On a chilly and foggy Monday morning, as students are getting out of class and walking across campus, they pass by The Den. Its doors are wide open, welcoming all who pass to enter into the first event of Multnomah University’s second annual Mosaic Week. This is an event that was dreamt up by student leaders last year. After its large impact and success, it has not only become more desired by students, staff and faculty — it has also increased in necessity. The week consists of 10 different events — two per day: one in the morning and one in the evening — that represent unique perspectives in relation to the week’s theme. This year, the theme was Interrupting Oppression: A Week-long Discussion of Awareness and Engagement. Mosaic Week’s goal is to foster difficult and educational discussions that address issues in society while seeking reconciliation. These discussions take place in safe environments, with Christ at the center of it all.
So, back to that Monday morning: The first event consisted of poems from a local poetry group, along with a few pieces from Multnomah’s very own Raquel Polanco, who is a senior in the English program. The Den was full of students, staff and faculty who were listening to the guest poets. Each poet shared pieces that represented their own pasts. They were incredibly vulnerable in sharing about their childhood, their joys, their mistakes, and so on. After each piece, the audience was given a space to engage and ask questions regarding the poem that had been performed. After the performance, as everyone was mingling and reflecting on the event, a few students shared how the pieces had made them emotional. Some of the students related to the pieces, and others simply had their own moments of realization in being able to empathize with others through their stories. The evening event was led by Hakeem Bradley, who serves Imago Dei Community Church as their pastor in residence.
On day two, the morning kicked off with Assistant Professor of English Dr. Hintze-Pothen speaking on derogatory language and racial slurs. She shared her perspective on the issue, as well as many different thoughts regarding the topic from authors of color. After Dr. Hintze-Pothen finished speaking, students were given a time to respond and ask questions. Around 10 students came up to the microphone that had been set up in the middle of the room and asked their questions. The atmosphere was safe, and everyone was met with grace. Day two of Mosaic Week ended with a showing of the documentary “I Am Not Your Negro.” Students gathered in The Den for a film discussing racial tensions in America from the perspective of James Baldwin, an author and social critic in the height of the Civil Rights Movement. Following the film, there was a discussion led by Michelle Lang. Ria Walter, a junior in the psychology program, shared her reflection post-discussion: “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has an entire day dedicated to him and led masses while tackling integration,” she said. “We should learn from his example and continue discussing diversity with love, respect and hope, while being fully aware of the obstacles we may face.”
Day three was one of the most emotional days, as the focus was on asking students, staff and faculty to participate and be vulnerable in a public setting. The morning began with an activity called the Privilege Walk, in which participants were asked to take steps forward or backward based on the statement given. One statement read, “If your parents both attended college, take one step forward.” These statements were balanced with others. For example, “If you were raised in a single-parent home, take one step backward. At the end of the activity, we all would see where we ended up. There were two squares, with the innermost being essentially the peak of privilege. The outer square was an in-between ground. Outside of the outer square generally represented those that were outside of the realm of privilege. Following the exercise, the room was split into three groups that each participated in their own reflective discussions. The Privilege Walk was impactful and emotional. It was overall an incredibly eye-opening exercise that helped us better understand one another within our Multnomah community. In the evening, Bill Curry and Unique Page spoke. Bill Curry is the chief program officer of Breakthrough Urban Ministries in Chicago. Unique Page is the director of the Individual and Family Matters Clinic at George Fox University. They spoke about institutional and systematic oppression. Within this context, they also discussed an example of police brutality. This part was a student favorite, because it addressed tensions of injustices today. The discussion following the event lasted a few hours.
Day four welcomed back Hakeem Bradley of Imago Dei, along with Insil Kang, director of community connections and communications at Village Church. They spoke on all things “ism,” from racism to sexism, and so on. This took place during our weekly chapel, which is every Thursday at 10 a.m. That evening, student leaders hosted a Multicultural Night in the JCA Cafeteria. The highlight of the night was the open mic; students signed up for and performed a variety of songs and poems for their peers. The night was meant to focus on the gifts that God has given all of us, as well as give students a stage and voice to share their perspectives regarding racial injustices, racial tensions, gender issues, and systematic oppression. Danica Nielsen, a junior in the global studies program, read a poem by Maya Angelou titled “Phenomenal Woman,” which gives Maya’s perspective on what being a woman means to her. Day four, overall, was incredibly hands-on and saw the most involvement from the student body.
With an incredible week coming to an end, day five began with Bill Curry returning to host a Brunch Chat, which is one of Multnomah’s chapel options held on Fridays at 10 a.m. once or twice a month. There was breakfast and the chance to hear Bill speak on the topic of “Liberating our Thinking.” The final event of the week was at 6 p.m. and welcomed Bill Curry back to hear from him on oppressive thinking — specifically, how to define and address it. The final discussion was around three hours long and was an incredibly thought-provoking way to end the week.
It is always difficult to see Mosaic Week come to an end, but the conversations continue! In its first year, Mosaic Week was held toward the end of the year, but this year it was scheduled to be in the first half of the school year in order to highlight these topics and discussions early on, so that they can continue to grow all year long among students and in the offices of staff and faculty. Many students at Multnomah University care deeply about addressing painful issues and seeking healing with Christ at the foundation of it all. Pursuing reconciliation in Christ is a never-ending, lifelong mission. We cannot wait for Mosaic Week to come again next fall to inspire and ignite the fire for our future classes and alumni at Multnomah!
This post was written by Social Media and Online Content Assistant Azaria Coakley.