The Whatcom Community College Foundation in partnership with the college, Skagit Valley College, LGBTQ+ Western, John Baker and Friends of WCC has launched a series of lectures called “Dismantling Racism and Advocating for Justice”. The series was designed to create engagement on transforming and promoting justice in communities of color and gender. Each lecture will feature distinguished speakers and is designed to stimulate and innovate storytelling and idea-sharing. The series was made possible through a contribution from Dr. Luca Emory Lewis, Whatcom Vice President of Student Services.
“[This] was created out of a vision from Dr. Luca Emory Lewis, who felt there was a demonstrated need to bring new ideas and inspiration to consciously advancing the equity work,” said Terri Thayer, Interim College Equity Officer at Whatcom.
“My motivation and goals for this endeavor were hatched about two years ago as I was connecting with community members, students, and colleagues from all over the U.S. and I felt there was a demonstrated need to bring new ideas and inspiration to consciously advance the work that we must do together,” Dr. Lewis said, “I am inspired and excited for the learning and growth opportunities that this endowment will bring to Whatcom Community College and the community for years to come.”
Thayer said they’re planning 10 lectures for the community to “come together to appreciate the depths of the intersectionality of our identities, providing space for all the unique lived experiences and celebrate the whole of who we are as a community coming together and making sure we understand that Welcome [Foundation] is bigger than our campus.”
The first lecture, “Gender 101,” was held virtually on May 23. The event featured Ericka Hart, a Black queer femme activist, writer, speaker, and award-winning sexuality educator. She captured public attention after sharing photos of her double mastectomy scars in 2016.
This lecture was designed to “explore the underpinnings of gender using a queer, anti-racist, consent, and pleasure-based lens,” according to an email promoting the event.
“The first step is to have everybody in the space realize that they’ve been indoctrinated in the gender binary in some way, shape or form,” said Hart. “They’ve been impacted by the ways in which we are forced to perform gender even if we don’t want to, or even if we don’t want to in the ways that we were forced to or told to or demanded to.”
Hart is currently an adjunct faculty member at Widener University’s Center for Human Sexuality. Their background includes teaching sexuality education for elementary-aged youth to adults across New York City for over 10 years.
Regarding the selection method for guests for the series, Lewis said, “A group of employees work with the Foundation to select distinguished national and international speakers, scholars, artists, and writers for this Endowed Lecture Series and based upon the vision and purpose of the endowment.”
Key Moments from the Lecture:
“The first step is to have everybody in the space realize that they’ve been indoctrinated in the gender binary in some way, shape or form. They’ve been impacted by the ways in which we are forced to perform gender even if we don’t want to, or even if we don’t want to in the ways that we were forced to or told to or demanded to.”
“We’re expected to explain how we came to know our gender, explain how we knew we were trans, or how we knew we were non-binary. As a trans or non-binary person, I am getting asked these questions all the time. And cisgender folks are not thinking about it ever. But we’re all impacted by the same systems.”
Asked about educational censorship regarding the “Don’t Say Gay” bill it is known from Florida and how communities in Whatcom county can position themselves in response: Hart mentioned comprehensive sex education including queer/trans studies and an interrogation of gender, as opposed to being rooted in abstinence or pregnancy prevention. “The fact that we don’t have that creates that actual conditions to have a “Don’t Say Gay” bill.”
“Are people talking about queerness outside the month of June?”
“Just because the [aforementioned] legislation is not there doesn’t mean that the work is not there to do.”
Asked about a potential overturning of Roe v Wade protections: “Any gender can have an abortion if you actually understand how gender works, but so many people collapse gender with genitals, and they are separate.”
“When we’re talking about abortion, we can not talk about it separate from racial injustice. And the people who will be most impacted if Roe v Wade is overturned are black, queer, and trans people (in particular black trans folks) because we already exist in a world that is hyper-surveilled.”
“The gender binary is 100% a tool of white supremacy. The standard is that cis folks are the real deal. That’s the foundation of gender. But before that, white people are the foundation of everything.
“Black people did not create race. We made the actual culture out of nothing. We were stolen from the coast of Africa and brought here in chains and stripped of our culture and our identity; that includes our gender expressions.”
Co-moderating for the evening’s event were Rae Larson (Program coordinator for Welcome Foundation) and Juan Serrano (AIM coach).
Registration for the lecture series is free and open to the public. For more information visit https://www.whatcom.edu/Home/Components/Calendar/Event/19357/117.