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Calvin Unlearn Week Set for October 7-12
October 4, 2007

Unlearn Week, a yearly event from the Multicultural Student Development Office (MSDO), will take place from Sunday, October 7 through Friday, October 12.

The MSDO has planned a constellation of events for Unlearn Week to educate Calvin students, faculty and staff about anti-racism and diversity.

"Unlearn Week is the catalyst for new students to engage in this conversation about what it means to be an anti-racist institution," said assistant dean of multicultural student development Jacqueline Rhodes, who pioneered Unlearn Week five years ago. "And to the returning community, it's a reminder of a commitment we made with the FEN document. We want to create a community where all students feel a sense of belonging."

From Every Nation or FEN, Calvin's multicultural statement of mission, has as its goal an academic community "from every tribe and language and people and nation," as inspired by Revelations 5: 9-10.

"It's a beautiful, well-written document that can easily sit on a shelf," said Rhodes. "FEN has to be integrated into the fabric of the campus."

Unlearn Week is programmed with that kind of integration in mind; its events range from open discussions to lectures to movies to crucial conversations with Calvin faculty.

The week kicks off at 8 p.m. on Sunday, October 7 when Angela Taylor Perry, a 2005 graduate of Calvin Theological Seminary, speaks at Living Our Faith Together (LOFT). "She is like the Tony Campolo of Calvin Seminary," said Rhodes. "She's a dynamic speaker, and she will be bringing a message of reconciliation."

The unlearning continues on Monday, October 8 at 7 p.m. in the Student Development Office with "Does Racism Still Exist?" an open discussion hosted by Jermale Eddie, the MSDO project coordinator.

"He's going to discuss some recent issues around race, including the Jena 6 case, and encourage students to think about the relevance of race today," said Rhodes.

At 7 p.m. on Tuesday, October 9 in the Commons Lecture Hall Calvin history professor Jim Bratt will make "The Case for Reparations," a lecture on the history and costs of slavery.

"He brings a very balanced approach to this issue," said Rhodes.

At 9 p.m., in Bolt-Heyns-Timmer residence hall, unlearners will have an opportunity to view Black.White , a reality series from FX in which one white and one black family lived in the same house. The two families used makeup to swap racial identities, and dialogues about their daily experiences.

"It's fascinating," said Rhodes.

Wednesday, October 10 brings "Lots and Locks of Love," one of two student-led conversations during Unlearn Week. At 3:30 p.m. in the Commons Lecture Hall, a group of African American women students will discuss images of beauty and how racism influences black female self image.

That same day, at 7 p.m., Dr. Joseph Graves the author of The Race Myth: Why We Pretend Race Exists in America will give the keynote address for Unlearn Week at the Prince Conference Center.

A noted evolutionary biologist, Graves will speak on "How Biology Refutes Our Racial Myths."

"What's exciting about Dr. Graves is not only that he'll be speaking here, but that he'll be having some specific conversations with Calvin faculty," said Rhodes.

At 9 p.m., there will be a second showing of Black.White in Bolt-Heyns-Timmer.

Unlearn Week continues at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, October 11 with "Facts and Myths about Integration," a discussion led by Susan E. Reed, an attorney with Justice for Our Neighbors in the Commons Lecture Hall.

"It's a discussion of what's going on with our Mexican border and with immigrant groups who don't get a lot of coverage." Later at 7 p.m. in the Cave Café, Calvin students will share their stories of diversity in a student-led discussion titled "This is My Story." The third showing of Black.White will commence at 9 p.m. that evening in Bolt-Heyns-Timmer.

On Friday, October 12 Unlearn Week will feature an unusual aspect of racism as Paul Haan speaks on "Environmental Racism" at 3:30 p.m. in the Meeter Center Lecture Hall, an event co-sponsored by the Calvin sociology department and the Environmental Stewardship Coalition.

"When students think of racism, they think of Klansmen and affirmative action," said Rhodes, "but they don't think of access to food, housing and healthcare. Paul Haan will help students to see that racism affects every structure of society, including the environment."

Unlearn Week winds up at 8 p.m. Friday with a showing of The Pursuit of Happyness in the Fine Arts Center. The film will be followed by a discussion about challenging the notion of meritocracy, said Rhodes.

"We want to show that there are systems in place that don't allow people equal access to resources."

Rhodes is excited about the schedule of events, particularly as it partners Unlearn Week with various departments on campus.

"That's our goal-to make this week into more of a conference that integrates with the life of the college," she said. "Soon Unlearn Week will be as big as the January Series."

The event, she insisted, would not be possible in any year without the diligent work of the Multicultural Student Advisory Board.

Rhodes expects good attendance at the events as in previous years, and says that the influence of the event reaches far beyond Calvin.

"You would not believe how many colleges-Christian and secular-have copied this model," she said. "They even call it Unlearn Week!"

Even so, the event remains a unique enterprise, Rhodes said.

"I'm really very proud that Calvin is not a place that's afraid to grapple with tough issues. An Unlearn Week would not be possible on a lot of college campuses. That says a lot about who we are."

~written by Calvin staff writer Myrna Anderson

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