English Department will host its first inaugural colloquium presenting student literary work focusing on Black, Indigenous, and People of Color on April 28th during Community Time.
By Victoria Vidales
On April 28th, the Saint Mary’s English Department will be hosting its first annual inaugural colloquium focusing on presenting work that highlights Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. This colloquium will give English Department majors and minors the opportunity to present their own literary work in a public forum. Created by Saint Mary’s English Department students with the help of faculty, this event is meant to highlight issues that affect and are important to BIPOC, to create dialogue through literature to bring lasting change.
“This colloquium is about giving due attention to issues of equity and social justice within the literary canon and the areas of study as they arise in SMC’s English courses. English majors and minors can submit their work to us, and the goal is that students will then be able to present their work to their peers at the colloquium. At the colloquium, the SMC community can engage with each presenter’s work by asking questions and engaging in important dialogue with one another,” Bianca Guzman ‘21, member of the English Department Colloquium Planning Committee, said.
Following calls for racial justice during the summer of 2020, the English Department released a statement supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and racial equality. The statement also included a pledge by the department to reflect on the curriculum and lessons presented in Saint Mary’s English courses to ensure that racism and white supremacy will never be present. These students believed that an effective way to facilitate positive change in the department would be to center the colloquium on highlighting BIPOC, giving a platform to share stories about their cultures. Following support from English Department faculty, the students moved forward with planning for the colloquium in the Spring.
“It’s essential that we give due attention to issues of equity and social justice in our society, given our nation’s long history of racism and white supremacy. By allowing SMC English students and faculty to engage critically with their education, we are able to reflect on what we’ve learned and what still needs to be changed in our curriculum to lift up the voices and experiences of Black, Indigenous, and people of colour communities,” Guzman said.
The SMC English Department Colloquium Planning Committee is comprised of Guzman and seven other English department students: Dominique Coleen Brown, Maya Dromlewicz, Tyler Dunne, Mayson Lord, Sara Mameesh, Annaliese Martinez, and Kelsey Slater. Mentored by English department professors, Dr. Kathryn Koo, Dr. Lisa Manter, and Dr. Sunayani Bhattacharya, the group has been working for months to develop an event that would positively reflect the pledges made by the department to strive for diversity and inclusivity in their curriculum.
“I would like the SMC community to understand that this colloquium is centered around giving a voice to BIPOC communities in literature. Our goal is to reimagine the narratives constructed by the literary canon, and to continually develop anti-racist pedagogies in the English Major,” Guzman said.
Guzman and her fellow committee members hope that this colloquium will honor BIPOC and create a place for dialogue amongst students and staff to talk about issues that affect BIPOC communities. They also wish for this colloquium to serve as a source of inspiration for other departments on campus that want to directly address racial equality but do not know how.
“Undoubtedly, the SMC administration can better highlight the experiences and stories of BIPOC by offering more courses that emphasize the importance of diverse literature. Not only this, but actively evaluating the courses already offered at SMC and molding them to better reflect the experiences of BIPOC is a must. Alongside this, taking the initiative to intentionally hire tenure-track people of color faculty to teach these courses are a great start to highlighting these experiences,” Guzman said.
The department hopes to address the progress made towards racial equality and the change that still must be made through literature that they hope will connect and resonate with the Saint Mary’s community. Above all, the committee desires for that students, English majors or not, to challenge themselves to be supporters of racial justice movements, and as allies within their communities.
“We have not only the ability, but also the duty to utilise what we learn during our time at SMC to enact positive change in the wider community. We need to critically examine the world we live in to fight against inequity and injustice, because this is the only way that things will change,” Guzman said.
To participate in this colloquium all work must be submitted by April 11th to Bianca Guzman at email@example.com with a short bio or through this Google Form https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSefRpJkaqQOhV_UyibEZSLdgAfU_mtB0gZb6_LKnLHU82wyQA/viewform?gxids=7628
Victoria Vidales '21,