My Truth: Safia Hattab

The Center for Diversity & Inclusion is pleased to release the My Truth Series. This series contains daily blogs and videos that will be released throughout the week, capturing the lived experiences of diverse students at  Hope College. 

The comments contained in the videos are those of the respective Hope College students and do not necessarily represent the views of Hope College. If you choose to comment, please follow Hope’s Virtues of Public Discourse. Comments that do not follow the Virtues of Public Discourse will be deleted.

Safia is a Class of 2021 Computer Science and English Double Major. This exceptional senior was involved in: Alpha Gamma Phi, Theatre Electrician and the Phelps Scholars. She plans on pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing.

There Is No Purpose in Pain

As I am writing this statement, I am in physical pain.

I never knew a life without some sort of pain. I was born with feet turned inward and had casts slowly pull my ankles into alignment over the course of a year. I had surgeries to put pins in the bones, and another one to take them out. This introduction to some of the worst of life has always been a constant companion, lord so now that my medical mystery has a name.

And here, in the dark, in the quiet, it can just take up space. It’s not something I have to ignore or to mask or to push through. It is just here, a friend keeping me company in the wee hours of the night.

Odds are, if you are this far in reading this, you are probably having some sort of thought along the lines of “oh poor thing”. Or, if you know me by my accomplishments—my national awards, my TEDx Talk, my nationally presented research among other things—you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Oh wow, what an inspiration. What a leader in adversity.”

And I have been through a lot of adversity. Some of the details of my time here at Hope range from bias incidents to hate crimes to hospital admissions. I have done homework while running IV fluids, went to class on days I got hate-crimed. I persisted. I fought. And ultimately, I came out of my undergraduate degree pretty successful. I’m even headed to graduate school with an Ivy League acceptance in hand. I am the poster child of, in many ways, the American dream. I did it all, regardless of the barriers that stood in my way.

But let me give you my truth: I’m actually not a leader. And I am not an inspiration.

Radical, I know. Also, considering the context in which this is written, it’s ironic. 

But the idea that I am an inspiration often comes from a concept so many of us are probably familiar with: that there is purpose in pain. That by still succeeding despite all my obstacles, I have done just that—I’ve taken this pain and used it to propel my success. And that this success, fighting through all that I have been through, means that I am a leader.

This narrative is what I’ve seen perpetrated throughout my time here at Hope. After all, To be a good Christian means to grapple with sin and temptation and choose to walk with God. It’s the knowledge that every struggle is just an opportunity to bring you closer to God. That The pain you were experiencing is to mold you into being more Christlike to make you the best version of yourself you can be. And that this is the purpose of this pain.

My goal here is not to bash Christianity. Frankly I’m also a Muslim so it’s really not my place to bash on Christianity. But to ignore the prevalence of this narrative on Hope colleges campus is to ignore the pain that it has brought me and other members of marginalized groups.

Because what this narrative does is tell marginalized groups that there is a correct way to deal with their pain. 

That our pain, the pain of the intergenerational trauma of our ancestors, the pain of generations of murder and oppression, the pain that any white or privileged person cannot possibly even begin understand, must be handled in the same way as a white person’s. And that if it tries to take up any more room. it is harmful. It is unproductive. And it must be policed.

Because white people know that if there was purpose in our pain other than to uphold white values, in the pain of marginalized people, racism wouldn’t exist. Ableism wouldn’t exist. Homophobia wouldn’t exist. Fat phobia wouldn’t exist. Any system that upholds whiteness would not exist.

So instead, we must channel our pain in a way that brings us closer to God. Channel our pain into some semblance of success. Make it small enough that you can go on with your daily life, a cog in the machine that keeps marginalization alive and well.

My four years have taught me this all too well. I’ve watched BIPOC anger and trauma get deflected under the guise of bringing everyone together in Christ. I’ve watched LGBTQ members of this campus get their oppression justified because of their “sinful” lifestyle. I’ve watched women on this campus keep quiet about their rape as to not interrupt the Hope College Holland Nice. I’ve watched Christianity on this campus get weaponized time and time again as the only productive, valid, and meaningful way to process pain. And I’ve watched it shut everyone out who doesn’t subscribe to the narrative.

So when you call me a leader or an inspiration, what you are telling me is that I took my pain and packaged it in a way that makes you feel comfortable. That feels productive to you. And by doing so, you are erasing all the harm my success has caused me.

The times I attended school through seizures.

The times I went to classes after hate crimes.

The times I sat in rooms of people arguing my validity as a human being as though it is an argument with valid sides.

The times I cried, crawling up stairs to get to my classes.

