journalism senator for POWER.
“The most direct relationships between POWER and Emerson exist between our departmental senators and the … department heads/chairs,” said McCallum. “Those conversations are consistent and are meant to make sure equity, justice, and antiracism are a priority and implemented properly in every department of Emerson.”
Attending Saturday are current co-chairs McCallum and Max Boone ’21, Associate Chair Sydney Logan ’21, and past organizers Fernander, Aliyah Browne ’19, Caroline Rodriguez ’20, Lissa Deonarain ’18, Lucie Pereira ’18, Vivien Liu ’20, and Celia Reilly ’19.
“Throughout the years, POWER has pushed Emerson to not only acknowledge their shortcomings of creating an equitable environment for their students, but also pushed Emerson to remedy those shortcomings,” said Logan. “We have worked to create a bias-training platform for both faculty and staff, as well as creating systems for students to report inequalities in the classroom.”
Staff leaders credit POWER with making a positive impact on Emerson’s community.
“Over the past five years, POWER has been an extraordinary catalyst for change at Emerson,” said Sylvia Spears, vice president for equity and social justice. “They hold our feet to fire in pushing Emerson to live up to its promises to students. I am so honored to have had opportunities to work with the generations of student leaders in POWER over the past five years. They give me hope for a brighter future at Emerson and in the world.”
Jim Hoppe, vice president and dean for campus life said he’s seen the students involved in POWER be the impetus to bring change significant change and hold the college accountable to live up to its promises.
“I was not yet at Emerson for the first POWER protest in 2015, but I felt impacted by their might as soon as I stepped on campus,” said tamia rashima jordan, director of intercultural student affairs. “The word around Emerson was that they were the [unaffiliated] student organization that is about action, not talk, in their work to make Emerson a better community for students of color. And I definitely found that to be true.”
jordan said she was moved by the students’ passion and conviction to their objective during the 2017 protest. She added that POWER is the best example of student activism, as they are skillful and purposeful with their organizing.
McCallum said that Emerson still has lots of room for improvement, similar to other predominantly white institutions.
“Professors need to be actively involved in diversity and cultural competency trainings; there needs to be a clear discipline process for faculty and administration who discriminate,” said McCallum. “All the majors need to implement the work of people with marginalized identities into their curricula; the College needs to be made more financially accessible to students of color.”
McCallum added that POWER is truly her family, and that the work she and her predecessors have done is incredibly empowering.
“I’ll never forget my time with POWER, and I know these experiences are going to fuel the work I do for the rest of my life,” said McCallum.
This event is open to all and POWER hopes to see as many Emerson community members there as possible! Join the Zoom Webinar on Saturday, October 24, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. at: http://bit.ly/poweranniversary.