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Guest speakers discuss critical love, justice in virtual commemoration of MLK’s work

Organizers Dr. Tamara Stevenson and Jan Saeed welcome scholars Dr. Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz and Dr. Angel Acosta to lead the Westminster College community members in a conversation of “Critical Love: How To Reimagine Our Community Today” Jan. 21. The event was hosted by Westminster’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Office and the Global Peace and Spirituality Office in celebration of MLK. (Sage Stewart)

In times of social distancing, political polarization and civil unrest, renowned scholars Dr. Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz and Dr. Angel Acosta engaged members of the Westminster College community in conversation of “Critical Love: How To Reimagine Our Community Today.” 

Throughout the virtual event on Thursday, aimed to commemorate the work of Martin Luther King Jr., both Sealey-Ruiz and Acosta maintained the importance of King’s ideology of the interconnected nature of justice, power and love as it relates to reimagining communities in today’s world. 

“The love I’m talking about is completely tied to justice regardless of political affiliation,” Sealey-Ruiz said. 

The scholars stressed that in order to create a world ripe with justice and equity, one must first build a foundation of critical love. 

“When we have institutions that are just […] it is a manifestation of love in public,” Acosta said. “When the opposite happens […] there is no critical love in a society that is structurally deficient.”

 Dr. Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz emphasizes that critical love is the foundation for racial literacy in her Racial Literacy Development Model during the conversation entitled “Critical Love: How To Reimagine Our Community Today” Jan. 21. She noted that the visual for this model is being re-thought because the pyramid structure enforces a hierarchy when that might not be the case and maintained that critical love is the foundation of the work, no matter what. (Sage Stewart)

The scholars defined critical love as the ‘profound ethical commitment to caring for the communities we work with.’ It’s an approach to public activism, teaching and community engagement grounded by deep-diving into the self, they said. 

“We must address our biases or else we may be positioned to reinforce, reproduce, not just the biases, but the very structures that continue to derail and limit people’s life or trajectory,” Acosta said. 

To cope with tough conversations regarding the state of the world, Acosta led the attendees in a mindfulness practice. 

“When we’re having these heated conversations about race and racism, we use practice to slow down enough so that the intensity and the intense emotions that may come up from having these conversations doesn’t overwhelm us and shut the conversation down,” Acosta said.

Attendees said the evening left a sense of community among the crowd. 

“I just wanted to express how alive and full I feel being with a group that just echoes so much of what I have been leaning toward […] for a long time,” Cassandra Perry, one of the members of the crowd, told the group, 

Others noted the mood that the speakers created. 

“I think they did a really amazing job of making it feel like a loving environment,” said Olivia Ward, third-year political science major.  

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Sage Stewart
Sage Stewart is a junior communication major at Westminster College. As a lifelong multimedia artist, Sage feels that art, no matter the medium, is one of the best things our world has to offer. When they aren’t obsessing about the arts, you can either find Sage peacefully lost in the outdoors or reading about theology and human interaction. In the future, they hope to work helping people gain access to arts organizations and communities.

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