Thursday, July 7, 2016

Our Impact

Our lesson today started with a video about Richard Allen and the years leading up to the founding of AME Church. I have to correct myself from yesterday, as Allen actually encouraged the blacks of Philadelphia to help victims of Yellow Fever before he started AME Church, hoping to earn them a better place in society. Of course, while he succeeded in recruiting blacks to act as caretakers, his end goal was never achieved.

We went on to talk about our Capstone Projects, which we will present at the end of the course. For the project, we are to do research in an attempt to answer a social justice question, and we need to find some format to convey what we find to our peers. The type of questions that we can pose and the format we choose is very open. At first, it was difficult to think of what I might want to do since there were so many options. However, the activities throughout the rest of the day helped me narrow my topic down, and decide on what kind of presentation I want to do.

At 10:00 AM, we walked down to Van Pelt Library, the main library on UPenn's campus. There, we were given a presentation by one of the librarians about how to access the books, articles, and other resources in UPenn's database. It was pretty similar to a Google search, but he also gave us tips on finding good sources and using useful research practices. This was largely new information to me, as I have grown up in a time where it is so easy to find the information that  I need. However, as the librarian explained, this is not always reliable information or appropriate information to use in an academic setting. Unfortunately, we are not allowed as a part of the Summer Discovery program to check books out of Van Pelt, but this just means that we will have to spend a little bit more time there gathering information. 

We arrived at lunch early, and were able to get our food relatively quickly. I'm really enjoying the selection at Houston Market. We returned to hear from our guest speaker of the day, former professor and local politician in Philadelphia, Chris Rabb. For me, this was by far the most enjoyable part of class today. Mr. Rabb gave a lecture about privilege, cultural capital, the importance of the language we use, and all the things of value in life. He encouraged us to use the privilege we had in a positive way, and to help break barriers for those in our communities less privileged than ourselves. He also explained how social justice boils down to working for the good of the public by increasing the amount of valuable things they had access to, including good education and exposure to the arts among other things. Essentially, Rabb's talk was to help us view social justice through a different lens and be conscious of how the work we were doing was having and impact. Throughout all of this, he used his own family tree and the political a landscape in Philadelphia to pull examples and explain his own heritage and identify. 

I was very inspired by what Chris Rabb had to say, and it definitely gave me a clearer idea of why I am interested in social justice and what I will be able to do with the knowledge I gain through this program. I feel like I learned a lot in the two hours or so that he spoke with us. He ended by giving us his contact information and snapping a selfie with us, at which point we split into our discussion groups again. Today we talked about the remarks by Jeremiah Wright, the Obamas's former pastor, during the 2008 election. Basically, he was condemning America for its treatment of African Americans, and Obama had to respond without being too polarizing to any one group. We discussed wether or not we were offended by Wright's comments, which I personally wasn't, and wether we thought Obama's response was adequate. We ran out of time rather quickly, however, and class ended for the day.

On my way back to the dorms, I stumbled across a small Black Lives Matter protest. I have seen these types of things from a far, but it was different for me to be so close to it and to see it in action on UPenn's campus. There weren't many participants, but those present were clearly passionate about their message, and that can be a very powerful thing. 

Once I made it back to my room, I had to leave almost immediately again to go to a presentation with the rest of Summer Discovery by the Dean of Admissions at UPenn. During the presentation, he broke down the different parts of the application and answered the many questions that we all had about applying to college. Some of the advice we were given was to ask our loved ones to describe us in a few words, and make sure that their answers come through on the application to paint a picture of the type of person we are. The Dean of Admissions was surprisingly honest, saying that it was true that there was a higher admit rate for legacies and that a 3.7 GPA is on the lower side for those that they accept. However, he also reassured us that as long as we were truthful on our application, a few blips were not going to keep us from where we were meant to end up. 

When I got back to the Quadrangle, they were passing out Italian ice from Rita's. It was the first time I had ever had it, and it was very refreshing on such a hot day. My friends and I went back to Van Pelt, myself and my friend Jack to start working on our Capstone projects. After about an hour there, we grabbed dinner and went on yet another CVS run. As we were walking back, a Dunkin' Donuts employee offered us a dozen free donuts that hadn't been purchased during business hours. We now had dessert and breakfast for tomorrow morning covered!

Meeting Chris Rabb was the highlight of my day, and I know that I will take his words with me as I continue through this program and the social justice work I may do in the future. Something that our class all agreed on was that the purpose of overcoming factors such as racism and sexism is to help others, and hopefully this is something that I will be able to do better after going through our curriculum and exploring a social justice topic more deeply through my Capstone Project. We'll see by the end of the three weeks if this is true, but I have a good feeling. 

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