Decolonizing Academia

I was recently talking to a friend about our love/hate relationship to higher education. It started because I was explaining that I had just finished recording a webinar on Black People’s History with Land for Women of Color in Solidarity’s Webinar series. She was interested to learn more, explaining to me that after receiving multiple degrees in higher education, along the lines of environmental justice and emergency aid, wants to unpack how we as a society have undertaken the institution of education not just education as an institution. A question/theme I am still figuring out. Side note, this is one of the reasons I created Resistance Education, to not center whiteness in our learning practices.

This conversation was timely because I was asked to present the following weekend as a keynote speaker at The School of Art Institute of Chicago for their Decolonization Dinner, which I didn’t end up making because Mercury Retrograde aha but Florcy held it down. Florcy Romero and I are the Co-Founders of Women of Color in Solidarity, which ironically started in 2015 when we gave our TEDx Talk at Clark University about how violent the institution was to us. Check it out here

The keynote talk was supposed to discuss the question, what does it mean and take to decolonize academia? So I am writing some of what I would have said here.

  1. Decolonizing Academia means first and foremost publicly recognizing the people you have forced to build the institute, as many were built by slaves. It means honoring the land that your institute is on by accepting Indigenous students to your college/university for free, accepting Indigenous faculty to tenure positions, not just as Assistant Faculty or Adjunct.
  2. It means making sure your Black and Indigenous student groups are the most prominent groups receiving the most money for events on your campus.
  3. Making sure professors are including literature, theory, and methodology by Indigenous, Black, Brown, Queer, Trans, Disabled people of color. Allowing for students to take up and include their dialects, languages, and methodologies into their work.
  4. HIRE INDEPENDENT ACTIVIST AND EDUCATORS! We live in a time where many students are receiving information and resources from online, whether it be Instagram, Twitter, or blog accounts. Hire those people to come in and give a workshop, talk, be a keynote speaker. Most of us are poor, Black and Indigenous, Queer and Trans, and are giving this free labor because we know the necessity. However, pay us! Decolonization looks like removing yourself from the idea that only certain people hold space in these institutions.
  5. Adrienne Maree Brown in her book Emergent Strategy says, “Imagination is one of the spoils of colonization, which in many ways is claiming who gets to imagine the future for a given geography”. Colonization has stripped us from our imagination to embody and visualize, a world without such direct violence. Academia should be a place where black and brown people get a chance to imagine without direct violence. We are never afforded that chance.
  6. Decolonization in the academy means white people should no longer be allowed to do “on the ground” research or study the anthropology, language, etc of black and brown people. Fight me, disagree, but that’s what I believe. Maybe, just maybe, as an assistant to a project but never a lead researcher. At this point we can’t trust it lol
  7. Decolonization in the academy means giving people of color therapists of color whom they meet with once a week, for free.
  8. Decolonizing the academy means not buying your dining hall food supply from companies that are backed by Monsanto Bayer. Have local farmers and growers be your main supply.
  9. ALSO, when you do have events on your campus make sure there is actual food there. Not just cheese and crackers. We live off of campus event food.

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