It is not enough to say that you support social change. With the Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, and the March for Our Lives movements in full swing, it is important to acknowledge the power that social change can have within certain communities. At Bates, despite dealing with the challenges of COVID-19, we still value the tight-knit and emotional community that we all know. On this campus, many students, faculty, and staff know what it’s like to be affected by problems such as racism, sexism, and social injustice. We understand that the horrible atrocities that we see on the news in Kenosha, Wis., or in Parkland, Fla. affect us here. While we speak out about these atrocities either on social media, within our student-led organizations, or in our social spaces, there is, unfortunately, a very small number of people taking action to create change.
Over the summer I developed a website called Forum Focus, a new social platform for the Forum section of The Bates Student where we give people the opportunity to voice their opinions on issues such as race, identity, and social change. I’ve worked with fellow students and Bates Student forum editors Roy Mathews ‘21 and Skye Brown ‘23 to create this social platform through our website Forum Focus and on our Instagram page. We feel that this can be the start of something special. We aim to talk about sensitive and important issues that not only affect us as students at Bates, but as people living in America.
As one of the few students of color on The Bates Student, I have felt trapped in this spiral of mediocrity. While we research, write, and even talk about many of the social problems affecting our livelihood on a consistent basis, we are not doing enough to take action. With creating this social platform, I had serious doubts about the legitimacy of it. Are people going to like it? Is this too bold? Will there be consistent feedback? Is this a good idea in the first place? A constant flow of questions and doubts have been circulating in my head since I started this over the summer. But the truth is, I have been silent too long. As a Black person on this campus, I have experienced what it feels like to be judged by the color of my skin, not by the content of my character. As a black person at Bates, I know what it is like to walk down the streets of New York and wonder if I am going to be pulled over by the police and have my neck kneeled on.
Now I am determined to take a stand and make a difference. While Roy, Skye, and I come from different backgrounds, we want to create an environment where people feel welcome and supported to speak. Since coming back to campus, it has been a great experience getting to know Roy and Skye and talking about how we envision creating Forum Focus to be a safe space for ourselves as well as for other community members. I hope that the conversations that we are having on Forum Focus will help promote more community members at Bates to engage in social justice and equity work on campus and beyond.
Roy wants to be able to bring conservatism to light and wants to challenge others to have difficult conversations that most of the time devolve into insults and shouts in a respectful manner. “As a conservative, my goal with Forum Focus isn’t to convince you that our political ideology is right or deserving of any respect, granted what the past four years have been like. But, our perspectives deserve a seat at the table, and no one should have to hide what they believe,” he said.
Skye believes that through Forum Focus, members of the Bates community will begin to have more conversations and have more awareness of societal issues. “My hope [for] Forum Focus is that it will allow us to have difficult and uncomfortable conversations…We hope to use our voices and opinions to dissect the whole picture with the intent on analyzing topics such as race, identity, and cultural backgrounds.”
We are very excited to have started Forum Focus at Bates. We hope you join us as we talk about a variety of political, social, and cultural topics that affect us as students and as people. Our first video is entitled: “Episode 1: Summer Recap.” We hope you guys watch it and enjoy it!