The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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Community

Department of English Statement Against Anti-Asian Racism

Friday, March 26, 2021

On behalf of the English Department, we denounce racism and strive to contribute to anti-racist efforts through our writing, teaching, mentoring, learning, and community work. We categorically condemn all speech and action that endorses racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, ableism, or bigotry of any stripe.

We are grieved and angered by ongoing violence against racialized people—most recently, the shootings in Atlanta on March 16, 2021. Because racism works to erase our humanity, it’s important to reject this erasure through remembrance. Our hearts go out to the families and communities of the eight individuals killed (six Asian American women) and one who survived. We echo our colleagues in the Asian & Asian American Studies Certificate Program who note that this violence is part of the pandemic-related surge in anti-Asian violence (hate crimes against Asian Americans have increased 149% from 2019-2020), as well as linked to the long history of nativism against and racialization of Asian and Asian American people. We stand against this anti-Asian racism and the unrelenting racism that includes but is not limited to police violence against Black people and the inhumane detention of undocumented immigrant families.
 
We stand alongside Asian and Asian American people in our department and university who are mourning this violence and feeling its ripples. We stand alongside BIPOC students, staff, and faculty who are also mourning and painfully reminded of racial violence in their own communities. And we affirm allies who stand in solidarity with anti-racist efforts.
 
As writers, scholars, teachers, and learners in English studies, we engage in work that can help us understand and write against such violence. We are deeply troubled by media accounts that privilege the perpetrator’s perspective and that refuse to see this incident in the context of legacies of racism, nativism, and sexism. By contrast, we can practice naming, remembrance, and resistance through our everyday practices: reading narratives by those who’ve been most silenced; analyzing and disrupting oppressive discourses; using critical histories and theories about race, decolonization, transnationalisms, gender, and sexuality; and engaging in brave conversations in our communities.
 
We seek to address racism through structural change at the same time that we recognize the need for ongoing self-reflection among each of us and as a department. Our recently formed Ad Hoc Committee on Anti-Racism—which includes faculty and student representatives who initiated this statement—is working to invite and listen to the experiences of BIPOC students, staff, and faculty; to reflect on anti-racist approaches to our curricula and teaching practices; and to identify strategies for making our community more racially inclusive. And we stand behind the AAASCP in their calls for our university to support the departments, offices, and student organizations that center racial minority people and their experiences, cultures, and histories.

 

Juniper's Community Agreements

The Juniper Institute operates in solidarity with the movements which continue to draw critical attention to the reality that Black lives have been devalued in this country by law enforcement, institutional racism, and the culture of white supremacy. Black Lives Matter. We join our staff, instructors, and larger community of writers in expressing frustration, exhaustion, and rage with these systems of oppression. All of us—Juniper staff, instructors, and participants—bring our varied identities to the Institute. We are a diverse group in terms of our personal, cultural, and social identities, as well as our experiences and background with creative writing. Juniper strives to provide the accountable and accessible digital spaces necessary for everyone to be able to participate fully in the week’s events. This means we are committed to supporting the following community guidelines:

  • Treat one another with dignity, respect, and fairness
  • Share, act, and communicate honestly, truthfully, and with integrity
  • Be responsible, transparent, and accountable for our actions
  • Expect to learn something new about yourself and others
  • Recognize your communication style
  • Challenge your thinking, engagement, and comfort
  • Explore your emotional reactions, perceptions, and assumptions
  • Take care of yourself and support others in caring for themselves

We ask that all members of the Juniper community follow these guidelines, and practice every opportunity to establish a more inclusive space. If you become concerned about a violation of community norms or you feel uncomfortable with a community member’s actions, please reach out to us using the contact information below. We are all invested in making sure that everyone feels respected and welcome in our programs at all times.

 

Resources and Direct Action

Our mission is to prioritize critical thinking, empathy, and action alongside creative practice. We offer below just a few resources for nationwide action, and encourage you to support and engage with BIPOC-led organizations doing anti-racism work in your local community. 

AAPI Civic Engagement Fund
The AAPI Civic Engagement Fund believes that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders must be an integral part of strengthening America’s democracy, improving the quality of life for all, and creating vibrant multiracial communities.

Black Lives Matter
The "Ways you can help" page provides a collection of petitions, donation links, and protest information

Movement for Black Lives (M4BL)
The Movement for Black Lives is an ecosystem of individuals and organizations creating a shared vision and policy agenda to win rights, recognition, and resources for Black people. 

Standing up for Racial Justice (SURJ)
Standing Up for Racial Justice is a national network of community-based organizing groups that move white people to act as part of a multi-racial majority for justice with passion and accountability.

