01/25/18 — Achieving the dream

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Achieving the dream

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on January 25, 2018 5:50 AM

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Panelist David Craig, sociology instructor, answers a followup question during the "Achieving the Dream: Leading and Empowering Change" discussion at Wayne Community College Wednesday.

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A student holds up a poster to demonstrate how instructor Andrea Freile has encouraged her students not only to stand up for what they believe in, but listen to the opinions of others.

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Attendees raise their hands after being asked by speaker Bill Reboli who in the audience would like to see world peace.

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Bill Reboli, psychology instructor, holds up his hand to demonstrate how your hands can tell someone that you love them. His time during Wednesday's panel was spent explaining why your hands are your most powerful tool.

Five panelists participated in a discussion Wednesday on the ability everyone has to make positive change in the world, as part of a program at Wayne Community College.

"Achieving the Dream: Leading and Empowering Change" was the theme for the 90-minute event, rescheduled from last week after inclement weather forced closure of the campus. This was the second year for the effort, sponsored by the college's Cultural Diversity/Global Education Task Force to coincide with Martin Luther King Day and his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.

The event was a celebration of the life and work of King, said Dr. Dean Lawson, history instructor and moderator for the session.

"I'm a living example of learning to grow up and achieve the dream," said panelist Harold Warren, a minister as well as records specialist with the WCC transitional programs for college and career.

His original dream was to go to UNC and play basketball under Dean Smith, he said, but his height did not allow that to happen.

Beyond that, he said he took to heart the message in King's speech about wanting to live in a world where people would not be judged by skin color but rather by their character. It helped that his mother had been an educator during integration, he said.

"I had the opportunities of playing with others of different races," he said. "So I understand that part of the dream."

Unfortunately, he said, other aspects of the MLK dream have still not come to fruition.

The current climate, in this nation and around the world, reflects that, the panelists said.

Patrick Brashears, a social studies teacher at Wayne Early/Middle College High School, talked about "identity politics," where positions have been based on social groups and often used as a "tool to divide and conquer" as they focus on differences more than similarities, he said.

David Craig, a WCC sociology instructor, said he witnessed a lot of injustices growing up -- from the time when he was around 10 years old and witnessed an African-American male being shot in his backyard to recent years when there has been an uptick in black males being killed by police.

"Just this idea that people in power do what they want to do and when they're called to account for it, they make excuses," he said.

Craig determined early on he would not be a statistic, that he would change himself and be armed for the future -- getting an education, becoming more well-spoken.

Andrea Freile, communications instructor, said the forum was exactly the kind of event she encourages her students to attend so they can attempt public dialogue. She praised the college for its openness to providing such outlets.

She said she was tasked to speak about some of the times she had stood up for justice and equality.

Freile recalled previous experiences in her own life -- working in public relations, being the mouthpiece for whatever organization she served, addressing legislators and speaking with groups about causes that affect the community.

"The more I thought about this, they were only a small part of my journey," she said. "In this community, I have seen people who used their belief system to speak before they even listened to the other side, or even worse, attack what's different.

"Every day I teach my students to listen. Listen to the positions, beliefs and values that others have. Consider their stories, because when we learn to listen those differences are smaller than the human dialogues we need to be having."

Her tactic as an educator is to promote inclusion, she said. That requires doing away with labels, she added.

"This community loves labels," she said. "So many of my students came to me with one-dimensional titles, and in many occasions those labels were stuck to them before they even understood.

"We learn how to use our voices to influence change. We learn not to raise our voices but rather to raise our words with people."

Bill Reboli, psychology instructor at WCC, changed the tone slightly, peppering his remarks with a firsthand illustration, literally.

"Raise your hands if you would like to see peace throughout the world," he said, looking over the audience of approximately 150. "Look at your hand in the air and what you're looking at is everybody's got their hands raised."

He led them in a pledge, "I will do my best to get along with everybody I meet" before instructing them on the power they had in their hands.

That hand, he pointed out, could be a "mighty tool" that could be used to help somebody up or hold somebody down; it can fix things or break things. It could be used to cast a vote or be raised in preparation to ask or answer a question, he said.

"Don't underestimate your hand," he said. "You can impact someone."

WCC President Thomas Walker Jr. told the crowd that change starts within, as part of personal responsibility.

"I encourage you as we discuss change today, let's talk about the change that starts with the person in the mirror," he said.