Working Together in Value to One Another

Working Together in Value to One Another

“Suddenly last summer the silence was broken. The lament became a shout and then a roar for months no American, white or Negro, was insulated or unaware. The stride toward freedom lengthened and accelerated into a gallop, while the whole nation looked on.” – Martin Luther King Jr., Why We Can’t Wait

I’m sure that we can all recall a word of an encouragement over the last few months that’s been sprinkled with an iteration of simply waiting things out. In March, we were encouraged to wait three weeks for the shelter at home order to be lifted and hold onto the promise that life would return back to normal. In the summer months of May and June, many of us were told to wait patiently with hopeful expectation as we witnessed an overwhelming amount of injustice and division. And now, we find ourselves continuing to wait, navigating the awkward tensions of optimistic confidence and deep uncertainty.

When I consider what this has meant for our students, I think of all the things that accompany their waiting—the need to be complacent with broken systems, silently enduring heartache and frustration and the empty promises of what awaits on the other side. Yet despite these hard feelings, our students are no longer waiting. They have taken great action towards change with humility, grace and confidence. Stepping in from the margins, they’ve made space to advocate for one another and courageously seek the well-being of their campus community.

For the last three years, I’ve had the blessing of working alongside one of these student groups—recipients of the Martin Luther King Jr. & Fannie Lou Hamer Scholarship. This award acknowledges the academic achievements and leadership capacities of Black and African American students attending FPU. In this time, I’ve seen many of our students grow in their identities as they navigate what it means to be the anomaly in Christian higher education. Lunch time conversations center around how to tread lightly in seemingly controversial issues and what it means to celebrate culture and individuality in spaces that may not always understand it. While these conversations were small steps toward something new, we were often met with great caution to wait for the right timing or person to set the stage. Finding ways to channel these frustrations in a fruitful manner while also validating the lived experiences of my students was challenging but a needed pathway toward real and meaningful change.

As the nation crumbled under the weight of a global pandemic, deep roots of racist ideology and privileged thought, our students reached a tipping point and couldn’t wait any longer. The time spent treading lightly and navigating tense spaces turned into a full-blown sprint toward resolution and following the summer of 2020 we saw a movement of change burst forth on our campus. I am grateful for the continued collaborations with the Campus Life and Athletics offices, as well as the ALAS Intercultural Center, that continue to amplify the voices of not only the King & Hamer scholars, but other student groups who embrace the call to actively pursue change in their day to day lives. This calling is not motivated by selfish ambitions, but rather a deeply rooted conviction that we are of great value to one another. And because of that value, it is important that we work collectively toward honoring the freedom and dignity that we all hold as members of this community.

Connections
Taylor Starks

Taylor Starks

Assistant Director of Spiritual Formation