What’s Up with “What’s the Tea?”: Starts, Stops & Lessons Learned in Social Justice Work

By Lisa Gray, Assistant Director of Student Life, Cultural and Spiritual Diversity. 

Earlier this year, Joakina Stone, then a Res Life colleague and collateral work staff with Student Life’s Mosaic Center, along with an amazing group of students, staff and faculty, helped us to co-create our new Mosaic Social Justice discussion series. We exchanged a bunch of ideas for a title – some basic and others long and academic. After ruminating far too long, I finally settled on “What’s the Tea?” Thankfully, Zach Kosinski and Jasmine Malhotra, our Graduate Coordinators, agreed and our series launched this year on October 1st.

What's the Tea SJ Discussion Series - Fall 2014Everything seemed to be going well with what we are calling our “pilot semester/year” for the series. It even had what we hope was an effective, context-setting description: “We all talk about how diverse UMBC is. But what does that mean in reality? How does it show up in how we communicate and interact with each other? When does celebrating diversity shift into inclusivity that creates positive social change in and outside our campus community? This new series hopes to help us grapple with these questions. Join us for a facilitated discussion of these topics. Voice your opinions and hear those of your fellow community members.”

This description, along with a co-facilitation model, guided questions, and a brief evaluation has helped us to move forward. Things were going really well, until our November 5th Cultural Appropriation discussion. During that discussion, our well-intentioned start had an unintentional stop. Continue reading