The start of Pierce College’s remote learning in spring 2020 gave Vice President for Equity, Innovation and Engagement Charlie Parker an opportunity to build connections within Pierce College, where he developed a meeting space for staff and employees.
The “Chillin’ with Charlie” Zoom events, attended by an employee group of Black, Indigenous and People of Color meets aim to address societal concerns that connect to the college and its surrounding communities.
Similarly, faculty meeting spaces like “Jam with Julie,” created by Fort Steilacoom President Dr. Julie White, and “Dining with Darrell,” by Puyallup President Dr. Darrell Cain provide support to campus faculty. Parker’s events began during the onset of the pandemic when societal issues like racial violence returned to the forefront of media headlines.
“When that happened last year, we really put a plan together to be able to make spaces for folks to be able to process their feelings about the persisted violence,” said Parker.
BIPOC employees who attend Parker’s sessions break down racial or societal concepts that impact their work and mental health. During this informal Zoom meeting, Parker shares knowledge about himself and learns more about Pierce employees and faculty.
Aside from Parker’s event for BIPOC employees and staff, there are additional groups for BIPOC students and beyond, white advocates and allies, along with the student body. Information to join these groups can be found in student and staff emails.
Parker mentioned that each forum space was requested by the community at Pierce during college meetings held on-campus and online, with many providing a space to discuss the effects of the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests or 2020 election.
“Chillin’ with Charlie” consists of a loosely structured agenda, with Parker preparing educational activities on topics regarding history, policy, inequality and societal systems of oppression.
“The ‘Chillin’ with Charlie’ space is really an organic space for those who participate to be able to lead what it should look like, and I am there as a facilitator to help build relationships,” said Parker.
Occasionally, a speaker will be brought in to guide the conversations, though, generally, participants lead the discussion.
Parker mentioned that when the leaders of Pierce College granted faculties requests to incorporate real-time issues in their sessions, it provided more engaging topics. Alongside the organization of all-college faculty meetings, the sessions offer a personalized support forum opportunity where employees and leaders can discuss steps to assist each other and affinity groups.
“Sometimes we get in the space and by the time we can do check-ins and finish introductions we’re already in full conversation,” said Parker.
At the end of a “Chillin’ with Charlie” meeting, Parker asks what the audience wishes to discuss during the next session. Since he plans the meetings based on community concerns, there are no predetermined plans for upcoming topics.
“The space would not be if it wasn’t for those committed folks who come into that space to be able to share pieces of their story, as well as their power with our larger village,” said Parker.
By discussing topics with an empathetic lens, using critical race theory and providing support to employees, Parker hopes the conversations will impact the institution and empower more BIPOC leaders.
Interview and article by @elissapnwnews on Twitter.
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