Be Present. Make It Relevant.

October 20 2013

As your thumb hovers about the "delete" button in your email, I ask you to read just a few more sentences of my email.
I want to talk to you briefly about two things.

First, the Chewonki Organization. (Chewonki? What does that even mean? Is that a word? Only one way to find out-- read on!)
Second, systemic racism. Chances are, you haven't been taught about it. Not your fault, just statistics.

So, what is Chewonki? The Chewonki organization is based in southern coastal Maine and has numerous programs to connect people with their place in the natural world. I attended the Chewonki Semester school, meaning I spent 4 months of my junior year living and studying with around 50 students and faculty in Wiscasset, ME. That semester was undoubtedly the most influential time of my life. The close-knit community taught me so much about my place in the world, hard work, my relationship with nature, and who I was. Chewonki has become an integral part of my soul.

Students live in cabins with ~7 other people and tend to their own wood stoves. They help on the campus's farm (alongside the absolutely amazing staff). They take amazing and rigorous classes with the best teachers I've ever had the honor of learning from (coming from two of the most "prestigious" schools in the country). They will meet the most amazing students imaginable from across the country. They will laugh like crazy. And when it's over, they will cry.

I ask you to think about whether you know any young people who could benefit from Chewonki. I'm not trying market them-- I honestly hope that each student can have access to the amazing opportunity that I did. Applications to the program are due in sophomore year. There is financial aid. If someone you think could be interested isn't the right age-- check out their camps. A quick google of "Chewonki" will take you to their site immediately. Even if you don't know anyone, just look at the pictures :)

Second, systemic racism. I hope that after reading the following links you gain some insight into just how present racism is in American society today. It's less blatant than it has been in the past, but its current form of manifestation is much more toxic in my opinion. I believe that if you are in a privileged position, it is your responsibility to educate yourself about the systems affecting oppressed people, so read up on it.

I know you're a lot less likely to read these because I can't include links-- but just do it. Copy and paste the next few lines into Google and read the articles they link to. If you really read them, they will change your life:

1. The Invisible Knapsack of White Privilege by Peggy McIntosh-- good intro to the concept of "privilege" in a non-economic way
2. 28 Common Racist Attitudes and Behaviors (the URL should be from St. Cloud state)-- this is by far my favorite resource
3. The Four Is of Oppression YouthBuild -- this will give you a good understanding of how oppression works and why "reverse racism" doesn't exist.

Thank you to the too-fantastic Julia Dornbusch for showing me the list serve (she also went to Chewonki with me!!). Infinite love to everyone from Semester 48-- you made me who I am.

I'm a college first-year from Boston currently attending Columbia University in New York City. I play rugby. I like anti-racism work and feminism (and the intersection of those two things). I like education reform. Let me know your thoughts.

Miranda Arakelian
[email protected]
New York, NY

comments powered by Disqus