Sofa, lunch and a relaxed atmosphere provided the perfect setting for Drexel University’s Office of Equality and Diversity’s Book Circle. Since Sept. 2011, the quarterly book discussion has provided a forum for students, faculty and the community to come together in a safe environment and explore important topics and issues.
Nearly 50 attendees gathered for a midday discussion of “Wrong Place Wrong Time: Trauma and Violence in the Lives of Young Black Men,” by Dr. John Rich. The Book Circle was held at the James E. Marks Intercultural Center.
“This book spoke to me,” said Office of Equality and Diversity Assistant Vice President Michele Rovinsky-Mayer. “When I first read Rich’s book I was interested in showcasing this book at an upcoming circle.
“‘Wrong Place Wrong Time’ emphasized the University’s commitment to community engagement and offered a different perspective to how we should approach different situations and people.”
With simple statements and observations, Rich led an insightful discussion that challenged the audience to reconsider how they communicate with African-American trauma victims.
“I was absolutely intrigued by Dr. Rich and his take on problems facing young black males in regards to trauma and the health care system,” said Meriam Mikre, public health student with a concentration on community health and prevention.
Many were moved when Dr. Rich stated, "Instead of asking 'What's wrong with you?' we should try asking 'What happened?'" This was a pretty basic concept for Mikre, but made her realize that it can make a world of difference.
“Using that perspective forces you to take a step back and visualize the entire scenario. A person could be acting a certain way, not because of their current state, but as a result of the ten different things that could have occurred previously,” she said.
“He also brought up this rather interesting notion that some health care providers might feel that ‘Black men don't get shot, they get themselves shot.’ I see this as a way of writing off the disparities that exist.”
Imani Rutledge graduated in 2011 with a Masters in Public Health. “Dr. Rich was one of my professors from my degree program so it was refreshing to gain more insight to the work he has done with the Healing Hurt People program,” said Rutledge.
“Just because young people get caught up in violent situations does not make them ‘bad people,’” said Rutledge. “As health providers need to understand the story behind how they got to this place and then help them develop ways to prevent getting in violent situations again and heal from the traumatic emotional wounds that violence causes.”
The Book Circle provides participants with a place to engage in a facilitated dialogue about various cultural, intercultural and identity issues in a respectful environment that encourages openness and humility. For a schedule or additional information, visit http://www.drexel.edu/intercultural/center/bookCircle.