Local & Community Engagement

Written by Jamaica DelMar and J.D. Lopez (Quechan),
Local and Community Engagement Committee Co-Chairs

We are honored to carry on the meaningful work of the Local and Community Engagement Committee (LCEC), which was formalized into committee under the leadership of ASHE President, Dr. D-L Stewart and led by Drs. Awilda Rodriguez and Heather Shotton (Wichita & Affiliated Tribes, Kiowa, and Cheyenne) in 2021. The inaugural committee facilitated deep place-based learning through intentional conversations, through virtual pre-conference learning opportunities, the development of culturally grounded syllabi, land acknowledgments, and decolonizing tours. Their work provided an excellent service for the ASHE membership and a strong foundation for the 2022 LCEC led by Drs. Chris A. Nelson (Laguna Pueblo and Diné) and Magdalena Martinez. Indeed, the 2022 LCEC’s work included another powerful syllabus, a carefully coordinated visit to a People of Color-owned art studio and community center, and an informative Presidential Session.  

The 2023 ASHE Annual Conference will be held on the traditional homelands of the Dakota/Lakota/Nakota and Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) in the city of Minneapolis (Dakota “minne” meaning water + Greek “opolis” meaning city), the state of Minnesota (Mni-sota makoce, Dakota for land of smokey water). The Twin Cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul) are home to a diverse community including the largest Karen (South Myanmar) and Somali populations in the U.S., the second largest Hmong population, and significant indigenous and Mexican populations call the Twin Cities home, along with many others. 

As the 2023 Co-Chairs, we gratefully embrace and build on the paths set before us. We plan to offer opportunities that facilitate place-based awareness through locally-based learning experiences. Thus, while cold temperatures and Prince’s Purple Rain may come to mind before advocacy and activism, as LCEC Co-Chairs, we want to highlight that the Twin Cities metro area has long been a site for those whose interests lie in fighting for equity. For example, in response to discrimination and decades of inequitable Federal Indian policy, the American Indian Movement (AIM) was formed in Minneapolis in 1968 and soon became a nationwide movement. AIM members came together in Minneapolis and elsewhere to discuss the critical issues restraining their lives and to take control of their destinies. We look forward to collectively learning and sharing more about how the AIM movement addressed the reclamation of land, fought against high unemployment, slum housing, and broken treaty rights—all perpetuated by racism. 

Minneapolis, as we will all learn, is a space of radical coalition. For example, activist groups including the abolition work of MPD150, Communities United Against Police Brutality, and Black Lives Matter Minnesota, have followed and worked with AIM’s fight for social justice. It is important to note that this racial justice work has been ongoing since and even before the 1960s. However, the recent murders of Philando Castile (2016) and George Floyd (2020) among others brought heightened attention to the injustices forced on communities of color in Minnesota.

Keeping all of this in our minds and hearts has led us to think more about: What is higher education’s role in creating and sharing knowledge that can be used to advocate for justice in the communities where we live, work, and visit? How do we ensure that our research is helpful, not harmful and not extractive? How can we make our work relevant to practitioners who are leading the fights for justice in our communities? It is with these questions in mind that we plan to shape the activities of the 2023 LCEC. 
We encourage 2023 ASHE conference proposal submitters and attendees to be purposeful and consider how higher education can be used to advocate for equity and justice. While we want everyone to enjoy the beautiful city of Minneapolis, let’s not forget that it is home to some of the greatest racial disparities and a long ongoing fight for racial justice in the country.