The Yale community has been having essential conversations, especially in recent weeks and months, about the need to increase and respect diversity and inclusion within our community and beyond. You can read more about the actions Yale has taken, the actions it will take, and the context of the current conversations about diversity, belonging, and respect on Yale’s website here.
On November 13th, a listening session was held at Yale Divinity School, where a number of students of color shared their experiences and sentiments with the YDS and ISM community (a similar session was held at the ISM on December 11th). Current ISM student Zack Nyein (M.Div. ’16) recounted his experience of the session, as told to Tara Jamali (M.Div. ’18):
It was a really powerful experience to be at the YDS community listening session on race. It was honestly one of the most thought provoking, engaging, and powerful experiences of my time at Yale, this being my third year. To hear the testimonies of my fellow students and people of color so passionately making their voices heard for justice, for reconciliation here at Yale, and the way these issues relate particularly to theological education was really important. I happened to be hosting my friend Broderick Greer who is a person of color and a clergyperson in the Episcopal Church, who was here to speak with the Yale Humanist Community. He went to Virginia Theological Seminary, and when we were in the car after the conversation, he said that there aren’t many seminaries – including his own at Virginia – that had the ability to have that kind of civil, public conversation. So I think we aren’t where we need to be, we have a lot of work to do, but I’m really heartened and encouraged that we’re taking steps in that direction.
Tara also interviewed fellow ISM student Natasha Huang (M.A.R. ’16), who sang in the Marquand Gospel Choir during the “Chapel Service for Solidarity: How do we begin healing these wounds?” held in Marquand Chapel at YDS in response to the events, protests, and teach-ins about race, diversity, and inclusion taking place across campus. All undergraduate and graduate students at Yale were invited to attend. She asked Natasha, “What was it like to attend this service?”
I am a 2nd-year MAR Comprehensive who enjoys interdisciplinary ways of looking at the world. Before joining the ISM, I was a violin teacher, music therapist, and a resident service coordinator in low-income housing. I am interested in the ways in which the arts can heal–whether that’s music therapy at the end of life, liturgical responses to crises, or writing plays to explore and expose issues of human rights.
It was important for me to be at this particular service in Marquand: as an Asian-American woman, I think I occupy an interesting space on this campus because there are fewer of us here than where I’m from on the West Coast. So I think it was important for me as a person of faith, a person of color, and a woman to just show my support through the singing …it was very moving and very powerful. I think singing allows you to release and feel things that you’re not always aware of until you’re in that moment.
We at the ISM are grateful for our student voices in moving this conversation forward, and for sharing their perspectives on this process. We look forward to continuing this dialogue with our students throughout the year, and will provide updates and reflections here on Prism for Prospects as well.
Interviews and photos by Tara Jamali, M.A.R. ’17