Section: NewsFebruary 3, 2017
“Even though we are discouraged, our work is not lost,” stated activist Rebecca Walker at her keynote ’DEIS Impact event, “The World in You and You in the World: Identity in Action,” discussing the actions of the new administration in Washington, D.C. and how discouraged people should react.
“Walker focused on identity and I think that’s something we’re all thinking about right now. She encouraged us to find purpose and to think about who we are as individuals and as a society,” noted Hannah Brown ’19.
After introductions from Director of the Intercultural Center Madeleine Lopez, University President Ron Liebowitz and Student Union President David Herbstritt ’17, Walker began her talk by commending Brandeis students on their commitment to social justice.
“It has been shockingly liberating to use my experiences of my life in this body to parse and document the stories; to assess and stress the personal meaning of larger moments,” began Walker. She stressed the importance of people understanding their own identity and how it functions in this contemporary moment, and the necessity in engaging in the project of expanding our grasp of the relationship between self-knowledge, personal expression and social change.
Parts of the discussion were centered on President Trump’s recent actions and how people who disagree with his policies should respond. “Numbers do matter,” claimed Walker as she stressed the importance of conversing with people who do not share the same views and values. It is about creating a balanced world, not an “us versus them” situation. “We must respond, we cannot allow ourselves to be diminished. We will not be silenced.” Walker then stated the need for resistance against those who deny other people sovereignty.
Walker emphasized the significance of continuing important work, even though the results might not always come quickly. “This idea of abiding, deciding and having confidence in what you’ve done has to include the understanding that you may not see the result tomorrow, you may not see it next week, you may not see in your lifetime, but standing up for the human good will manifest at some point and even if it does not, it certainly will not if you don’t do your part to make it so,” claimed Walker. “Actions made with the right intentions and requisite introspections will bear a lasting fruit.”
Walker discussed the four noble truths of Buddhism, which are centered on suffering as a constant state of habituation. Suffering can end, as people do not become attached to things that change and they learn how to handle change. We are constantly being bombarded by noise, ideas and pressure of thoughts. “The world is constantly vying for your mind, for your attention, for your most valued resources—your openness, your peace of mind, your peace of thought. Everyone is trying to get you to believe what they want you to believe,” stated Walker. Understand that it is happening as opposed to letting it happen and understand that you can handle it. “Understand the cacophony,” she continued.
“I haven’t read any of Walker’s works yet, but now I plan to,” noted Hannah Brown ’19. “Walker’s sense of humor and her soothing voice made an interesting combination, while all of her comments were on target. Walker made one comment about giving up that spoke to me; she said something along the lines of, when we give up, what do we have left? She left us with an empowering ‘Don’t give up,’ and I found myself fired up and ready to go after sadly losing a bit of hope over recent events.”
In addition to being the author of several books, Walker is the founder of the Third Wave Fund for Social Justice and has been featured in Time Magazine as one of the most influential leaders of her generation, according to her website.
Walker’s talk was part of ’DEIS Impact, an annual weeklong festival of social justice, sponsored by the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life and the Brandeis University Student Union.