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Edwin Mayorga - Last Collection

Edwin Mayorga

Edwin Mayorga Last Collection

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Hi everyone. Buenas noches. Can y'all hear me okay?

As I said, buenas noches, good evening. I thank you seniors for selecting me to serve in this role this weekend. While it gave me more homework to do — which I loathe, that's why I try not to assign too much of it — I was touched when I received news of this selection from Olivia.

In honor of celebrating this moment in your life, it wouldn't be Swat though, if there weren't a few more lessons to teach on your way out the door. We honestly take ourselves too seriously round here, like for real, y'all. We really don't know how to chill and it's a problem. But here we go. Here's the lesson.

To begin, I want to take a moment to acknowledge that our celebration of your graduation is situated on unceded Turtle Island, the lands of a vast and diverse set of indigenous peoples that have called these lands home from time immemorial. In particular, I remind us that we're occupying the traditional territory of the Lenape people. For over five centuries, indigenous peoples have experienced and resisted the violence of European and American colonization across the hemisphere.

This acknowledgment is an expression of my commitment and an invitation to you all to work in solidarity with the visions and leadership of indigenous peoples, to understand and dismantle the ongoing legacies of settler colonialism, advance efforts to return the land, or land be in the practice of land back, and imagine shared ways forward.

As we collect and reflect for the last time in this place, I ask that you keep this in mind throughout this evening and this weekend.

So let's celebrate. Some of you I have never met, and there are some of you that I actually know entirely too much. Eyes on you Josue, Giselle, Brandon, Kevin, Lucia, Gavin, Elisa, Lien, Sichuan, Serena out there. I see y'all.

But wherever you land on the spectrum, I want to congratulate you all for making it to this moment. You and your relations, by blood or by choice, have navigated a global pandemic, online learning from these professors that I'm like, "Listen, y'all, this is not the life," and the challenges of returning to places and relationships that were either new or old, but in every single way different from what it had been before. It hasn't been easy for most, if not all of us, and yet these last four to five years — I see you super seniors — I have seen all of us grow intellectually, emotionally, culturally, psychologically, and on and on. You've engaged in this pursuit to grow with a spirit of creativity, generosity, and love.

Indeed, as one of my teachers, abolitionist scholar Ruth Wilson Gilmore says, "Where life is precious, life is precious." And I've seen glimpses of that in classrooms, in field placements. I saw it at Jambo. I see it in basketball games and even at protests. Smiles, laughter, tears, anger, and calm, all of it absolutely precious, all of it absolutely life.

I'm reminded of poet Lucille Clifton's poem, "won't you celebrate with me." She writes:

won't you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.

For this relentless pursuit to grow, we must celebrate you. For having been able to survive and do more, we must celebrate you. You and your relations, your community have accomplished this. Allow me to give you your flowers and wait with great anticipation for what is to come.

But as we celebrate and reflect, I think it is critical that we also mourn and grieve. We mourn for the violence and massive displacements occurring in Sudan. We mourn for those impacted by the violence in Haiti. We mourn for those who have been impacted by the war in Gaza. We mourn for the 1,200 people in Israel who were killed and the 252 hostages taken by Hamas back on October 7th. And we mourn for the people, including the students, teachers, and schools of Gaza. It has been reported that more than 23,000 people, including upward of 7,000 children, have been killed, while tens of thousands have been injured, and hundreds of thousands have been experiencing displacement from their homes and a lack of food and water and other vital resources through this war advanced by Israel.

It has also been reported by the United Nations that at least 60% of educational facilities, including 13 public libraries, have been damaged or destroyed, and at least 625,000 students have no access to education whatsoever. As such, we mourn those who have faced the impact of war, of genocide, and for what has amounted to what the U.N. has described as "scholasticide." As a U.N. expert noted, when schools are destroyed, so, too, are hopes and dreams. So we mourn for so much and so many, and for what and what not yet, and for who and what will never be.

English and Black studies scholar Christina Sharpe notes that to be "in the wake" is to occupy and to be occupied by the continuous and changing present of slavery as yet unresolved, unfolding.

When I received notice of my selection as a Last Collection speaker, my first feeling was actually anxiety. Remember, I told you about the homework thing, right? But more importantly, I wondered how might I invite us to celebrate in the wake of still unresolved global harm and disaster. Upon introspection and spending time with beloved students this past week or so just breaking bread, or to be exact, breaking tortillas, and after participating in the graduation ceremony of the people's college last week, I've concluded that yes, we must celebrate and yes, we must mourn. But operating in the wake, we must do so with purpose. And that purpose is to gain further clarity about how to strive for the world we want rather than just surviving the world that we have.

To quote Adrienne Maree Brown, I'm talking about a world in which there's "abundant justice, abundant attention, abundant liberation." Where there is enough for all of us to feel attended to. It is critical that we live into abundance.

So I'll end my time of celebration and reflection with three recommendations of daily practices of abundance for all of us that require us to tap into all the ways you have grown over the course of your time here at Swarthmore.

Number one, abundance means thinking otherwise. I go back briefly to Christina Sharpe, who knows that to begin with the otherwise as word, as concept, is to presume that whatever we have is not all that is possible. Too often here at Swarthmore and in the world at large, we walk through life feeling the effects of mental and corporeal scarcity. There's never enough money, never enough food, never enough recognition, never enough attention to live a full life.

For many of us, this way of being results in living in fear, living with anger, guilt, grief, helplessness. It becomes a foreclosure of the imagination. So instead, I invite us to think otherwise, to strive for abundance, to strive for courage, for groundedness, for mutuality, for peace, for justice, for joy, for freedom. Not just for yourselves, but for everyone. How can we use what we have learned to facilitate all of us living abundantly?

Point two, abundance means speaking with each other, not past, not at each other. Living into abundance also means speaking with each other so that we may not only see each other, but appreciate each other in our totality, in our imperfections, in our beauty. Too often we have been taught in our classrooms and elsewhere that your survival depends on standing out, but that often requires us to speak past each other or speaking to be seen as better or smarter than others. This dynamic hinges on rendering others invisible and a willful resistance to hearing each other. It forecloses our capacity to find nuance, empathy, and justice.

Point three, abundance means repair and accountability. Finally, living into abundance means being in the practices of accountability and repair or healing. We have mourned so much already, so I ask us to draw on all that content knowledge that you have, all that critical thinking, all that capacity for empathy, and all that capacity for joy to see how we can each contribute to repair and to healing. This means being engaged in repairing and healing ourselves and beyond.

When the war in Gaza ends, for example, what forms of healing and repair will be needed? Who will contribute to that healing? Being in the practice of healing also requires us to be accountable to each other, not just as individuals, but as communities and institutions. To have a capacity for accepting when we have perpetuated individual and systemic forms of harm, or when we have permitted harm to ensue.

This again requires all of us to draw on our knowledge, skills, and empathy, and our capacities to see and to be able to contribute to the reduction and abolition of harm-inducing activity. Who is able to do this work of healing within and beyond, I ask all of you. Who has the courage to apologize, to be accountable in order to open up possibilities of justice for everyone?

Altogether, these practices of living into abundance are capacities that I think will allow us to not only envision, but to materialize a world of abundance. The question is, are you up for striving for abundance? And I'm really asking you all that. To ask yourselves, to ask each other, are you willing to do what it takes?

These are practices and frameworks that you've had the opportunity to experience over the course of your time in this educational institution. Whether you've worked with them and cultivated them while you have been here, I cannot say. But I do firmly believe it is in each and every one of us to be able to do this work, and for that, I celebrate and congratulate you. Good luck. Godspeed. Thank you.