Day of Absence Changes Form
By Chloe Marina Manchester
Together, Day of Absence and Day of Presence make up an annual two day event for all members of the Evergreen community to explore issues of race, equality, allyship, inclusion, and privilege. This year’s theme is “Revolution is not a one-time event; your silence will not protect you”, inspired by Audre Lorde.
The Evergreen Day of Absence began as a collective action organized by Evergreen faculty and staff of color in the early 1970s, when retired faculty and founder of the Tacoma campus Maxine Mimms saw a play by Douglas Turner Ward in which a town in the South awakens to find that all of the Black community members have disappeared, causing the remaining white townsfolk to face life without them. The play, performed as a “reverse minstrel show,” was cast entirely by Black actors wearing white face, satirizing the traditional racist minstrel shows, and commenting on the necessity of African American community members despite white american’s refusing to accept them as their equals. Mimms worked in conjunction with other staff and faculty to create an event in which students of color would leave campus for the day, echoing the play, and leaving white students to consider the importance of their fellow community members by sensing the real loss of their presence. Day of Absence encouraged white students to discuss race, and work toward dismantling racism, while students of color are absent. In 1992, Day of Presence was added to bring the Evergreen community back together to honor unity and difference as a whole campus.
Day of Absence is set aside for community building around identity and conversations about issues of difference. In the past, on Day of Absence, students, faculty and staff who are people of color or mixed-race have left the Evergreen campus to attend workshops and seminars, while those who identify as white have remained on campus to attend workshops and seminars. This was originally done to highlight how integral people of color (POC) are to the Evergreen community.
This year, however, it was decided that on Day of Absence, white students, staff and faculty will be invited to leave the campus for the day’s activities. This decision was reached through discussion with POC Greeners who voiced concern over feeling as if they are unwelcome on campus, following the 2016 election.
According to the invitation to attend from First Peoples Multicultural Advising, “each program has been designed with a specific community-building objective in mind. And because many of us are multiracial, and may not wholly identify ourselves with one community or the other, we invite each person to attend the program of their choice, wherever they feel most comfortable.” To conclude Day of Absence, there will be an on-campus screening of “Moonlight” at 6:00 p.m. in Lecture Hall 1 with a discussion to follow. All members of the Evergreen community are welcomed.
Due to space restrictions off-campus, those wishing to attend the off-campus activities are asked to RSVP by completing the registration form.
Day of Presence is a day following Day of Absence designed to continue conversations about identity as a whole group back on campus. It is a full day conference with presentations and multiple workshop sessions, as well as community activities and a free lunch. Because of space restrictions, some activities may require an RSVP.
Some of the on-campus activities for Day of Absence include “Radical Self-Care for Students, Faculty, and Staff of Color,” “Finding Our Voice: Ancient and Contemporary Storytelling,” and “Decolonizing Gender.” Some of the off-campus activities include “Know Your Fascists,” “Can White People Ever Be Woke,” and “What’s At Stake? Collective Liberation.”
Day of Presence activities will include a concert, lunch, and a series of workshops. Workshops include “Intersectionality and Our Upbringings,” “Cultural Genocide,” and a film screening and discussion of the film “Major,” which follows a black transgender elder and activist who has been fighting for the rights of transgender women of color for over 40 years.
Day of Absence and Day of Presence will take place on April 12 and April 14, respectively.