By Hayden Choate
The second annual S.E.A.T. at the Table event kicked off this week at Springfield College, with a week scheduled of many sessions discussing a variety of different social justice topics. This began on Sunday with a land acknowledgement and opening remarks from three student speakers.
Last year, the first annual S.E.A.T. at the Table week was held completely on Zoom, but the community was excited to be able to connect in person after a year of everything being online.
Felicia Lundquist, Director of Multicultural Affairs began the session Sunday morning with a land acknowledgement, which recognizes that the land being stood on today was originally inhabited by or belonged to indigenous people.
“We acknowledge that Springfield College stands on the traditional homelands of the indigenous Algonkian people known as Agawam,” Lundquist stated. “We acknowledge the memory of these Indigenous nations, who after having inhabited this land for more than 10,000 years, were displaced in the 1600s to 1700s by English colonial settlers who exploited Native generosity and provoked warfare.”
After the land acknowledgement, Lundquist and Charisse DelVecchio, a Graduate Associate in the Office of Multicultural Affairs acknowledged all the people and groups that helped make S.E.A.T. at the Table possible this year.
Three student speakers, Brianna D’Haiti, Lexie Blake and Xavier Gibson were all nominated to speak by the Collaborative Council.
D’Haiti, a senior at Springfield College, was the first student speaker on Sunday morning.
“Justice, equity and inclusion, three little words that should be easy to find, but it’s not so easy,” D’Haiti said. “We live in a world where it’s easier to tell you what justice, equality and inclusion aren’t than versus what they are.”
She stressed the importance of knowing the real meaning of these words.
“We live in a world where people think inclusion is having someone of a different race live on their street,” D’Haiti said. “But no, it’s so much more than that. It’s welcoming the person into your home and getting to know them.”
D’Haiti finished her remarks with what she hopes everyone in the Springfield College community gets out of S.E.A.T. at the Table week.
“My dream for Springfield College is for it to be a place that I can call home because it is constantly pushing the envelope and working hard to make this a campus where everyone is embraced and loved and they feel like they belong and that is the reason this week is so important.”
The next student speaker was senior Lexie Blake, President of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance.
Blake talked about how four years ago. she would not have seen herself being in a leadership role, let alone speaking publicly.
“I may not be able to take the bad out of the world but I can work to change how we educate ourselves and each other on a smaller scale,” Blake said in her remarks. “If I can impact even the most immediate people around me they will do the same, and that’s how we can create our own cycles of light to break through the systematic cycles of darkness that plague the world around us.”
Blake told three powerful stories and ended with why change is something that should be looked at in a positive manner.
“Change can be scary for anyone, but change is necessary,” Blake said. “It also looks different for all of us. I think today and during this really important S.E.A.T. at the Table event, change is allowing ourselves to be open and flexible when it comes to people and situations we don’t really understand.”
The last student speaker at the opening event was Xavier Gibson, a second-year student in the Doctoral Physical Therapy program at Springfield. Gibson talked about his vision for justice, equality and inclusion at Springfield College and what makes up a good leader.
“Most people will say something along the lines of someone who is reliable, confident, a good communicator, someone with passion and drive and the list goes on,” Gibson said. “However, I would like to take the time to highlight three qualities that separate good leaders from those that are great. One, those who can emphasize, two those who possess humility and three those whose actions are rooted in integrity.”
This session of opening remarks started the week off on a positive note, and will move forward into the remaining sessions of the important learning experience. Sessions for S.E.A.T. at the Table will continue over Zoom and in-person through Sunday, October 24.
Photo Courtesy Springfield College