in the words of Audre Lorde: “the more” and “the less”
At the Futures Initiative Leadership and Democracy Institute in August, Kashema Hutchinson, Co-Director of the Undergraduate Leadership Program, facilitated a workshop on the inspiration she has found – and that we Fellows may find – in the words of Audre Lorde. As part of a small-group exercise, we interrogated several quotations and reflected upon how they might relate to our own lived experiences. I was struck by how many of the selected quotes spoke of strength, but also of fear. Fear, insecurity, feelings of smallness and our perceived inability to effect significant change are not often discussed among undergraduates. I would suggest that not only do we feel compelled to veil our fears among our peers, we often eschew opportunities to confront and challenge those fears ourselves. I left the Institute with the tacit understanding that this forum, with its emphasis on peer mentorship, community, and leadership, will provide us with the opportunities, insights, vocabularies, and toolsets to take the alternative path.
I reflected upon other moments from that day, especially Mike Rifino’s personal narrative of self-discovery, empowerment, and newfound agency through an undergraduate peer learning community. He spoke of community-building as solidarity through individual struggles. His gripping honesty and willingness to lay bare his own struggle as a young student on the journey to becoming an academic invited us to be just as honest and just as willing in our own journeys. It was clear, coming from a former Futures Initiative Graduate Fellow, that we were to trust in each other, to forge solidarity, and to build our own community of peers among the Fellows and within our home institutions across the CUNY ecosystem.
And then I returned to the words of Audre Lorde:
“The more I use my strength in the service of my vision, the less I am afraid.”
I look forward to the many months ahead as we Fellows get to know one another and, in turn, to better know ourselves. I look forward to illuminating, with the help of my peers, my strengths – and in the words of Cathy Davidson, The Futures Initiative Founding Director – the contexts of my leadership. I look forward to defining and further refining my vision, which has become increasingly centered on issues of democracy, civic engagement, and the collective fashioning of a more socially and economically just future. And I look forward to confronting and challenging the fears that might be holding me back from my own best future, as well as the best future that I may help forge for others.