Thursday, January 21, 2016

Anita Patel - Going Deeper, Seeking Justice: the Humanities as a Tool for Change

Anita Patel currently holds the position of Leadership Programs Director for the Bush Foundation. Prior to joining the Bush Foundation, she was the Vice President for Racial Justice and Public Policy at the YWCA of Minneapolis, where she was instrumental in creating initiatives that expanded the reach of YWCA Racial Justice programs throughout corporate, government and nonprofit sectors. During her tenure, she trained more than 400 racial justice facilitators and more than 5,000 participants throughout the Midwest benefited from her presentations aimed at understanding bias and confronting racism. Anita was honored in 2011 with the Hubert H. Humphrey Public Leadership Award for making “significant contributions to the common good through public leadership and service.” She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Minnesota Humanities Center.

As I write today, the smoke of the campfires of the fourth precinct in Minneapolis is still in my nostrils, the faces of terrified people dealing with unexpected attacks throughout the world are emblazoned in my memory, and the ability to comfort my loved ones as they seek solace in an unstable world seems to elude me. It is from this place that I consider the humanities.

While “the humanities” can feel heady and academic, it speaks to me as a force that allows us to ask deep questions, to refuse to settle into a naivety that protects injustice in our communities, and to connect as human beings. Intriguing observations of the purpose of the humanities include that they help us make sense of our lives and our world through stories, words, and ideas. This broad field pushes us beyond taking information at face value and challenges us to look for the absent narratives-- the untold stories and the incomplete truths. Simultaneously, it connects us as we learn from history and one another in an effort to paint a vision of who we want to be.

The humanities is not a passive field. Rather, it is an active space that begs us to explore our world and the human condition. How have you formed your beliefs? What shapes you to be who you are today? What role have you played in perpetuating systems of power and/or oppression? What can you do to ensure that the value of each human being is able to be nurtured and unleashed in our communities?

These questions, and many more, are critical as we seek to dismantle unjust systems that have been created by individuals. The answers and intentional reflection call us to do our part to build new systems that push us forward into a more equitable and just future. It is not for any one of us, but for all of us that we explore our connections through the humanities.

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