I hope you are reading this as you are staying hydrated, eating good food, or waking up from a power nap. 2020, though a trying year for various reasons, also made space for introspection and self-evaluation. Turning the calendar does not mean that we leave those practices behind. Instead, I hope that in 2021 we continue to get clear on where we want to go, who we want to become, and the world we want to live in. As you do that, I invite you to consider some allowances.
Allow Avery to spark your radical imagination. I am an arts and crafts fiend, which means I live at Michaels. I love their slogan: “Where creativity happens.” There is some truth to that statement: I walk in empty-handed. 45 minutes later, I walk out with a bag of painted clothespins, magnets, paintbrushes, and wooden items. After a few days, my spare bedroom floor is covered in colorful magnetic picture frames.
This is how I want you to feel when you think about us at 125 Bull Street. In the opening pages of Pleasure Activism, Adrienne Maree Brown writes: “I believe that all organizing is science fiction—that we are shaping the future we long for and have not yet experienced. I believe that we are in an imagination battle, and almost everything we orient toward our bodies is shaped by fearful imaginations…Our radical imagination is a tool for decolonization” (p.10).
How might Avery spark your radical imagination?
Allow yourself to visit with ancestors.
Although we are not open, you are welcome to have lunch on the benches under the magnolia trees. Enjoy your coffee, tea, or hot chocolate on the front steps. Hold socially distant study groups on the lawn (be sure to take your trash with you, though). By walking through the brick and white wooden gates, you are gathering among ancestors—a place that nurtured, educated and fortified Black students since the late 1800s. Remember that you belong here.
Allow Avery to become your homeplace.
Schedule some time to revisit Avery’s Digital Classroom and our collections in the Lowcountry Digital Library. Take a moment to look at the photos of young Black students gathering on the lawn or standing on the steps of Avery in the 1900s. Each offer us a glimpse of Black people thriving when the world was scorched by the flames of racism, sexism, and classism. At a time when it feels like the world is on fire—blazing with uncontrollable wildfires and unchecked white rage all in the wake of a mutating virus—we need to remember that we have a “homeplace” (hooks, Yearning) where we thrive.
As the year presses on, there will be opportunities to engage with the Avery team, me, and the local community through community outreach. In November 2020, the front lawn of Avery served as space for members of Jewels, Incorporated, International Student Ambassadors, Black Student Union, and more to assemble and distribute bags of food for the first Harvest Community Drive. This idea was birthed out a proposal from Adia Bennon, President of Jewels, Inc and member of the Avery Outreach and Programming team. I hope that we will have more student-driven, community-centered opportunities to learn from and serve our members of our greater community. Help us to keep Avery as a “homeplace that affirm[s] our beings, our blackness, our love for one another was necessary resistance.” (hooks, Yearning, p.46)
If you have an idea for programming, please reach out with a proposal. I believe in the power of collective minds and energies. Therefore, consider what you can achieve in working with members of different organizations. Share those ideas with us.
I look forward to hearing from you in 2021.
Tamara T. Butler, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Avery Research Center
Associate Dean of Strategic Planning and Community Engagement, College of Charleston Libraries