FREE @ Cov - Seaux Chill
Given the times we are living in, I am convinced it is important now more than ever to elevate and listen to voices of color, black women in particular. In an effort to highlight the significance of MLK Day at Covenant College in 2018, I have reached out to various black alumni voices (all of whom will remain nameless) well versed in the Covenant College experience. Below various black alumni’s initial reactions to MLK Day at Covenant College, coupled with highlights from a Q&A I had with a black woman who graduated from Covenant.
What was your reaction when you found out Covenant College officially recognized MLK day?
“Pleasantly Surprised” – ‘14
“Progression” – ‘17
“Finally” – ‘17
“Honestly? Meh, BUT Progress” – ‘14
Question 1: How did the Covenant College experience impact you?
Being a student at Covenant College was definitely a life-changing experience. I come from Atlanta, so I would consider myself a city girl. As you can tell, Covenant is pretty isolated and several hours from a big city (the city of Chattanooga is a medium-sized city). My experience at Covenant was overall a culture shock. Covenant gave me the confidence to go out into the world and be confident in my faith intellectually and gave me a framework to filter world experiences through; I’m thankful for that.
Socially, my experience at Covenant was bittersweet. I gained so many great relationships between being a student-athlete (my basketball team) and my amazing hall-mates and roommates (shoutout to Kallah!). Personally, attending Covenant opened my eyes to social justice issues. This environment was the first time I felt like I was “other.” Being from Atlanta, I was always around people who looked like me. Attending Covenant for five years definitely helped shape and ignite my passion to get involved with the social justice fight. I was able to get the education and experience to be an active voice on racial reconciliation, social injustice, and in particular, inclusion in college athletics.
Question 2: While you were a student, what was the relationship like between the black community on campus and Covenant College?
To be honest, I don’t think the relationship with the black community on campus was either good or hostile. I say hostile because there were not any outright issues I experienced right off the bat. That didn’t come until later in my junior year. When I first stepped on campus, I knew that I was going to have a hard time throughout my time at Covenant. It was probably the very first chapel, Convocation, when I realized the amount of white faces I saw compared to black and brown faces. That was the first time I felt like I did not belong, or was in other words “other.” I could count the number of black students on my hands. So, it’s not a far reach to say that I knew every black student on campus.
I went to Covenant during two full terms of Barack Obama as President and also during Trayvon Martin’s death. During this time was the beginning of some of the stuff that is happening today. After realizing that the school was never going to recognize MLK Day and Black History month, which was something I was used to all throughout my childhood, I started to feel like the school didn’t care about my history and who I was. So, after seeing the reaction, or lack of reaction, in regard to Trayvon Martin’s death, it wasn’t a surprise. But the straw that broke the camel’s back was when Barack Obama won his second term as President of the United States. That was the only time I seriously considered leaving Covenant (due to the level of racially insensitive comments and actions of fellow students following the election).
I believe since then, conversations have been started and continue to be had, which has helped build a bridge between the black community and Covenant. Students of color are starting to find their voice and use whatever platform to demand to be heard. That’s why I think MLK is so important because Dr. King did this very thing-- used his voice to stand up against social injustice. Covenant, particularly student life, has been super helpful creating civil conversations about the topic of social injustice. It’s been a pleasure to see the improvement of well-being for students of color, and I look forward to seeing more improvement.
Question 3: Do you envision a reality for an improved black experience, as it relates to future black students at Covenant College? If so, what does that vision look like?
Yes, I do envision a reality for an improved black experience for current and future students at Covenant. I actually think it’s slowly improving as we speak. I think that continued improvement will have to be a result of more intentionality from the Covenant Community, but more specifically from those who make decisions in addition continued involvement from current students of color on campus as well as alumni of color.
As for on-campus experience enhancements, I think student development should continue to keep up their intentionality. Continue to better empathize with students of color in regard to the struggle that these students endure every day because of the color of their skin. Being able to recognize the everyday struggle that is endured, especially during the political climate of today, is key to improving students of color’s experience at Covenant. The concept of otherization and dismantling the idea of the “us versus them” mentality is a priority the world needs to focus on. I envision that the Covenant community will continue to be educated on the dangers of the dehumanization of otherization, which goes against the doctrine of the Imago Dei. Diversity inclusion programming is essential to the fight against the “them versus us” mentality. It’s a way to educate others, and I believe Covenant is on the right path after seeing MLK Day activities, recent chapel speakers, and “the race card project” to name a few.
Closing Remarks from Seaux Chill:
This is clearly only the beginning to a long journey towards change. The fact that Covenant College is just now acknowledging MLK Day proves more work lies ahead, but progress has been made. Being a senior who has witnessed how this place has changed over four years, I can attest to what is possible here at this school in a short amount of time. I do not have a magic formula that will solve this equation; however, I can guarantee if helpful conversation does not continue, progress will not be made. The time to dismantle is now.