Because my successes came with a price. An expensive one. A price I didn’t need to pay. My college career was full of the labour of carving out a space to just exist. And because I had the privilege of being able to compartmentalize my pain, to pay the price of wrapping my hurt in a pretty enough package—you hold me to the standard of an inspiration. A leader.

Because no, I am not an inspiration for doing what I needed to do to survive. I am not a leader because I managed to cheat the system and walk out with a version of success palpable to white society. I am those things because I exist. Because here I lie, in my bed in the wee hours of the morning, just taking up space. And that is the truth.

My Truth: Michael J. Pineda

The Center for Diversity & Inclusion is pleased to release the My Truth Series. This series contains daily blogs and videos that will be released throughout the week, capturing the lived experiences of diverse students at  Hope College. 

The comments contained in the videos are those of the respective Hope College students and do not necessarily represent the views of Hope College. If you choose to comment, please follow Hope’s Virtues of Public Discourse. Comments that do not follow the Virtues of Public Discourse will be deleted.

Michael is a Class of 2021 Business Major. This exceptional senior was involved in: Concert Series, Baker Scholars, Phi Sigma Kappa, Jazz Arts Collective, STEP, Pet Shop, and the Latino Student Organization. He plans on moving to Chicago to work in consulting or marketing before pursuing an MBA.

My Truth: Taylor Calloway

The Center for Diversity & Inclusion is pleased to release the My Truth Series. This series contains daily blogs and videos that will be released throughout the week, capturing the lived experiences of diverse students at  Hope College. 

The comments contained in the videos are those of the respective Hope College students and do not necessarily represent the views of Hope College. If you choose to comment, please follow Hope’s Virtues of Public Discourse. Comments that do not follow the Virtues of Public Discourse will be deleted.

Taylor is a Class of 2021 Electrical Engineering Major. This exceptional senior was involved in: Black Student Union member and executive board; Center for Diversity and Inclusion Diversity Educator and Student Ambassador; Co-chair for Universal Society of Diverse Engineers; Team Assistant for the Office of Possibilities; and Video Technician and Student Director for Video Services. She plans on working for and building her own think tank.

My Truth: Taylor Richmond

The Center for Diversity & Inclusion is pleased to release the My Truth Series. This series contains daily blogs and videos that will be released throughout the week, capturing the lived experiences of diverse students at  Hope College. 

The comments contained in the videos are those of the respective Hope College students and do not necessarily represent the views of Hope College. If you choose to comment, please follow Hope’s Virtues of Public Discourse. Comments that do not follow the Virtues of Public Discourse will be deleted.

Taylor is a Class of 2021 Psychology Major. This exceptional senior was involved in: the Psychology Club and interned for the Center for Diversity and Inclusion and Student Development. She plans on obtaining a job in human resources to gain experience and insight then pursue her master’s or PhD degree and help marginalized people succeed in the workplace.

My Truth: Kworweinski Lafontant

The Center for Diversity & Inclusion is pleased to release the My Truth Series. This series contains daily blogs and videos that will be released throughout the week, capturing the lived experiences of diverse students at  Hope College. 

The comments contained in the videos are those of the respective Hope College students and do not necessarily represent the views of Hope College. If you choose to comment, please follow Hope’s Virtues of Public Discourse. Comments that do not follow the Virtues of Public Discourse will be deleted.

Kworweinski is a Class of 2021 Exercise Science Major. This exceptional senior was involved in (an easier list might be what he was not involved in): Black Student Union, Kinesiology Club, Phelps Scholars Program, Residential Life, Total Trek Quest, 1stGen Student Union, Latino Student Organization, Asian Student Union and Prism. He plans on attending graduate school to attain a PhD in Exercise Physiology, and helping people improve their lives through exercise and sports.

My Truth: Montserrat Dorantes

The Center for Diversity & Inclusion is pleased to release the My Truth Series. This series contains daily blogs and videos that will be released throughout the week, capturing the lived experiences of diverse students at  Hope College. 

The comments contained in the videos are those of the respective Hope College students and do not necessarily represent the views of Hope College.
“If you choose to comment, please follow Hope’s Virtues of Public Discourse. Comments that do not follow the Virtues of Public Discourse will be deleted.”

Montserrat is a Class of 2021 Spanish Major. This exceptional senior was involved in: Student Congress, Residential life, Alpha Gamma Phi, Nykerk, FACES, Women of Color United, Mortar Board, Undergraduate Research, Latino Student Organization. She plans on attending medical school.

