“Learning from one another:” Wesleyan selects three Student Fellows for inaugural Embodying Antiracism Think Tank

Andrew ChatfieldSeptember 20, 20226min

Three students who have demonstrated exemplary work and interest in civic engagement, community organizing, and artistic practice on campus will join the inaugural Embodying Antiracism Think Tank.

Olivia Adams ’23, Courtney Joseph ’25, and Ava Olson ’25 have been named Student Fellows, and will work on projects ranging from the development of a new television show, to the creation of a documentary film and a visual artwork, all of which will help the University grow in support of antiracist values.

The students will engage with ten local community organizers, Wesleyan faculty, and visiting artists announced earlier this year. Each student will be provided with support to pursue or continue an original research project and faculty mentorship. The collective will participate in a leadership institute on campus in June 2023, and produce scholarship and other works rooted in antiracism and the creative practice.

Adams is a Film Studies and African American Studies major who looks at film as a way to express the emotional, theoretical, and practical applications of blackness in modern society. As part of the Writing Certificate, she has written essays that explore blackness through the lens of slavery, Afro-pessimism, Black optimism, and the contemporary moment. Adams expects the Think Tank to be an energized and intellectual space that allows for unrestrained thought.

“I’m excited for the conversations and discussions that will develop throughout the year and how we will all become stronger artists by learning from one another,” said Adams, who wants to work on her senior thesis, developing a fantasy drama television show about the origin story of Mother Nature, with the other Fellows. “I hope I will learn discipline in my craft and ways to draw inspiration during bleak times.”

Joseph, a prospective pre-law triple major in American Studies, Education Studies, and Theater, hopes to elaborate on the intersections of marginalization, and how diversity can be normalized rather than emphasized. Joseph’s possible projects while part of the Think Tank may include a documentary featuring Black women and their relationship to sexual assault, or how dance and theater could be used in schools of all levels to promote inclusivity.

Many of the classes that she has taken or plans to take at Wesleyan focus on policy, how education can play into the idea of casting oppressed groups as “the other,” and what philosophies contribute to ignorant mindsets. She has been involved with dance as well as Ujamaa, Wesleyan’s Black Student Union. Joseph has also participated in workshops around how the University teaches about sexual misconduct and interpersonal violence.
“I’m most excited to be surrounded by people who can further ignite my passion and allow me to make the change I’ve been wanting,” said Joseph.

Olson is a College of Social Studies major who is on the Women’s Crew team and is involved with the Eclectic Society, which provides collaborative artistic and discussion spaces, and promotes diverse thinking. Olson’s project may include her gathering anonymous confessions, aspirations, and opinions and presenting those in an artwork. She believes her piece could encourage open communication around race, gender, and socioeconomic status, and help to break down the labels or barriers that separate us.

“I’ve always had a passion for meaningful social activism, and I’m super excited to be a part of such a supportive, unique team that is collaboratively striving for a more inclusive and equitable future for both Wesleyan students and Middletown residents alike,” said Olson.

She wants to hear about the other Fellows’ experiences and use the wisdom and knowledge she gains from those interactions. She views the Think Tank as a chance to create an environment on campus where people can feel comfortable in their skin and confident in their dreams, no matter how they identify.

Olson, like the other Student Fellows, would like to ultimately unite people in the Middletown area by fostering an understanding that “we are all human, we all face unique challenges, and we are all capable of influencing the world around us in a positive way.”

To learn more about all of the Fellows, visit the Embodying Antiracism Initiative website.   https://www.wesleyan.edu/embodyingantiracism/