Every year in October, the multicultural student development office (MSDO) sponsors a week of events—lectures, panel discussions, films and chapels—designed to re-educate the Calvin community on the subject of racism. “We try to spark a lifelong dialogue for our students, so that the process doesn’t end when Unlearn Week ends,” said Jacque Rhodes, Calvin’s assistant dean for multicultural student development.
This year, Unlearn Week, held from October 4 through 9, includes events about the Obama Administration, cross-racial adoption and the Asian experience. And when Unlearn Week ends, the MSDO will offer further opportunities to go on unlearning in the form of a brand-new seminar and an established book club.
From Hulst to West
The week kicked off with a sermon from the new Calvin Chaplain. Mary Hulst will be preaching from the book of Ephesians at 4 p.m. on Sunday, October 4 in the Chapel
The unlearning continues with a panel discussion about how race factors into the public perception of the Obama administration, held from 3:30 through 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 5, in the Commons Lecture Hall. "There have been a lot of public responses to our president,” said Rhodes. “Are those reactions at all based on his being a person of color? We’re going to explore that a little bit.”
Also on Monday, at 7 p.m. in the same venue, the MSDO will re-play a lecture given by Dr. Cornel West at the 2009 Festival of Faith and Music. “This lecture was so rich, we wanted to show it again,” said Rhodes. "We wanted to utilize his wisdom again on campus.”
Dean of multicultural affairs Michelle Lloyd-Paige will continue the series on Ephesians at a 10 a.m. chapel on Tuesday, Oct. 6. Later that day there will be a panel discussion for women only about the intersection of race and gender. The panel will be hosted at 3:30 p.m. in Hiemenga 333 by Linda Naranjo- Huebl. Rounding out the Tuesday events is the keynote address from Rev. Dr. Rodney Sadler, the associate professor of Bible at Union-PSCE at Charlotte. Sadler will be speaking at 7 p.m. in the Chapel on “The Bible and Our Most Dangerous Myth: Scripture Speaks of 'Race' and Difference.”
Wednesday’s Unlearn activities begin with Dr. Khan Nedd speaking at 4 p.m. in 333 Hiemenga. “He’s going to discuss some of the health disparities as it relates to race—access to healthcare and health prevention,” Rhodes said.
The Unlearn Week poetry jam, held at 9 p.m. in the Fish House is partnered for the first time with the annual celebration of Homecoming through the Calvin Alumni Association. “It’s a partnership that introduces alumni to Unlearn Week, while providing a creative outlet for young people,” said Rhodes.
On Thursday, Oct. 8, Rhae-Ann Booker, Calvin director of pre-college programs, will keep the discussion going with her lecture, “Unlearning Myths: The Under-Academic Achievement of All American Students.” That lecture starts at 3:30 p.m. in Hiemenga 336.
Cross-racial adoption and more
It is followed by a panel discussion on cross-racial adoption, held from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Fish House. "This is a new topic for Unlearn Week, and it seems to be receiving a lot of buzz,” said Rhodes.
On the following day, Friday, Oct. 9, there will be a repeat of a feature that drew a record number of students to last year’s Unlearn Week: a discussion on the Asian Experience, held from 3:30 through 5 p.m. in the Meeter Center Lecture Hall.
Unlearn Week wraps up with two films. Gran Torino will be shown at 7 p.m. in the Commons Lecture Hall. Rhodes calls the film, about the changing demographic in an urban neighborhood, a “good exercise in discernment.” At 10 p.m., Unlearn-ers can tune into Calvin’s own CVN Channel 4 for Freedom Writers.
Students who want to continue the conversation on race can sign up in November for the first-ever Unlearn Week Academy. Rhodes said the academy is a six-week opportunity for students to “go deeper with the implications of race today.” And Readers for Reconciliation, the multicultural reading group, will begin on Tuesday, October 13.
Now in its ninth year, Unlearn Week is, unfortunately, as necessary as ever, Rhodes said: “We’re not going to be done unlearning until Jesus returns, and until then we have to keep working at it. We have to keep trying," she said.
Repetition helps, she added: “I have to do it every year because I have to start that fire with new students and give returning students a place to rekindle.”
Schedule of events
Find out when and where Unlearn Week events are happening October 4–9 on campus.