Refugees I've Known: Prof. Dawit

Lessons in Peace, Agency, Beer and Food

The capstone of Goucher College's Honors Program is a multidisciplinary senior seminar. In the Spring 2003 semester, six professors divided up the semester between them. We spent two weeks learning about post-colonialism through the lens of sugar with a book like this one, spent another two weeks reading a fascinating dissertation about math and philosophy ... and joined a Peace Studies course for two weeks, taught by a new faculty member, Prof. Seble Dawit.

An article in the Baltimore Sun a year after I graduated highlighted Goucher's Peace Studies minor, which has since become a major.
"Conflict is not the problem," says the human rights lawyer, whom Goucher hired three years ago to create a major in the field. "The problem is continuing human reliance on incredible and often catastrophic violence as a means of resolving conflict."
I remember Seble as a short, compact, lively woman with a big smile and a fascinating life, from Ethiopian refugee to an academic comfortable with controversy in defense of African self-determination.

Refugees I've Known: Prof. Thormann

Dr. Wolfgang E. Thormann died at the beginning of the year,
a long, admirable life of 92 years.

It had been a decade since I had seen him last, but his obituary in my Newsfeed was a strike to the chest.

At Goucher College, where I was a freshman in 1999, I declared a German minor. I had just returned from Rotary Youth Exchange in Bern, Switzerland, where I attended gymnasium, became fluent in High German, and forgot half of it again in my last three months when I decided to learn the Bernese dialect instead. I took the German placement exam, and tested into German 103, which I knew was probably a mistake, so I made an appointment with Goucher's only German professor, Dr. Uta Larkey. I introduced myself, in German, of course, and started to tell my story. Forty-five minutes and lots of laughter later, she said, "I forbid you to take any class below the 300-level. You're too good. You'll scare away all my students."

Where I'm Giving Energy

I told you where I'm spending money to put my values in action, and I promised you a post about the things I'll be doing in the world to make it a better place. This is it.

These are my approaches to living my values in the world. This is not a comprehensive list of your possibilities, and should not imply that you should do all or any of these. There are lots of these lists on Internet to choose your own activism from.

Going to Work
After the election, after the inauguration, after the Executive Orders and protests of the first couple weeks, I am prouder than ever to be working as a grant writer for Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners. Our work, providing low-income people with financial skills and access to the formal financial system, serves a client base that is overwhelmingly women, People of Color, immigrants, and concentrated in two of the lowest-paying, fastest-growing sectors of the post-crisis economy, health care and retail, where wages are actually declining. 70% of Americans depend on government assistance, 42% of American workers make less than $15/hr, 69% of mothers and 79% of fathers see their hours fluctuate up or down as much as 40% from week to week, and for these people, things are only going to get worse.

No matter what else happens, whether anything else I do makes an impact, going to work every day is fighting back. I consider myself very lucky that in the balancing act between civic action and getting paid, I can feel good about going to work. I recommend thinking now about how the scales level out on that in your life. And if you have to go to work because it puts food on your table more than for the good of the world, don't feel guilty. Your household comes first.

Caring for myself is not self-indulgence,
it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.
--audre lorde