February 23, 2017, Adrian, Michigan – Racism and prejudice, on both the personal and systemic level, are difficult issues for many people to address in their own lives. But 10 Siena Heights University students – five men and five women, some African-American and some Caucasian – gave fellow students, faculty, and administrators, and Adrian Dominican Sisters, an enjoyable way to explore the issue.
In the presentation, “Culture Shock,” hosted at Siena Heights’ Rueckert Hall January 31, the student volunteers gave their appreciative and engaged audience an honest look at how they view others. The students – hypnotized by Dimondale, Michigan, expert Chuck King – acted out their unconscious views of other races, genders, and sexual orientation, and of those with physical disabilities.
The program was sponsored by the Adrian Dominican Sisters; the Pi Lambda Phi Fraternity at Siena Heights, whose goal is to eliminate prejudice in daily life; and the University’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, directed by Sharese Mathis.
Culture Shock has been presented since 2006 in almost 40 states, in large and small institutions. The program was started by students who moved from Detroit to Grand Valley State University where they dealt with their own “culture shock” in the predominantly white culture of the area.
The humorous evening revealed that the students, for the most part, felt accepted at Siena Heights. But it also helped members of both the Siena Heights and the Adrian Dominican campuses to explore their personal challenges in a diverse world.
The day after the event, students and Sisters gathered on two separate occasions to discuss what they had learned from Culture Shock.
“Experience is one thing, but reflecting on the experience and sharing it really helps us to grow,” said Sister Mary Priniski, OP, one of the organizers of the January 31 program.
Sister Marilyn Barnett, OP, said this emphasis on exploring racism and diversity began years ago when a group of Sisters discussed the topic during a Chapter meeting. Since then, diversity and racism became an initiative of the Adrian Crossroads Chapter, based in Adrian, Michigan. The issue also fits well with the Enactments approved by delegates to the 2016 General Chapter of the Adrian Dominican Sisters.
Hopes are for the discussions between students and Sisters to continue. Sister Marilyn noted that the issue of racism can be explored and discussed in a variety of ways by Sisters and concerned citizens throughout the country, and that it’s important to keep the discussion going in any way possible.
“Systemic racism – how do we get at that?” Sister Marilyn said. “Put me in a group of people, and if I’m willing to admit to it and speak about it, then that’s one way that we can begin to wear it down.”
Feature photo: Sisters Esther Kennedy, OP, (second from right) and Annette Sinagra, OP, take part in a discussion with Siena Heights University students the day after the “Culture Shock” presentation.
February 20, 2017, Adrian, Michigan – More than 130 socially responsible investors – representing $653 billion in assets – sent a joint statement to banks throughout the world who are financing the Dakota Access Pipeline. In the statement, they encourage the banks to “address or support the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s request for a reroute of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) to avoid their treaty territory.”
Among the signatories of the statement are Kathleen Woods, Chair of the Corporate Responsibility Committee of the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Portfolio Advisory Board; Sister Judy Byron, OP, of the Northwest Coalition for Responsible Investment; and representatives of other Congregations of Dominican Sisters and other communities of women religious.
The Standing Rock tribe had actively and peacefully opposed the pipeline’s projected route, which “crosses their drinking water, sacred sites, and treaty territory,” the investors note in their statement. The Sioux at Standing Rock had gained a victory in December when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied the necessary easement to complete the project. President Donald Trump, however, directed the Army Corps of Engineers to approve the grant the easement.
“We are concerned that if DAPL’s projected route moves forward, the result will almost certainly be an escalation of conflict and unrest as well as possible contamination of the water supply,” the investors write. Banks that are tied to the project, they add, could face “long-term brand and reputational damage resulting from consumer boycotts and possible legal liability.”