Campaign Zero
Research and policy solutions to end police violence

White Supremacy Culture
Article by Tema Okun that identifies characteristics of white supremacy and their antidotes 

The Loveland Foundation 
Organized by writer,
activist, and academic Rachel Cargle, The Loveland Foundation provides free mental healthcare services for Black women and girls

Black-owned Independent Bookstores
Each bookstore on this list is open for online (or phone) orders

Online Voter Registration
Information by state with links to register online

Reclaim Our Vote
A Black-led nonpartisan initiative that works against voter suppression in Black communities


 

Juniper Photo Gallery »

Creative Writing Instructor with workshop participants in the classroom
I had expected that the workshop would work much like a regular writing class where the instructor is very separate from the students and I was surprised to find that this was not the case at all. Wherever I went I was treated as an equal, not just a "teen writer."
A "pod" of young writers strikes a funny pose at UMass Amherst Juniper Institute for Young Writers
It was incredibly refreshing to meet a whole host of young writers who I immediately clicked with. Juniper offered me a support system for the future to fall back on whenever I need an extra boost of confidence (whether it be in my personal life or with my writing). All in all, I learned a lot about myself as a writer and even more so about myself as a person.
A young writer reads in workshop while another participant looks on.
I loved how I was able to build such strong connections with my pod. There's something about knowing that we all love to write and how vulnerable we all are when sharing our work that makes it easier to care for and support each other.
Young writers at a book-making studio session
Since participating at Juniper, I've found it easier to change my writing and experiment with styles. I don't feel stuck in any certain writing style—now I find it easier to draw inspiration from everything around me, like what I read, what I experience, the people that I meet.
Young writers hug after a reading
Over the course of the week I learned that things I thought made me a mediocre writer were actually just things that made me stand out. Just because I didn't write exactly like the person next to me didn't mean one of us was better or worse. At Juniper I didn't learn to write like the person next to me, but to think of new ways I could approach and improve upon my own writing.
Smiling audience of young writers in an auditorium applauding
I was able to sit with people that made me feel whole. Finding a community full of people like you and that share the same interests as you is something that can prove to be difficult. At home when I would tell people I like to write for fun, often times I was met with a dirty look or “How do you write just because?” and things like that made me feel out of place. At Juniper, it was the opposite. People asked me what I write, how I write, and everything you could ever want to know about a writer. I didn’t feel out of place at Juniper, not once.
Young woman with glasses and a ponytail sitting in tall grass writing in a notebook, with prayer flags flapping above her.
Words cannot truly express how grateful I am for the opportunity to have been able to attend and immerse myself in doing something I love. Thank you for letting me take root in your garden. Thank you for letting me bloom into something beautiful and a little strange. That’s what makes this garden so beautiful; that us writers are strange in our own wonderful ways.
A group photo of all 80 young writers participating in the Juniper Institute for Young Writers
I wish time travel was a thing because I want to relive my experience at Juniper over and over again. It was such a healthy environment, there was always somewhere to write and let your creativity flow with reckless abandon and I loved every moment of it.
A small group of five young writers make goofy faces in a sun-filled lobby.
During my time at Juniper, I met the most intelligent and talented people. My “pod” clicked in a way that I've never experienced--within our first few hours together, we were laughing like old friends. We fed off of each other’s unique energies and talents during our workshops and writing sessions, and remain in close contact! I've made new friends from all over the country, and feel that sharing our life and writing experiences with one another has enriched us all as writers and as people.
Young writers chat with a visiting writer in the Old Chapel
At Juniper I was challenged to allow myself to be uncomfortable, to experience my insecurities at their fullest and then find my strength through writing. Since Juniper is a community, I was never alone in being challenged and uncomfortable and it was because my fellow writers were also struggling that we were able to push and support each other.
Three young women writing in notebooks under a willow tree
My favorite memory will always be my pod walking back from a reading and then not being able to make it back to the dorms without plopping down and having a writing session.
The backs of a group of ten or so young writers walk away from us down a trail into the forest.
One of my best memories with my pod was on our last day with our instructor Otto when we were in the midst of an exciting writing prompt and it began to pour. It wasn’t a light drizzle, or even a regular day of rain, it was the kind of rain that comes when the earth has just been sucked dry and left parched. We were in awe of the rain’s amazing ability to crush everything in its path and yet heal it as well. It was the kind of rain my pod needed to experience in all its beauty and strength. We left our pencils and notebooks sprawled across the table, took off our shoes, and dived courageously into shaky waters. We transformed into dancers as we splashed one another, our heads thrown back with laughter, hands clasped together and our eyes closed so we could just feel. That was what Juniper gave us, the ability to dive in head first, crash a couple of times, pick each other up and then dance in the rain.
A visiting writer chats with a young writer after a reading
My passion for writing was reignited during my workshop, and I received clarity on how to move forward as a writer in the modern world, something I had previously felt very lost about. I was also feeling lost about college, and Juniper gave me clarity on that too. From being at UMass, I was able to specify some of the criteria I want in prospective colleges.
Two young writers share a heartwarming moment at a CWI reading.
Never had I been exposed to kids interested in the same things, leading such different lives in such different places than myself. We were able to engage in meaningful discussions with such different perspectives, ideas, and opinions, and appreciate the work of others.
Gabe Bump talking to young writer
I loved the readings. They’re like bedtime stories that you can’t fall asleep to but still dream about.
A young man stands at a microphone in the center, reading from a book, as a group of young writers walk around him in a wide circle.
It was outstanding to be in a community of writers. I find that my peers have made me want to write as much as possible, and to not have dull conversations, to really dig deep into myself and others.