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The N Word & the roots of unrest

Villa Julie College went through a renaissance in the mid-2000s and reinvented itself as Stevenson University. Located in the Maryland countryside, a half hour from Baltimore, it is home to a diverse population in an exurban and politically conservative landscape.

When a racial slur was painted inside a campus elevator, I was called in to help relieve disturbing tensions.

Attendance for my seminar was voluntary so I was both surprised and gratified by the size of the crowd we drew on very short notice. There was a palpable air of crisis and stress, but the attendees were attentive, and my interactive presentation style solicited some quite frank and raw commentary.

The President, and members of his Board, were present and stood in sharp contrast to the student population but, they too, entered into the conversation that began in defensiveness and ended with a clearer understanding and actionable goals.

I was called in to do a ‘diversity’ workshop but I knew in my heart that was not the real need. I never used the word diversity, but together, we explored the depths and remedies for fear on both a personal and political level. Helping that group pull themselves out of a clichéd quagmire and move forward with deeper awareness, is one of my proudest moments.

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