Augie fights dual pandemic

Etta Brooks

Relevant to diversity celebration month and Augustana Faith’s commitment to social justice, T.S Banks, a Poet, playwright, and social justice advocate will give a virtue performance and message at Augustana on April 21.

Inspired by his intersecting experiences with racism, transphobia and ableism, Banks has been using his poetic passion to advocate for queer and transgender people and people living with disabilities, especially as it intersects with racism. He is the founder of Loud ‘N UnChained Theater Company and author of the play “We the 350: stories of poverty, racism and incarceration in Wisconsin.”

“The system that said it’s going to help me is actually using my intersecting identities to cause me harm. I am actually receiving violence when I’m trying to receive help or I’m trying to receive help but I’m scared…writing those plays then became, well we should all be loud and unchain, .. silence will not protect us,” Banks said.

Just as Banks encourages us to stop our silence, Dr. Monica Smith, vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion admonished us to not only participate in these difficult conversations that Banks challenges us to have but that we are inspired by his work to also take action.

“It begins with kind of talking about things and learning about things but it always has to follow the action,” Dr. Smith said.

While the pandemic is ongoing, racial injustices still prevail and the college is simultaneously working toward these issues.

“While we were addressing issues of COVID-19 and rightfully so, we recognized that there was a dual pandemic,” Smith said.

In addition to T.S Banks’ visit, Smith gave several other examples of how the college is promoting social justice such as hosting lectures and cross-cultural dialogues: training for police, and public safety, racial healing circles, international students programming that increases awareness and opening of preferred name policy. She also added that the senior cabinets are doing their own homework by educating themselves.

“We looked at the 1619 and discussed multiple elements of America’s history in terms of discrimination, microaggression and inequities, injustice and racism,” said Dr. Smith.

According to Smith, one thing that the cabinet unanimously said is that America before is not necessarily different from contemporary America.

Dr. Smith referenced the paralyzation of Jacob Blake and televised murder of George Floyd and the trauma accompanying such incidents. First, students of color are particularly vulnerable due to the secondary trauma of seeing someone that looks like them being murdered. Second, Augustana’s proximity to the incident location, as it happened in the midwest.

According to Dr. Smith, these incidents have awakened a lot of people about the injustices that Black and Brown people are experiencing in their community. The college is using this awareness as an opportunity to educate people about race and social justice. Hearing from T. S Banks leans into that direction.

“TS Banks is a person who has championed diversity and social justice in a number of ways relative to identity and conditions. It’s going to be really great for the Augustana community to hear from him” Dr. Smith said.

Senior Ashanti Mobley, co-student leader for the racial healing circles under Dr. Smith’s office, is helping to promote Bank’s visitation to the college.

Mobley said they were already looking into creating awareness about intersectionality in the BIPOC community, and because Banks visitation relates to such, they are assisting in promoting the event.

“There are different intersections of identities within the Black community, and some of which add on different layers of oppression and discrimination.” Mobley said.

Mobley hopes that what students get from T.S Banks’ event is that the black experience is not necessarily homogeneous, and learning about issues concerning social justice does not stop there.

“I hope students are able to see and recognize that there isn’t one Black experience, but a great number of them. It all varies and depending on our intersecting identities, and it impacts us in different ways. I hope students can see ways to help against the struggle and are able to further educate themselves moving forward to help allow for more inclusivity.”