Healing our institutions

What would it mean for California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) to be a sacred space? 

On Thursday, Sept. 21, students, staff and community members filled the Otter Student Union (OSU) Ballroom at CSUMB to learn about and experience the power of creating spaces for healing, both on an individual and institutional level. 

“Cultivating Sacred Spaces: Healing Centered Engagement Toward Social Change” was facilitated by the Otter Cross Cultural Center and drew over 70 attendees to participate in the event. 

After a fajita lunch, keynote speaker Farima Pour-Khorshid engaged listeners in an exploration of what it means to undo past discriminatory practices in order to cultivate a “sacred space” within a university. 

Pour-Khorshid is a professor at the University of San Francisco, engaging in abolition and community-based healing within and beyond the realm of education. She also received a Ph.D. in education with an emphasis in language, literacy and culture from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2018.

“I loved learning, I just hated schooling,” said Pour-Khorshid as she recounted her experience in education, which was steeped in racial discrimination. “School [was] the place where my trauma became the grounds for punishment.”

Pour-Khorshid urged our institution as a whole to “take pause and evaluate: ‘what are my values and how do those values show up in our budget? How do those values show up when I teach and in my interactions with students and others?’

“When we think about what it means to be a Hispanic Serving Institution, it’s so important to think in an intersectional way: from a spiritual standpoint, from an academic standpoint, from an economic standpoint. There’s all these ways that we need to think about what it means to serve,” she explained.

The rapt attention of the audience was momentarily diverted when one attendee challenged the emphasis on the school’s Hispanic population.

Though discomfort became apparent in the room, Pour-Khorshid responded with confidence. “If we cannot acknowledge the populations and the people who have been harmed, then there is an open wound that continues to fester, grow and get worse.” 

In the spirit of healing wounds, the presentation underlined the collective role of the audience in visualizing equitable communities and institutions. Participants were asked to scan a QR code, which took them to a website where they could submit their visions for the future of CSUMB.

Pour-Khashid observed, “Traditional keynotes stay up in the cognitive part of our body … very rarely do we invite spirituality in spaces like this.”

With no shortage of spirit, came the “music to the movement.” Musicians Brittany Tanner and Lauren “Sōlauren” Adams of the hip-hop ensemble, SOL Development, joined the keynote.

The duo led the room in an odyssey of soulful jazz and sound bowls. The lyrics to the ever-evolving improvisation were affirmations of healing and empowerment provided by the audience themselves.

“We want to be vessels to invite folks into healing [and] to curate spaces for folks to come and do that,” said Adams. Some were moved to tears by the profundity of the performance.

Third-year Leah Simon was deeply moved by the performance. “I feel like sound really does have an impact on our brains and … on our bodies.”

The event seemed to fulfill its goal: a space in which all were welcomed in their vulnerability, in their wounds and in their entirety. Sacred spaces of empowerment, equity and justice seemed to be not only the goal, but also the path to achieving that goal.

Pour-Khorshid wished to leave CSUMB students with the following: “Your responsibility, your sacred responsibility, is to think about who needs resources or care, and how you can meet your own needs [as well]. It’s a spirit of reciprocity when we do this work. It’s not saviorism. It is not martyrdom. It is solidarity.”

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