As an HDS student, summers are an exciting time to delve further into your studies in any number of opportunities, including participating in Field Education or studying a language in the Summer Language Program (SLP) or completing research through fellowships. Though two units of field education are required for MDiv students at HDS, MTS students who are interested are welcome to engage in field education as well. In this post, second year MTS student, Melissa Cedillo, reflects on her summer field education experience as a Harvard Presidential Public Service Fellow (HPPS) working with Faith in Public Life (FPL).
Eboni Nash is a second year MTS student, who recently interviewed professor and activist Angela Davis. In addition to her academic pursuits at HDS, she serves as Social Justice Chair for the HDS Student Association (HDSSA), the Office of Student Life Ambassador for Diversity & Inclusion, an Organizer for the Harvard Prison Divestment Campaign, and Vice President of Events/Organizing for Harambee, the HDS student organization for students of African descent.
Where were you when it happened? I imagine this question, much like 9/11, will be asked of us by the younger generation. Where were you when the COVID-19 pandemic struck? For me, I was on a plane heading back to my mother’s house for spring break. I decided to go early to be able to celebrate my niece’s birthday, when I received the email notifying me not to come back to campus.
Just like that, 2020 took another unexpected turn that forced us to adjust quickly. During our stay-at-home orders, I found myself wondering what I could do and how I could still be useful so far from my networks. After weeks of contemplating and eating entirely too much, I realized that organizing was still very possible.
For the past three years, I have considered myself an organizer and activist. Starting with food justice, I directed a local nonprofit in Nebraska that helped feed low income families of elementary school students over the weekend. This exposure to food-insecurity, education surrounding the poverty-line, as well as hot zones for food deserts, really took hold of my heart. I eased deeper into social justice soon after when I spent a summer interning at Sunshine Enterprises in Chicago.
Post by: Najha Zigbi-Johnson, MTS ‘20, African and African American Studies Concentrator, Freedom School Founder and Leader
Editor’s Note: For the first time, students at HDS have gathered to create the collaborative, student-led seminar “Freedom School,” which encourages students to bring Black studies into social justice issues in the community. In this blog post, HDS student and Freedom School founder Najha Zigbi-Johnson discusses the goals and pedagogy of Freedom School.
Last spring, I had the opportunity to learn alongside a group of incredibly talented and action-oriented students in the seminar, Faith in the Fire: Religious Public Intellectuals, led by Professor Cornel West. Each week, students prepared engaging presentations, and guided our class through animated conversation. I found myself wrestling with the notion of public intellectualism and also the moral responsibility of progressive thinkers to engage in work fundamentally rooted in political activism and cultural change. It was the brilliance of my peers who continue to be engaged in justice-oriented work, the legacy of radical public intellectuals like Pauli Murray and Professor West, and the urgent necessity to involve myself fully in movement building that fueled the creation of Freedom School. In partnership with the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, I was able to bring this course to fruition in my desire to engage contemporary Black studies with projects committed to systems-change and equity work.
Congratulations on your acceptance to Harvard Divinity School! Discerning program “fit,” in light of my scholarly and personal interests, was easy for me. I entered HDS with personal conviction, very much in alignment with the HDS mission, to foster a global culture of mutual understanding, respect, and goodwill—a culture in which people of every religion and culture coexist and work together in peace. I knew that the MTS program would help me to critically engage my understanding of my Catholic faith and learn more about powerful and interdependent cultural, political and social forces, as I endeavor to help implement empirically and cultural-linguistically based policies and programs centered on access to equitable health care and education for all.