Luther College Chips

“Re-imagining Luther,” anti-racism workshop

Okogyeamon, also known as Dr. Herbert Perkins, speaks at the first session of Re-imagining Luther.

Okogyeamon, also known as Dr. Herbert Perkins, speaks at the first session of Re-imagining Luther.

Martin Donovan (‘20) | Chips

Martin Donovan (‘20) | Chips

Okogyeamon, also known as Dr. Herbert Perkins, speaks at the first session of Re-imagining Luther.

Martin Donovan, Staff Writer

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Members of the Luther College community gathered in Valders Hall of Science on Saturday, May 5 for the Re-imaging Luther Workshop at 9:00 a.m. The workshop was sponsored by the Diversity Center, the Office for Equity and Inclusion, and College Ministries.

Re-imaginng Luther was led by the co-founder of the Antiracism Study Dialogue Circles Metamorphosis Okogyeamon, also known as Dr. Herbert Perkins. The intention of the workshop was for students, faculty, and staff to engage in discussions on anti-racism to help better understand systems of power and oppression, especially within Luther.

“I feel like the focus was much more on the culture of Luther College because today focused so much more on continuing the conversation onward, finding purpose in action, and in general being aware of what Luther was founded on for better or for worse,” Karl Nycklemoe (‘18) said.

The initial idea for Re-imagining Luther emerged last fall after a group of students attended the 2017 Decolonizing Lutheranism Conference in Philadelphia. Originally Re-imagining Luther was going to follow a similar course to the Decolonize Lutheranism Conference, however, after the hate incident in Carlson Stadium the aim of the workshop changed to focus on race.

“So in addition to talking about race, we were going to talk about sexuality and gender identity, disabilities, [and] issues related to international students,” attendee Linnea Peterson (‘18) said. “Eventually hearing back from Okogyeamon about what he wanted and also reflecting on the nature of some of the hate incidents, we realized we wanted to focus on race this time around and save the other topics for a future date.”

The change in the focus of the workshop was sparked by students voicing their beliefs in the need for anti-racism training on campus.

“At the listening session, we heard students and others ask for anti-racism training, and we heard Interim Dean for Equity and Inclusion Lisa Scott hoping that a day of presentations and workshops could be organized before the end of the year,” College Pastor Anne Edison-Albright said. “We all looked at each other, and we talked to Scott at the end of the conversation and said, ‘Let’s work together on this’.”

Despite the change in the direction of Reimagining Luther, Edison-Albright said that the overall content of the workshop was similar to the initial plan.

“I think the goal of this event, though it has taken a different form that when we first started imagining it back in the fall, is still essentially the same as a Decolonize event,” Edison-Albright said. “To ask who is being excluded at Luther, examine how that exclusion takes place, and act on what needs to change.”

Nycklemoe echoed this sentiment by expressing his belief that attendees will be more proactive with continuing to learn and address the institutional problems embedded into the structure of the college.

“I hope that the conversation will continue forward and that people actively think and reflect how our institution is structured,” Nycklemoe said.“How am I benefitted or impacted by the way this is structured, how am I approaching my coursework, how am I approaching what classes I am taking, am I seeking out avenues to meet experience and learn about diversity and non-Eurocentric ideas?”

Additionally, Peterson said that students’ reflections at the end of the workshop demonstrated that they had gained a better understanding of systems of oppression and power dynamics.

“I did really appreciate people sharing at the end what they were going to take away,” Peterson said. “People had learned to think more about the impacts of their actions or learned to think more about culture than policy, or people had gained a common language to talk about privilege and oppression. Those are important things that people are going to be taking away from this.”

Attendee Alex Streitz (‘19) echoed a recurring theme throughout workshop, which was the need to have future events similar to Reimagining Luther.

“I really hope to see workshops like this in the future because we are going to have a new class of students next year and after this summer is a time away from Luther,” Streitz said. “To come back and have people do these types of things again, I think it’s valuable and one time is not enough.”

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