Orchard’s DEI Blog | “Experience: Attending the Protests”

Welcome to Orchard's Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Blog. Below is the most recent blog, “Experience: Attending the Protests” by Lisa Pryor.

“A picture is worth a thousand words, but an experience lasts a lifetime.”

There have been thousands of images that have flooded the media and social media over the previous weeks - months and years - that bring awareness to what is happening on the front lines of this call to action referred to as protesting. It has been incredible to witness, through photography, the determination of “the people” when coming together to fight for a cause. It has also been disheartening to watch the continuation of the lack of civil rights bestowed upon individuals who use their voices for the most basic of human rights - to live. 

In my last post, I shared about being able to see and hear what was going on in downtown Indianapolis from the comfort of my backyard. I am completely aware of the privilege I have of being safe in my own space while bearing witness to the fight for justice. So, I decided to take action by joining a few friends, our own Mr. Layne was one, and going with the intention of adding my voice to the march, to the protest, to the cause, to the fight for equality. I am so thankful that I did. It was liberating. It was eye-opening. It was inspiring. I was amazed by the power of “the people.” It was an honor to bear witness and contribute to this part of an ongoing movement with my actual voice, not just my voice on paper.

The strength that comes from UNITY literally gave me chills throughout my body. I could feel the energy of the collected group running through me as we chanted “no justice, no peace.” The courage that it took to make a proclamation that if justice was not granted, then “shut it down.” The continuing call to action as we chanted “walk with us” as we passed individuals having dinner and drinks. The eruption of glee when those people stopped what they were doing to join the march. The demands that day were fairly simple: 1. Release the name of the officer who killed Dreasjon Reed, 2. Fire the officer, and 3. Hold the officer accountable for murder. Although there were a few more demands, these are the ones that stuck out to me the most. They seem so simple, like something that should have already happened. Instead, the heart of downtown Indianapolis looks like a war zone, similar to the images we typically see that come from countries at war; however, we are made to feel privileged because we live in the United States, and those situations “don’t happen here.” Except they do, when we are at war with ourselves.

I also noticed, in a short amount of time, numerous Orchard alumni at the protest,  leading the calls that I reflected, “no justice, no peace.” And, I have received messages from other Orchard alumni saying thank you for “inspiring me to think about others in a different way” and they “take pride in having a passion to help others.” They say they “learned so much advocacy from their time at Orchard” and “promise to do more in playing a part in every community they are a part of.” They post information and ways to get involved and contribute to the cause. They do interviews on the news about why they choose to make their voices heard. They show up and use their voices for the greater good. It is inspiring and makes me proud of the work we do, proud of the work we have done, and inspired to take on the work that is still needed. 

I have been reflecting on what I learned from this experience. And, well, it is quite simple. I learned that there are thousands of individuals who do, in fact, operate from love. I believe that there are two places from which all decisions and actions stem from: love and fear. Fear says “protect” and “be on guard.” Love says “be brave.” Standing up for another human being's value as a person takes courage. It takes courage to stand up to a bully. It takes courage to stand up to power. It takes courage to stand up to systemic injustice and racism. It takes courage to operate from a place of love instead of fear. Facebook so timely shared a memory with me of my status from 2014. I have no memory of the context, but that does not matter. I find it relevant again right now. The poem is by Maya Angelou, and it is entitled “Touched by An Angel.” The poem reads:

We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.

Love arrives
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls. 

We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love’s light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free. 

I shared a need to educate ourselves and have been blown away by the response from our community, so many asking how to engage in this work, how to help, how to “do better.” One recurring question is about what books to read. There are so many, and lists of enlightening books are being circulated and added to every day. Stamped, by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds, is a wonderful way to gain perspective for how we got here by sharing stories that reveal the history of racist ideas in America and the world. 

Here are some film resources that are extremely powerful: 13th - Netflix documentary shedding light on the racism in which our justice system has been built. It is also available in its entirety on YouTube. When They See Us - also a Netflix documentary that sheds light on the Central Park (Exonorated) Five, teenage boys who were wrongfully convicted of raping a white woman in 1989. There is also a learning companion to go along with this mini-series. American Son on Netflix which tells the story of unconscious bias in the justice system through the events that take place in a police station as a mother tries to get information about her missing son (this was also a stage play). The film The Hate U Give is another powerful depiction of this reality, and Just Mercy sheds light more on the inequality within the justice system. 

While educating oneself through literature and other forms of media are important, I want to challenge us to dig a little deeper and push ourselves a little further. Allow yourself the room to have an experience. It may be in relation to protesting yourself, having a challenging conversation, or it may be through another vein. See it with your own eyes. Hear it with your ears. Feel it in your body. Allow yourself to have a physical response. It may be an uncomfortable response, but true change comes from leaning into the discomfort. True empathy comes from allowing yourself to experience the very discomfort that some Americans, some human beings, experience every single day. 

Before watching these films, before moving forward in your action, have an honest conversation with yourself. How are you going to “be” when watching or engaging in something that might challenge your beliefs? What work might you need to engage in so that you are in a place to receive from empathy, not sympathy

How will we move forward? We have two options - fear or love. Will you choose to be liberated by love?

[Keep scrolling to see pictures of Orchard's Diversity Committee Chair and Incoming Board of Trustees Chair Dawn Batson and her family attending the demonstration at the Indiana Statehouse on June 6. Board of Governors President Philip Genetos was also there with his family in solidarity!

ICYMI: Click here to read the previous DEI Blog post, "2020 Vision: Educate, Listen, Action"
    • Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Lisa Pryor kneels in solidarity at a protest last week in Indy.

    • "Here for my students!"

    • Diversity Committee Chair and Incoming Board of Trustees Chair Dawn Batson attended the demonstration at the Indiana Statehouse with her family.

    • Board of Governors President Philip Genetos was also at the demonstration with his family.

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