Last night I had a provoking conversation with a recent college graduate in Chicago. The conversation was based on our lives and mostly our differences in opinions when it comes to politics, economics, and most importantly social issues. While I am always excited about and welcome dissenting thoughts, by the end of this conversation it was clear the difference in our praxis. My recent job was working with at-risk youth in the inner city encouraging them to get involved in the political systems in which they live. His most recent job was at an advertisement firm and in his words “working 12 hour days to make sure the companies bottom-line is continuously better.” I challenged him to exist in the business world not only with an individualistic-capitalist paradigm, but to invest in people just as much as stock. He challenged me to watch a documentary on Netflix “Babies” that explored the international differences in socio-economic upbringings.
This multifaceted yet casual conversation is a symbol of the interactions that should take place more often, both within the University but also in atmospheres that go beyond the academy. This is in essence an articulation of minds emerging, thoughts clashing against each other, and theory being forced to walk among practice. These conversations do not occur in the name of deliberate friction, but in the firm belief that understanding and tolerance is more than necessary. Especially if we are going to navigate to find solutions to the social issues that many would rather sweep under the rug than confront head-on. To disrupt the habit of avoiding the subjects that are most “touchy” we felt the need to create a space where these topics are tackled, interrogated, and dissected.
This is why I am excited about a new initiative that I along with several others (specifically Sarah Yu and the OMSA Staff—Rosa Yaidra Ortiz & Ronnie Rios) are launching, The Emerging Minds Project. This is not a “stop in when you feel like it” initiative. The first accepted cohort of students went through an application process that encouraged them to articulate what their views are on issues like identity, what they have experienced in the past, and why this project is important to them. Unfortunately we could not accept everyone, but it is important to form a community that has an ultimate goal of understanding and respect, regardless if friction occurs in the process.
I look forward to meeting the first cohort of students and helping facilitate these conversations, not as someone who is any wiser than anyone else, but as someone who truly hopes to understand. I want to revisit what I “think I know” and redefine my view of the world. I want to decipher through the problems many choose to ignore. Most importantly, I am excited about the artistic development that will come from the cohort at the end of the project.
In my heart I believe life is too short to let it pass without fixing something. Some avoid these issues to make life for them-selves easier; The Emerging Minds Project faces these issues because we understand ignoring them only makes life more difficult for everyone. Choose to participate.