October 05, 2012 | Myrna Anderson

Calvin President Michael Le Roy will kick off Unlearn Week at 10 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 8 in the Chapel.

The Hispanic experience, interfaith dialogue, the racism in Dumbo—these are but a few of the topics scheduled for discussion during Unlearn Week, held on Calvin’s campus Oct. 7–12.

Founded 12 years ago by Calvin’s multicultural student development office, Unlearn Week is a series of programs that challenges the generalizations, stereotypes and assumptions underlying racism. The series—which this year features speakers, panel discussions, a film and a food festival—is meant to bridge a cultural gap within the Calvin community:

“The general idea is to raise awareness about these issues and promote discussion as well as to give application that Calvin students can do in their lives,” said senior and multicultural student advisory board (MSAB) member Daniel Ling, who is helping to plan the event. “The truth is, the world we live in is increasingly globalized, and learning how to interact with other cultures is important not only to your professional life but also in your personal life."

Kickoff with President Le Roy

This year’s Unlearn Week officially kicks off with President Michael Le Roy speaking on “The Woman at the Well” at 10 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 8, in the Calvin Chapel. Le Roy will talk about how Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman (drawn from John 4:3–42) exposes both individual and structural sin—and offers a vision of renewal for all relationships.

“It’s exciting to have a new president of the college, in his first year, lay the groundwork for what he thinks about these issues,” Ling said.

The week also features speakers specializing in various areas of racial justice. Noel Castellanos, the founder of the Christian Community Development Association, a nonprofit that fosters holistic neighborhood development, will talk about his experience as a Hispanic man living in the U.S. and the importance of cultural sensitivity on a college campus.

Gregory Buell, the associate pastor of The Village Presbyterian Church in Northbrook, Ill., will share how his church engages in healthy dialogue with Muslim leaders. “Sometimes these discussions can get pretty heated,” said Ling, “and he’s going to talk about how it’s important to have love.”

And Daniel White Hodge, director of the Center for Youth Ministry Studies at Chicago’s North Park University and the author of books about rap and hip hop music, will talk about his dedication to helping urban youth.

“We tend to have people talk on a variety of topics, particularly if they have a connection to our students,” said MSDO program coordinator Ebonie Atkins. “The aim is to make it relatable to students here at Calvin and to issues in our society.”

Racism in Disney

Unlearn Week will tackle racism in Disney movies with a screening of the documentary Mickey Mouse Monopoly. “There’s a history of a lot of racist stereotypes in Disney movies,” said Ling, noting Dumbo’s crows (one named Jim) and the tendency of the filmmakers to associate dark-skinned characters with evil.

The week will also feature discussion groups designed just for women and men, which will tackle issues relevant to each gender. “I really like the for-women- and for-men-only events because they’re such interesting conversations in such a short amount of time,” said Atkins. “It’s really valuable for students to hear about the struggles of faculty and staff of color because it prepares them for life after college.”

As is traditional, Unlearn Week will culminate with a World Food Festival, featuring foods, games and visual representations of many countries. Ling is looking forward to tasting the spices in the African offerings. “But honestly, all of the food is good, and I love to eat it all,” he said.

This is Ling’s third Unlearn Week. He got involved in planning the event after attending it during his first year at Calvin. A psychology major and biochemistry major with a pre-med focus, Ling has lived in Toronto, Germany and Kyrgyzstan.

“The reason these events speak to me is personally, throughout my life, I’ve seen how cultures interacted. It can be disheartening, but it can also be a very beautiful thing when two cultures get together and co-exist, not just to survive, but to thrive. Honestly speaking, I have experienced a lot of racism in my life, and I think that it’s a lot better than it used to be …,” he said. “And I think there’s a long way to go before we can say we’ve gone far enough.”

See schedule for details of Unlearn Week events.

Ebonie Atkins

MSAB members

Oct. 7

"The Sermon on the Mount"; LOFT service, Noel Castellanos
7 p.m., Chapel

Oct. 8

“The Woman at the Well”; President Michael LeRoy
10 a.m., Chapel

Noel Castellanos
3:30 p.m., Meeter Center Lecture Hall

“Interfaith Dialogues: How Christians and Muslims Share Faith Journeys”; Pastor Gregory Buell
7 p.m., Meeter Center Lecture Hall

Oct. 9

“Act Like a Lady: For Women Only,”
3:30 p.m., Meeter Center Lecture Hall

“Think Like a Man: For Men Only”
3:30 p.m., Location to be determined

“Hip Hop Theology”; Daniel White Hodge, Ph.D.     
7 p.m., Meeter Center Lecture Hall

Oct. 10

Daniel White Hodge, Ph.D     
10 a.m., Chapel

"The Cosmopolitan Canopy: Race and Civility in Everyday Life”; Elijah Anderson, Ph.D.       
3:30 p.m., CFAC Recital Hall

Oct. 11

“The Hispanic Experience”; Andrew Acevedo, Nicole Curiel, Kelsey Duthil, Christine Jokisch, Vanessa Abreu
3:30 p.m., Meeter Center Lecture Hall 

Mickey Mouse Monopoly; documentary
7 p.m., Meeter Center Lecture Hall

Oct. 12

World Food Festival
3:30 p.m. Commons Annex Main Hallway


Recent stories