A Word From Our Chair
Dear LLSP alumnae,
Assalamu ‘alaikum and welcome to the Q2 2020 edition of the Alumnae newsletter.
I wanted to reflect on June 19, 2020, also known as Juneteenth. Juneteenth is a Texas state holiday celebrated annually throughout the United States to commemorate Union army general Gordon Granger announcing, in the city of Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, that all slaves in Texas were now free.
When I first arrived in the US, as a young student, in July 1974, I had never heard of Juneteenth. In fact, I only became aware of its significance in the early 1990s, on the occasion of a friend inviting me and my children to her family barbecue. I had always thought of myself as a well-educated person, but I had never heard of Juneteenth before. I felt a bit uncomfortable having to ask, but I finally picked up the courage and – after a bit of “roundaboutation” – I just asked. When I asked, she looked at me, for just a short moment, as if I had two heads, but then she took pity on my ignorance and explained.
Why am I telling you this story? Because I want you to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. In my experience, we all try to avoid feeling uncomfortable. We see the world filtered through the lenses of our own experiences and assume that everyone sees the world the same way. Nothing wrong with that. It’s where we all, necessarily, start. But I’m asking you to deliberately get out of your comfort zone. Take as your starting point the realization that the people around you may not share your experiences and get curious to find out how they really think. Ask questions. Ask them directly. Ask them simply. Admit your ignorance. And then listen, REALLY listen, to what people tell you in response. You may learn some surprising things, both about yourself and about them.
The United States of America is going through paroxysms of rage and fear. We need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable in order to be able to participate productively in a national conversation about where we are today, how we got there, and how we can work together to imagine and create a better future for us all.
In love and solidarity,
Sarah S. Alfadl