The Notre Dame College Abrahamic Center Annual Lecture in 2020 grew out of some of the summer tensions across our country.
Rather than using a single speaker, the lecture gave voice to a diverse group, including two Notre Dame College students, an alumnus and staff member, to help raise awareness of the realities of racism in the lives of young professionals during a socially challenging time in the world.
Kimberly Chapmon-Wynne, the founder and principal consultant at Mosaic Insights Consulting, LLC, facilitated the virtual, panel discussion featuring:
- Cordae Barnes, a sophomore pursuing an elementary education major at Notre Dame;
- Selena Carter, a senior exercise science major who is president of the Black Student Union at the College;
- Imani Gordon, the assistant coach of the Notre Dame women’s basketball team; and
- Anshawn Ivery, who graduated from Notre Dame in 2011 with a Bachelor of Arts in Education with a license as a mild-moderate intervention specialist. He is also the founding senior high school principal of Garrett Morgan School of Leadership & Innovation in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.
Chapmon-Wynne is certified by the Cultural Intelligence Center as a practitioner and train-the-trainer in cultural intelligence and unconscious bias. She led the annual lecture this year, which once again featured an innovative discussion arrangement first introduced in 2019.
“This year’s Abrahamic Lecture chose an important slice of the larger discussion—inclusion, diversity, valuing the ‘other,’ whether the ‘other’s’ difference is race, religion, culture, age, ability or sexual orientation,” said Sr. Carol Ziegler, SND, Ph.D., executive assistant to the president and executive director of the Abrahamic Center at the College.
In a year marred by “murders, protests, uncovering of heightened and blatant racism, division, political battles and the uncovering of systemic health disparities” in Cleveland and across the U.S., Chapmon-Wynne said the College and its Abrahamic Center Lecture are distinguished in providing a forum for Black Indigenous People of Color to share their lived experiences in a mixed culture assembly.
“We realize more than ever the pain that so many are feeling,” Chapmon-Wynne said. “One way to heal is through conversation, to talk across differences. Dialogue invites discovery. It develops common values, shared understanding, opportunities to enact common goals, question and reevaluate our assumptions and strengthen relationships across differences.”
The facilitator posed questions to the panelists, who discussed issues like “racial battle fatigue,” microaggressions, “intergenerational trauma” and “covering,” or hiding who they are around others.
“The thing that I’ve learned most about myself is that I was silent about the things that were occurring within my community and communities at large,” Ivery said. “While I care deeply, I often just felt like my voice didn’t matter.”
Chapmon-Wynne explained how many people of diverse backgrounds are afraid to speak because others often do not believe them or their experiences. She also described how Black Indigenous People of Color are collective in their culture rather than individualistic, so they relate much more closely to those in their extended community.
“We are trying to breath for him, for our brother, for our father, for our uncle” Chapmon-Wynne said referring to George Floyd.
“All black people have concerns about ourselves and our loved ones,” Gordon said. “We are concerned about waking up every day and being safe.”
The students, alumnus and staff member have hopes and dreams for themselves and their families, too.
“I want to make sure they are OK at the end of the day when all is said and done,” Barnes said. “I want to make sure that their voices are heard, and I want them to know that their opinions matter and that their experiences may not necessarily be the same as everybody else’s but that’s OK because, you know, everybody is different.”
The members of the Notre Dame family even expressed how they now are feeling empowered at the College and in other aspects of their lives.
“My voice does matter. I am one person, but I can make a difference,” Carter said. “I can help, and I can get my friends to come together and we can all make this change as one.”
“I can bring awareness to these situations by just telling people how I feel and talking about it to you,” Gordon added.
In addition to describing differences, the panelists also conveyed a need to be recognized as united. Chapmon-Wynne defined race as a social construct and diversity as from where a family’s ancestors originated.
“I want them to see me as equal,” Carter said. “I’m just as smart as anybody else regardless of my skin color or if I’m a female or male.”
“I’m not just another statistic,” Barnes said. “We don’t have to be a stereotype or statistic. You know, I’m in college.”
The Abrahamic Lecture panelists also committed to engaging others in continuing conversations.
“My job is to create space for individuals to speak truth but also to understand others’ perspectives,” Ivery said. “I think my job as a leader is to provide space but also to provide education … so we all can be a better society.”
“I can also be there for the students,” Gordon said. “Hearing their stories and just supporting them through the things that they go through on a daily basis.”
Chapmon-Wynne challenged all those viewing the discussion to join in becoming agents of change, too.
“Talking about race, racism and differences can be challenging,” Chapmon-Wynne said, “however, we must all be willing to bravely lean into our discomfort zone because nothing grows in our comfort zone.”
“May we all discover new ways to talk and walk at Notre Dame College,” she added.
In her prayer for the lecture, the participants, the audience and the world at the start of the presentation, Ziegler called for compassion.
“May we be attentive to the breath of life within each of us,” Ziegler said. “May we be attentive to the beauty and breath of life in each other.”
The Notre Dame Abrahamic Center develops educational programs for the College and the Greater Cleveland community fostering mutual respect among all peoples, and celebrating religious, racial and cultural diversity.
The Center is both a physical and a “moral space” on the College campus that provides a place for study, dialogue and even a prayer room where the goals are to respect each other, be attentive to each other’s story and be part of making a change and acting for the common good, according to Ziegler.
About Notre Dame College
For almost a century, Notre Dame College has educated a diverse population in the liberal arts for personal, professional and global responsibility. Founded by the Sisters of Notre Dame in 1922, the College has grown strategically to keep pace with the rapidly changing needs of students and the dramatic changes in higher education. But it has never lost sight of its emphasis on teaching students not only how to make a good living but also how to live a good life.
Today, the College offers bachelor’s degrees in 30 disciplines plus a variety of master’s degrees, certification programs and continuing and professional development programs for adult learners on campus and online. Notre Dame College offers NCAA Division II intercollegiate athletic programs for men and women and is located in a picturesque residential neighborhood just 25 minutes from the heart of Cleveland. Hallmarks of the Notre Dame experience include stimulating academics, personalized attention of dedicated faculty and staff, and small class sizes.
Notre Dame College is located at 4545 College Road in South Euclid. For further information contact firstname.lastname@example.org.