My Truth: Meghana Sunder

The Center for Diversity & Inclusion is pleased to release the My Truth Series. This series contains daily blogs and videos that will be released throughout the week, capturing the lived experiences of diverse students at  Hope College. 

The comments contained in the videos are those of the respective Hope College students and do not necessarily represent the views of Hope College. If you choose to comment, please follow Hope’s Virtues of Public Discourse. Comments that do not follow the Virtues of Public Discourse will be deleted.

Meghana is a Class of 2021 Biology Major. This exceptional senior was involved in: Asian Student Union, Fostering A Program of Excellence in the Sciences, International Relations Club. She studied abroad in Sydney, Australia.

The sudden jerk of the plane landing awoke me from my deep sleep. I turned to look at my mother and she smiled at me and gave me a kiss on the forehead. She whispered in my ear that we were here. At once I became thrilled at the thought of seeing my father after two long years. I was no longer tired from the long journey from India to South Korea. As we walked towards the exit he was there, waiting for us with flowers in his hands and a grin on his face. I squeezed my mom’s hand with excitement and ran to embrace him.  As I took my first step onto the Korean soil, I could feel the cold winter air blowing and numbing my face and ears.

Although these events took place almost fifteen years ago, they remain fresh in my mind because these are my first memories of my second home, South Korea. Ever since that day, my life has been quite different from that of an average Indian girl. I became what is known as a ‘third culture kid’(TCK). My family moved to South Korea and I ended up spending most of my childhood and all my adolescent years in the city of Seoul. Graduating from an international school in South Korea, all my peers were also applying to schools in America and I followed along. Coming to the U.S to pursue my higher education seemed like the next natural step for me. Unlike my peers however, I did not have the opportunity to visit schools in the U.S before applying and deciding. I had to blindly decide where I was going to spend the next four years of my life alone and apart from everything I knew. Although this was in many ways daunting, I had a positive outlook because I knew I had a good understanding of the American culture. I was very aware of my skill and ability to quickly adapt and blend into a new environment easily. 

After spending my first months in the U.S in Denver, Colorado I was ready to leave for Michigan. My college and adult life were about to begin and I had started to feel the butterflies in my stomach. I took my first steps into Hope College and walked around trying to learn the ways around and memorize where everything was. I was excited, but also nervous because I did not know what to expect and how my feelings would shift. As I walked into the Rotunda of Martha Miller to begin my international student orientation, I saw a few people scattered around. That day I met the international community and some of my first friends at Hope.

Being an international student in the U.S is quite challenging. It comes with a lot of restrictions and we miss a lot of opportunities in regards to jobs and internships because of our status as aliens in a foreign land. We don’t get to see our family members as often as we’d like and slowly the physical distance starts to also create an emotional distance. I often found myself putting on a front in front of my parents and telling them I was having a great time. When in reality I was struggling to cope with all the changes and craving the familiarity of home. There are also so many cultural barriers that we have to overcome. What was once normal to say, normal to do was now a spectacle for others. 

However, I found that there were lots who were willing to listen and empathize. Although they did not necessarily live the everyday mental struggles I had, I found that they wanted to know where I was hurting and help as much as they found. The staff members of the Fried Global Center at Hope have been my biggest supporters in the last three and a half years. They have a passion to help all their international students. They provided us with host families that gave us a home away from home. They helped us to understand what the logistics were to stay legal in America. They constantly work towards helping us maintain our status here in the U.S. They advocated for us when needed and had our backs every step of the way. Their work here has a great impact on us international students. Slowly over time because of these people, Holland, Michigan and Hope College became my home. 

I have learned the patterns of Holland and now I know what to expect in the different seasons. The summers always begin with heaps of tourists suddenly showing up for the Tulip Festival. The once quiet and cold Holland, Michigan would suddenly be bustling with people. Downtown Holland would become busy with shoppers and what once was a space for the local farmers market would turn into a carnival for little children. Though the summers in Holland were indescribably beautiful, the winters were dreary and brutal. Like many other students who faced the harsh winters in Michigan with the lake side effect in making it worse in Holland, I found it depressing to wake up before the sunrise and then come home after the sun had already set. The number of days with the sunshine were very limited. My only source of serotonin seemed to be during the first couple of days of winter when everything would turn white and it felt like I could escape reality and live in a winter wonderland. As much as the first few days of snow were enjoyable, even the snow would eventually turn into slush and everything would become dreary once again. However, I knew that the cold wind, the dark days would soon go away and once again I could experience the beautiful summer of Holland again. 

