On Feb. 11 a small group of students gathered under the string lights of the Multicultural Resource Center (MRC) in Templeton to discuss health inequity at Lewis & Clark and in the world. This was the second workshop in a series put on by the Office of Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement (IME) Wokeshop Series.
Luca Sax ’22 is one of the IME’s peer educators who helped design and facilitate the Wokeshops.
“We can pick whatever topic is interesting to us, and (one that) we think our community needs to have more of a conversation around…it’s a discussion space, but also a space to share resources and get involved on campus,” Sax said.
The Wokeshop began with a brief icebreaker, orienting people to the space and the topic to ensure that everyone was comfortable and willing to speak freely. Sax then handed out worksheets to the participants, and asked them an open-ended question: what does health mean to you? Participants were given a few minutes to collect their thoughts, and then the conversation began to flow.
Sheyla Dorantes ’22, another IME peer educator, was the first person to share their thoughts on the complexities of health.
“To me … physical health just means not being sick … but mental health is different,” Dorantes said. “There are more factors.”
This led to a discussion of not just what health is, but the factors that informed each person’s answers. Upbringing played a large role in many answers. Participants talked about how some households have a more medically conservative mindset where you can only go to the doctor if you absolutely need it, while in some families doctor visits are far more frequent.
Subsequently, the group began discussing inequity in healthcare across the country. The group covered the issues of lack of LGBTQ+ representation in school sexual education classes, the dominance of white men in healthcare professions and the dismissal of Eastern (“alternative”) medicine. Dorantes said that capitalism contributes to “poor people diseases” such as diabetes by driving prices for healthy foods up and unhealthy foods down.
For the second half of the Wokeshop, Sax and Dorantes turned the conversation to health education specifically at LC.
“We felt like there wasn’t much of a discussion going on around (health disparities and intersectional identities) on this campus, and we wanted to bring that topic up again and provide space for people to exchange how they engage with health in their personal lives,” Sax said.
The group discussed mental health on campus, LC’s Pioneer Success Institute “Sexual Health and Wellness” section and shortcomings of the LC Counseling Center.
“The counseling or health centers have the potential to help students but are either not staffed, funded or advertised well enough to make them as useful as they can be,” Sax said.
Sax then asked participants to share one thing they do every day to maintain their health as a way to conclude the Wokeshop. Participants brought up everything from UV light to playing music and singing along.
“I hope that the students who come to our Wokeshops gain a sense of confidence, validation and community … to know that there are other students who share the same experience or sentiment as you can mean so much for a minoritized student who thought they were alone,” Dorantes said via email.
IME’s next Wokeshop is on Feb. 25 in the MRC and is entitled “Post-Black Art in Racialized America.”