PSR commissions Racial Justice Advocates at chapel service

February 24, 2009

During its weekly chapel service today, PSR commissioned members of its new Racial Justice Advocacy Group (R-JAG). “The Racial Justice Advocacy Group was created out of a need for an institutional and personal response to incidents of racism and racial intolerance that were occurring and continue to occur on the PSR campus,” said Bill McKinney, president of PSR.

Racial Justice Advocates for 2008-2009 commissioned at the service included: PSR students Laura Bogle, Wade Meyer, and Miak Siew; staff members Barbara Essex, Roland Stringfellow, and Maura Tucker; and faculty members Joe Driskill and Randi Walker. Also remembered at the service was the late Diane Thomas, friend and a champion of racial justice, who had been selected to be an advocate before her death last December.

“The role of a Racial Justice Advocate is to listen and bear witness to the pain felt by the person who has experienced a racist incident,” said Marquita Chamblee, director of PSR’s Dismantling Racism Program. “Whether or not the language or behavior directed at this person was intended, the impact of the incident often creates pain, anger, confusion, and myriad emotions.” Chamblee added, “It’s important to note that the R-JAG team members are advocates for social justice versus advocates for the individual. It’s a nuanced, but important distinction.”

The R-JAG member listens to and offers suggestions to the injured person and, when possible, arranges dialogue between the injured and injuring parties, facilitated by two members of the R-JAG team, allowing the parties to develop greater sensitivity to one another and to reach a greater degree of mutual respect.

Chamblee explained, “The R-JAG team for 2008-2009 is composed of individuals selected and invited by a working group of the Dismantling Racism Committee. They have undergone and continue to participate in training in conflict de-escalation and resolution, non-defensive communication (all through the lens of multicultural competence), and other processes to provide them tools needed to serve this important role.”

Although this inaugural team was nominated and invited by the working group, R-JAG members for 2009-2010 will be selected through an application and selection process being developed by the Dismantling Racism Committee R-JAG Working Group. Information and applications will be ready by mid-to-late April. More details about the program and contact information for the R-JAG members will be available by March 1. If you have questions, please contact Marquita Chamblee, director of PSR's Dismantling Racism Program, at mchamblee[at]psr[dot]edu or 510/849-8249.

Pictured left to right: R-JAG members Joe Driskill, Miak Sew, Wade Meyer, and Randi Walker at top; Roland Stringfellow below. Members Laura Bogle, Barbara Essex, and Maura Tucker are not pictured.