I can’t talk about my college life experience without mentioning what has impacted all of our lives immensely – COVID-19. I believe everyone learned something new about themselves through this pandemic. It broke so many patterns that were followed for years and made humanity to step back and reflect on ourselves. It was challenging and difficult to push forward, but it taught us to handle situations that were outside of our control. It has also just been a big reminder to humans. It has taught humanity about responsibility, equality, and our smallness relative to everything and nature’s superiority. The pandemic has really reiterated how powerless humans are. By forcing us social distance and staying at home over a long period of time, Covid-19 gave us the opportunity to contemplate what is most important in life, how we relate to each other, what kind of world we have created for ourselves, and whether there is a better way to conduct our lives.

As I close this chapter of my life and move onto the next, there are things I want to take with me and there are also things that I would like to leave behind. Among the things that I would like to take is remembering to always work towards a balanced lifestyle. To spend a dedicated amount of time to everything that matters to you. I also want to constantly remind myself moving forward that when you do not have enough motivation to push forward, discipline will get you where you want to be. I want to remember to take life as it comes and not be too attached to anything because nothing in this world is going to be permanent. We were placed here with a purpose and it is our job to discover what that purpose is and to fulfill it to the best of our ability. I want to take with me the positive outlook on life. Yes, there are many terrible things in this world and life, however, there are also many very beautiful things. In the end, all I can do is work towards being the best version of myself and I may fail many times, but I will become stronger and more equipped to take on all the challenges life throws at me. 

CDI Keppel House Dedication

The Center for Diversity and Inclusion held a prayer dedication of their new office at the Keppel House, located on 10th St. This prayer dedication was held on Thursday, October 29, at 3 pm. 

This beautiful house will provide a warm, inviting, open and community enriching atmosphere for the entire campus community.  It will include a meeting, study and lounge space for students and multicultural student organizations, office space for the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, and space for small group workshops, seminars and gatherings. We are grateful for everyone who has worked, planned and prayed for a place and space to live more fully into the mission and vision of diversity, equity and inclusion at Hope College. 

Please watch as we celebrate this incredible milestone in Hope’s history and future. At our dedication is: President Scogin, Dean Emeritus Alfredo Gonzales, Associate Dean of Students and Director Vanessa Greene, Rev. Dr. Denise Kingdom Grier, CJ Kingdom-Grier and Taylor Calloway, Class of 2021. They each offer reflections about the importance of this move on our campus.

God Help Us Please: Fear from Slavery to Present

Over 500 years ago, European Americans kidnapped Africans and forced them into chattel slavery.  The torture, brutality and killing of Black bodies by White power systems created a level of fear and oppression that can never be fully understood if you have not walked in the shoes of Black people.  After slavery, new forms of hate and torture emerged to keep Blacks in their place. During my grandparents and parent’s generations, lynchings were common and enforced upon Black people if they dared step out of line in the slightest way.  Our parents feared for our lives and taught us in the strictest way to avoid any altercations with White people.  As I came of age and got married, I was afraid to have kids, as the only two options I saw for most Black people was to be killed or arrested.  Eventually, after four years of marriage, I decided to have children who have had countless experiences with racism.  As I talk to them and their peers, they are either afraid for the lives of their children, especially those with sons or afraid to have kids, because things have not changed.  This summer alone, through various forms of social media, we have witnessed a new form of lynching of our brothers and sisters and everyday it becomes harder and harder for us to breathe. The recent shooting of Jacob Blake seven times in the back in the presence of his three young children has left me emotionally distraught, once again.

 My heart cries out, “God help us Please” and end this nightmare for the Black community. As one kid said, “I just want to live.” From slavery to present, we have lived in fear, so please, White people, stop projecting your sins unto us..  Speak the truth and condemn this violence against Black and Brown bodies, not just in corporate statements, but by advocating and challenging the system that allows this injustice to persist.  As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said in his infamous, “I Have a Dream” Speech, “we can never be satisfied as long as the negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality.” 

America is faced with two pandemics.  The pandemic of COVID-19 and the pandemic of racism.  Where we choose to stand on both issues will inevitably define the future of our country.  It is my hope that we will stand for righteousness and justice.  Jeremiah 22:3 calls us to “ do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor. And do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place.”

CDI Town Hall

Dear All,

Due to all the recent events unfolding in our nation, we can’t imagine how you are feeling.  Therefore we held a town hall meeting on Wednesday, June 3 at 1 pm to provide an outlet for the community to come together. President Scogin was a part of the town hall meeting to express his concern for all of us. 

We care about you and are praying for you during this time of anger, confusion, and anxiety, as God will have the final word.

Here is a recording of this town hall from June 3 at 1 pm.