The Impact of 10 Weeks

Last term I had the pleasure and opportunity to TA an Inside-Out class for Professor Anita Chari. The topic was Autobiography as Political Agency and, as I should have expected, the students - inside and out - blew me away. I am grateful for their willingness to share their stories and their thoughts with me throughout the quarter and I am glad to be able to share two speeches by outside students that were given during our closing ceremony. Although it is hard to summarize or reduce the experience of an Inside-Out course, I hope the words of these students help to describe the temporary community created by each course and the impact this has on each participant. Winter 2015


First of all, I wanted to start off by saying this is the best class I’ve ever taken. I’m going to remember each and every one of you and all the conversations we had, and I wanted to thank all of you for being a part of this amazing experience. I have never taken a class before that I am so passionate about and excited to attend. A lot of times in college we take classes we don’t genuinely care about, but this class is the polar opposite. This is the only class I’ve ever taken where 3 hours feels like 5 minutes; I’m pretty sure the clocks are broken in here because time moves so quickly.

On that note, I wanted to share with you guys why this class was so important to me. I know a few of the people in the class know this, but a majority of the class is unaware that my dad is in prison. He’s been there since I was in 8th grade. I was waiting for the right time to share this with everyone, and I felt discussing what this class means to me is the perfect opportunity. Originally, I was interested in the idea of an Inside-Out class because of my dad; over the past several years, I’ve really struggled with our relationship. When I saw that the inside out class offered winter term was about autobiography as political agency, I knew this was the perfect fit for me. At first, I really had no idea what to expect in terms of how this class would affect me. After taking it, though, I can easily say it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Through our writings and interactions, I’ve learned so much about parts of myself that I never even knew existed. I know many of the inside students have children themselves - in talking with you guys about your children and hearing how much you care about them, I realized that even though I might not always agree with my dad's actions, he’s always going to be my father and he’s always going to love me no matter what. I cannot thank everyone in this class enough for allowing me to grow in ways I never thought possible through the unique community an Inside-Out class builds.

Along with these realizations, I discovered that being involved in our justice system is something I want to continue doing for the rest of my life. While I was always interested in our political and justice system before, after taking this class I realized how passionate I truly am about advocating for change. When most people think of prisons, they don’t consider the implications and consequences of what it truly means to put someone behind bars. I want to change the stigma of what it means to be a “prisoner” and how people are treated once they are convicted of a crime. Although I may not have all the answers right now, I know I want to implement change in the best way possible, and I’m determined to figure out my place in changing our current system for the better. So I hope this isn’t goodbye, and that you all still hear from me in the future. Again, thank you all so much for giving me this amazing opportunity.

Along with these realizations, I discovered that being involved in our justice system is something I want to continue doing for the rest of my life. While I was always interested in our political and justice system before, after taking this class I realized how passionate I truly am about advocating for change. When most people think of prisons, they don’t consider the implications and consequences of what it truly means to put someone behind bars. I want to change the stigma of what it means to be a “prisoner” and how people are treated once they are convicted of a crime. Although I may not have all the answers right now, I know I want to implement change in the best way possible, and I’m determined to figure out my place in changing our current system for the better. So I hope this isn’t goodbye, and that you all still hear from me in the future. Again, thank you all so much for giving me this amazing opportunity.

 - Emily


Hello everyone! I feel incredibly honored to have the opportunity to speak for a moment. My name is Gabe and I go to the University of Oregon. I signed up for this class after a friend of mine recommended that I apply; on a whim (last minute really) I turned my application in. The days before the information session, I can’t say that I was actually too excited to take this course. I still have a lot of general education requirements, I was going through a major crisis, and I’m a generally incredibly busy person. After the information session though, I knew I had to take this course. Mainly, I wanted to take this class because of the personal awareness. A lot of times in the traditional education system, students are not really asked to think critically about positionality and personal experience. This is exactly what this course worked for students to do, which made me incredibly nervous and excited. Throughout this class experience, I have never truly realized how powerful experience is, and how it changes in the structures of our society. The material in this class was beautiful. Assata’s strength, Malcolm X’ wit, Kelley’s

Mainly, I wanted to take this class because of the personal awareness. A lot of times in the traditional education system, students are not really asked to think critically about positionality and personal experience. This is exactly what this course worked for students to do, which made me incredibly nervous and excited. Throughout this class experience, I have never truly realized how powerful experience is, and how it changes in the structures of our society. The material in this class was beautiful. Assata’s strength, Malcolm X’ wit, Kelley’s critique-all of these readings were truly transformative, but some of the most impactful moments in the class was what you all did with the material. I am in the presence of some truly powerful classmates, all with unique stories and backgrounds.

I heard a story just this weekend and it really reminds me of our class. Scientists were studying a habitat in a cold climate and found an unusual group of porcupines located in this area. During the winter time when the climate became harsh, scientists observed that the porcupines would travel in incredibly close-knit packs for everything from eating to sleeping. These porcupines could never get too close due to their large quills; if they did, they would stab each other. They would maintain a distance that was not too close but just close enough to huddle for warmth. This act of the porcupines, for me, is very symbolic of our class community. The quills represent our differences- our different walks of life, different backgrounds and different identities. The warmth represents survival and comfort and working with our differences to create something special and something common for all of us.

This class has made me more aware of my quills and more accepting of that warmth. By mere default of being born and developing our own individuality, our existence is resistance. To ignore systems such as white supremacy, institutionalized racism, homophobia, colonialism and other systems (at least to me) will never provide justice and collective liberation for all. I believe that we can truly never have equality unless we learn to appreciate people for their differences before we share the commonality of being human. With that said, being more aware of who you are for yourself and in relation to the world and these systems creates conscious understanding. Lilla Watson once said “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together” As abstract as I’m being right now (to the point where I’m almost losing myself), I think that it is important to remember: Keep the warmth we created in this class community with you. I know that it will keep me strong.

It honestly saddens me more than ever that for most of you all, I will not see you on a weekly basis anymore, but if physically I cannot be with you all and you all can't be with me, than at least in spirit and solidarity I keep you all in my hearts. This class has inspired me to be more aware of the quills I and others have as well as the potential warmth we can create if we know our own stories and backgrounds and how that works with others around us.

If I cry today, don’t be alarmed, I’ve never cared much for a masculine exterior anyways. In Sterling’s words, they are tears of protest and tears of compassion in this bittersweet moment. Thank you Professor Chari for your wisdom, thank you OSP for allowing the space and thank you classmates for the world and understanding. You are all beautiful inside and out. Thank you.

- Gabe