The interactive evening of creative sharing and collective expression, hosted to amplify and center underrepresented voices, Sound Your Truth!, was held on Oct. 13 in the courtyard in front of the Sojourner Truth Library. A follow-up panel discussion was held Nov. 8 at 6 P.M. in the basement of Old Main, room B125.
The room held a small circle of chairs and about a dozen members of the student body and the Eddy. Eddy is an interdisciplinary organization dedicated to engaging students and helping them feel seen and heard to come into society. Anthony Dandridge, founding member and faculty member in the Black Studies department shared the intentions of the organization. Eddy looks to help students emerge “with their full selves, in the totality of those complex identities that we participate in as human beings, contribute in a variety of different ways to creating community and valuing difference in the dynamic ways it manifests.”
The space was created to facilitate an equalizing, balanced and safe conversation between faculty, students and Sound Your Truth! organizers and participants for a collective understanding and reflection on the event and Eddy as an active organization, as well as to build relationships for a greater goal of inclusion and leadership in education and the SUNY New Paltz community. Each person in the circle had something to contribute and each was respected in speaking their truth.
The night progressed naturally, starting off with an overview of Eddy. Andrea Frank, an associate professor of photography and another founding member of Eddy said, “We want to resist business as usual. We want to reinvent how we can be together and learn from each other and with each other. I think that is what brought us together as Eddy folks, faculty and students. It’s an open space that has always been intended to be organized horizontally,” just as the circular configuration of the panel event suggested.
“I think the beautiful thing about Eddy is that it really happened between people, that rich space between folks. There’s been a lot of collaboration in thinking and talking about sustainability and social justice and how to move things forward and how necessary it is,” Frank said.
Frank also shared the origination of the name of the organization. “Eddy is a metaphor. We think of cracking the educational pipeline and seeing if there are spaces where we can create together, nourish the community and keep moving to where we want to be going.” An eddy is a circular movement of water that runs counter to the main current flowing in one continuous direction. It diverges from the mainstream to explore the other realms of the world and life, in its own spiraling and convoluted journey. “This metaphor has carried us along quite beautifully,” Frank said.
Eddy has become a symbol of engagement with humanity as a concept of plurality. Members are driven toward a united future in which the people of New Paltz feel they have a purpose and belonging to something larger. The goal of this ideology is a fuller educational experience for students, an enriching career for faculty and a more open, conversating culture that addresses societal events and issues.
This shared theory is what helped construct this year’s Sound Your Truth!, which was also reflected on in the forum. Participants in the conversation shared what the event meant for the aspirations of Eddy and their own lives, connecting to larger themes and questions within the New Paltz area and the broader political and environmental climate of the times. The interactive clay table, sculptures, print-making, drum circle and speeches shared at the event in combination created a representation of Eddy. It is immersive, interdisciplinary and powerful.
Cara Breitenbach, a fourth-year student majoring in early childhood education with a concentration in Black studies and the president of Future Teachers of Color, said, “This experience has been wonderful in so many ways, not only meeting wonderful people but finding the spaces that others have created. This shows the power of what people can do.”
Bringing people together into one community and building strong connections between them was a big point of interest at the panel. Even the fact that this event existed is a beacon of
hope for Eddy. Having these conversations and gathering together is the way to create relationships.
“I wanted to talk about love and connection and homophobia. So I did it and I felt really glad that all of these people know this about me and what I went through. I’m not isolated,” said Ripley Butterfield, a student who studies English and art and who collaborated on a featured sculpture and spoke at the Sound Your Truth! event. “I think it really does come back to the humanity aspect and understanding of people. I appreciated that it was a place where I felt I could trust everyone listening to me to respect my experience.”
Another student, Wren Kingsley, who is engaged in many spaces on campus, including an Eddy collaborator, said, “I like the concept of Sound Your Truth! as an ecosystem. You’re invited to rest. You’re invited to eat. You’re invited to create. You’re invited to speak. What else do you do in a day in an ecosystem? Sound Your Truth! is creating a microcosm of asking “what is the ecosystem of New Paltz?”
This speaks to the wholeness and interconnectedness of the community in New Paltz and the goals of the Eddy. An ecosystem is a completely integrated, symbiotic world to thrive in. That is what Eddy is all about.
Wednesday’s panel discussion turned out to be more of a round table experience, with all attendees, faculty, students, members of Eddy or not, situated as equals, with voices that were powerful and respected, as aligns with Eddy’s message. It was a grounding and meaningful conversation centered around the same topics the Sound Your Truth! event was: expression, diversity, equality and strength, encapsulated in the notion of conversations that need to take place.