Zoom Webinar held to advocate for inclusivity

by Amelia Schafer, News Editor

Last week, a previously scheduled faculty and staff meeting was turned into an opportunity for growth among Simpson faculty, students and staff. 

On Wednesday, Sept. 9, a Zoom webinar took place to allow the Simpson community to learn more about the strike to listen to different area leaders. 

This webinar was held in conjunction with the Sept. 8 to 9 scholar strike, in which several professors at Simpson College choose to use their class time to teach students about racial inequality and racism. 

Community leaders included: Clemente Love, Indianola Black Lives Matter organizer; Jalesha Johnson, Des Moines teen and BLM advocate; Kameron Middlebrooks, Des Moines NAACP regional director; Jaylen Cavil, a Des Moines BLM organizer; Alejandro Alfaro-Santiz, Trinity Las Americas Pastor; Izaah Nox, Executive director of Urban Dreams and member of the Simpson College board of trustees; Rochean Cofield, Urban Dreams social worker; Bobby Stanley, Urban Dreams Community School Restoration Project Coordinator; Negus Imhotep, Urban Dreams Des Moines Public School Liaison and Workforce Development Coordinator.

The webinar began with a performance from junior Micah Zimmerman, followed by a brief introduction by Patti Woodward-Young, Simpson College Director of Inclusive Teaching and Learning.

Each of the community leaders then had their turn to speak.

Stanley asked for white students to make sure that these conversations span further than the webinar and follow into their homes and families.

“You can have two cents in your pocket as a white person and still have white privilege,” Stanley said. “If you were following the [Simpson] creed, we would not be in this meeting today. I am holding you accountable for what you said you’d do. If you stand on your merits, then everything will be fine.”  

Several topics touched on in the one-hour fifteen-minute Zoom webinar. These topics included: police brutality, intersectionality, equitability, voting rights and privilege.

Simpson alum and current staff member Emili Radke tuned in on the webinar.

Radke was initially supposed to be speaking at the faculty and staff meeting, but rescheduled for Oct. 7 in solidarity of the scholar strike, along with professor Maeve Callan who was also slated to speak. 

Radke felt that this webinar was an excellent opportunity for students to learn and grow and help to broaden their horizons. 

“I think what I liked most about the scholar strike and the speakers, is that these are prominent people that don’t necessarily have a direct connection to Simpson, but at the same time could really leverage their support to bring a lot of different topics of conversation to the college,” Radke said. “I think that in relation to everything that’s been happening, that’s what we needed. We needed that opportunity to hear from other voices, especially the voices from the representatives from Urban dreams. I really enjoyed that.”

Radke also felt this was an excellent way for students to understand how far their community spans.

“Even when there was a small Simpson connection with coach love’s wife Clemente or Izaah who is on the board of trustees, I still think it spoke volumes and really reminded students and faculty that the Simpson community reaches far beyond campus,” Radke said.

Radke also believes that the webinar set students on the right path for self-education in terms of positive and influential resources.  

“Resources are incredibly important; it’s really important to educate yourself,” she said. “We are at a really powerful point in the fact that we all have iPhone or androids. We all have this wealth of knowledge in the palm of our hands. Not only knowing that but knowing the right things to look at is important. Utilizing the resources that are there for people in booklists or chats or conversations is really important. Also leveraging those resources from urban dreams and in Des Moines and things like that.”

Radke agreed with Stanley that these conversations need to span further than a classroom or a webinar in order to really make a difference.

“Making sure that when you are having conversations, you’re having them with the people that mean a lot to you,” she said. “It’s one thing to have a conversation with one of your classmates that is a person of color but taking that conversation to the next level and talking to your parents about it back home who you already know don’t share the same thoughts and opinions that you do. Having those conversations taking some of those examples and experiences back to them, to the people that you care about, I think that’s really important, that’s spreading the knowledge around.”

Since the webinar, it was announced in Wednesday’s Student Government meeting that Urban Dreams would be working with Simpson College on mandatory bias training for all campus organizations.