I am Emerson’s Vice President for Equity and Social Justice. My favorite color is turquoise and if you are looking for me outside of the workplace, you would most likely find me in a museum, traveling, reading, out for a leisurely walk, dialoguing with someone, or spending time with people dear to my heart. The common themes to my interests are constant learning and connections to people. I strive to be a principled and facilitative leader, and create social change in ways that are relational, strategic, and structural. I am an African American woman tied to Ghana and the wider Black diaspora by love and kinship. I am a product of the Second Great Migration. My grandparents were coal miners, domestics, and custodial workers, and my parents were first-generation college students. I believe in always doing the power analyses, because what matters to me most is human development, human rights, and human dignity. My professional work is rooted in social justice: upending systems of harm and building bridges—turning ignorance, apathy, marginalization, denigration, and violence into healing, restoration, empowerment, and liberation at the personal, community, and institutional level. I am a transnational thinker, who has built a community in Boston for 12-years. I was born and raised in Richmond and Oakland, California. In some respects, those places will always be home to me. But my truest home is with my spouse and two little people, wherever we are together.
My experiencing and witnessing systemic inequities drive my commitment to anti-oppression and liberation work. I believe in the transformative power of communities coming together in the service of work that holds space with one another, reduces harm, creates material change, and fosters individual and collective liberation for people on the margins. I have been an advocate and prevention educator for over 15 years. I enjoy exploring, learning, reading, being in nature, walking with my dog Truman, and facilitating trauma-informed yoga. One of my favorite quotes is, “If you have come to help me you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together” (Aboriginal Activists Group, Queensland, 1970’s).
Melanie is Director and Counselor/Advocate with the Healing & Advocacy Collective in the Social Justice Center at Emerson College.
I have been in awe of the power of stories and silences my entire life. I grew up in the Tijuana-San Diego border region. Among my first teachers were elders who, forced to flee violence in their countries, had recently arrived in the United States from Vietnam, the Philippines, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Mexico. In this little place on the planet where people work hard for the American Dream, we knew that everything would not automatically be okay. My childhood city has walls and armed officers surveilling a border. It also has miles of Pacific Ocean where sea life knows no borders. This can teach us to look up for another horizon, something organically life giving, to ask what is possible?
Our elders’ kitchen tables, the most joyful wise places I have experienced, taught me the responsibility of holding spaces to deeply listen. This listening is not just a matter of love — it is about survival. Here, I first learned that we make policies, practices and decisions based on stories we hear and share.
For thirty years, and in the last decade in Boston, I’ve been dedicated to what stories can do to disrupt structural violence. I worked as a human rights journalist in the Americas, Africa and Asia; an historian of legacies of slavery; faculty in history, Writing Studies and art; and in ongoing collaboration at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia and with desplazadas and community leaders in Colombia.
In our world’s most powerful knowledge constructing spaces, people most impacted by violence rarely share stories in their own words for listeners they identifiy as important. I contributed to this silence by publishing stories that “spoke for” instead of by and with. This inspired my dedication to story circles in visual and performance art, music, written word and other forms, led by people with deep knowledge about humanity, resilience, healing and community. We hold space for radical listening -- building authentic relationships to co-create paths for social justice and liberation.
Tam (Tamera) Marko is Executive Director of the Elma Lewis Center in the Social Justice Center at Emerson College.
When people ask how I came to do my work, I often tell an amusing anecdote about volunteering to work on a newsletter published by students in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and being recruited to a new job while sitting on a purple couch. However, as with most things in life, the truth is more complex than that. I would say I came to this space by taking a chance, by following a desire and curiosity to find more, to do more to create change. I would also say my upbringing in Minnesota had an impact, teaching me to care deeply for others, to recognize the humanity in everyone, and to honor the beauty of living things.
I grew up believing in kindness and courage. I also grew up believing in books—in the magic of worlds that exist on something as thin and fragile as a piece of paper. I came to Emerson for higher education and changed my major several times. I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I will probably never be able to answer that question with a definitive response. When I think of why I do the work I do and how I came to do it, I think about the moments in my life where there has been uncertainty or pain. In those moments, I turned to books, to the solace and hope and power of words. I have deep gratitude for words to share stories and connect beyond the page. It is through writing that I found my place, and I admire those who use words in community with others to honor humanity and find joy.
Alayne Fiore is the Executive Director for HIVE (Hub for Inclusive Visionary Engagement) within the Social Justice Collaborative.
I am a first generation college graduate from Lowell. I identify as biracial and Latina, where I was raised within a mixed race home by a single mother and powerful women from both Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic. I witnessed my father rebuild his life post-incarceration from scratch in another country, motivated by his unwavering love for family and reunification. I witnessed my mother provide for me and my siblings on her own and prepare for battle at every and any barrier in our path. I listened to her stories, and my elder’s stories of displacement from their homes and survival. And so, my parents instilled a fight and courage within me at a very early age.
My community (Lowell, Lawrence, loved ones, friends, comrades) are my sources of inspiration for poetry. I began to better understand all people and nature as interconnected through reading and through my practices of ancestral veneration. My favorite quote is from James Baldwin, who writes within an advanced emotional intelligence, intuition, and political framework,
“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read…Only if we face these open wounds in ourselves can we understand them in other people. An artist is a sort of emotional or spiritual historian.” –James Baldwin.
Literature, political theory, history, and spirituality each inform my practices of imagining (and creating) a more just future. I’ve found the possibility for social justice in my commitment to community and to continuously learn. My bachelor’s degree in Social Theory & Political Economy, my MFA candidacy in Creative Writing at Emerson, and my background in working in human services with youth have allowed me to transition from theory to praxis and I am excited to grow with Emerson in similar ways.
Crystal is the Program Manager for HIVE (Hub for Inclusive Visionary Engagement) within the Social Justice Collaborative.