Welcome to the ULC Minister's Network

Keisha Merchant



    (Through my eyes only...epistemology only)

    Journal One, Experience and Reflections: Office Orientation

    This is my reflection over the experience with volunteering at the HDC with Oregon State University.  As I have and always will believe in volunteering.  I have found that this term with this project is somewhat unfair to the student at large.  It is a great opportunity for those who have never volunteered with organizations.  It is a wonderful experience to have associations with nonprofit organizations, projects and other human right work campaigns that are centered on volunteering and grassroots.  “Here's the deal—when women are required—even informally—to meet an unattainable body size ideal, our energy is sucked away.”  (Seely, 2007, pp. 128)

    Unfortunately for the veterans of voluntarism, it is not helpful to volunteer within eleven weeks.  Most of the short term volunteering projects is centered on quick and easy labor that comes with administration and cleaning or stocking crews.  It is within this opportunity to assist in manual labor that nonprofit organizations need assistance, but in fact, it is within this framework of discrimination I find discomforting and disappointing that most of the students are used in the labor force even in voluntarism in short term basis.  It is within my opportunity that I find that nonprofit organizations are willing to give students easy work to assist them in their agendas to volunteer, but the actual fulfillment of volunteering is dismissed. 

    The field work is the important social location of feminism activism and social activism.  It is not found in the dynamics of short term volunteerism or working a booth.  It is within the opportunity to change lives at the grassroots level and within that person’s life that need assistance.  It is often missed that the volunteer is set in the corner working on administration and cleaning that do create opportunity as a team network connectivity system, but it is in the hope that all parts play equal components in the survival of women and their opportunity for equality

    in distribution of resources and knowledge. 

    Journal Two, Experiences and Reflections: Staffing Office

    I find myself sadden because education has become this scoreboard that keep us competitive and discriminatory of what should be done within the short amount of time allotted.  In fact, it is not based on exploration, development, and creativity that bridge the gaps of dislocation and disability.  I find that it is often that the discourse in feminism is that within our own agency we must become copy cats in the patriarchal society of Maslow’s hierarchy that deters our womanhood and sisterhood from reaching self actualization of the possibilities of a greater future of matriarchal outreach and equality.

    “Like the Barbie doll, usually even heavily prompted "role models," be they actresses or fashion models, do not naturally meet the image they project airbrushing, computer alteration, piece modeling, lighting, makeup, surgery, and semi starvation are all part of the process of creating an image that can sell the average woman an unattainable ideal that often looks quite natural.” (Seely, 2007, pp. 128)  What are our role models?  Most of our contributors find themselves in volunteering opportunities cleaning the garbage cans, cleaning, stocking and setting up, breaking down, passing out fliers, and other mundane work that does not associate with hierarchal value or power dynamics of policy and civil rights.  As I sit in my volunteer position I reflect on the years as a volunteer that created my experience and opportunity as a black woman and how I size up privilege society, the white middle class working woman, and find myself questioning, how am I ever going to become the role model?

    Am I “good enough” that I can create social change stocking, cleaning and passing out fliers?

    Journal Three: Passing Out Fliers

                This is very therapeutic experience.  I have never seen myself as a role model.  This service learning experience made me realize that I have learned that I am not “good enough” because I am not willing to force myself and take it by force the “privilege that is deem worthy of my esteem as an equal component.”  I have this rare belief that team playing means that we have a role we must play, “social location” and that is problematic.  I find the discourse in that verbal discussion that it is problematic and the critic thinking behind that reflection lead me into resistance for the rest of my life.  It is not what I want at all for the comfort of my own self esteem.  “Women throughout the world, in poor and underdeveloped nations, work in substandard and abusive conditions for below-poverty-level wages to provide rich nations affordable fashions.” (Seely, 2007, pp. 134)  It is within poverty that volunteering will keep me in the social construction that I am only “good enough” to clean and domesticated labor.  It is within this soapbox that I argue that volunteering and service learning at Oregon State University HDC gave me an opportunity to volunteer when no one else would.  This is the privilege that grants me the opportunity to be a social power entity or social challenge?

    As I volunteer, I wonder about poverty.  The mission for HDC at Oregon State University is hunger.  Hunger is number one struggle in the marginalized community, but the statistics from their lists demonstrate that white men in Oregon are the highest candidates for hunger.  It is often that their clients are white men.  I ask myself why that is. “This list of "basic needs" was derived from a larger list that also included entertainment, vacation, paid family leave, retirement, life insurance, and personal liability insurance.” (Seely, 2007, pp. 137)  It is within the basic needs of Benton County that the “mealbux” is given to students that are in need.  Their basic needs are food, shelter and clothing.  It is within this framework that white men are the highest clientele for the recipients of the “mealbux.”  I made a comment to one of the directors.  I suggested that the percentile of Oregon is 70 percent white men.  The male population is the highest resident in Oregon.  Therefore, it would make sense that white men were the highest recipients in Benton County.  It is also evident that white men and their social location of poverty would be also classified different from marginalized populations of color as well other forms of systems of oppression.

    Of course, she did not enjoy my response.  I suppose she wanted me to be quiet.  I have been told I need to put my foot in my mouth.  I found that problematic as well because how can one expand their horizons when their audience is duplicates of themselves.

    “Their greatest success is not their money, or their prestige and recognition. Their greatest success is their ability to convince people that they exist in a vacuum and that their power lies within their structure and not with people.” (Seely, 2007, pp. 139)  I found that my statement left her heavy, and left me lighter.



    Journal Compare and Contrast Experiences

    “They fear the loss of jobs if production declines and ask that Naomi bring their plea for improved working conditions and a hope for job protection to the consumers of wealthy nations, whom they see as having the power to change corporate practices.” (Seely, 2007, pp. 140)  I do find myself a role model.  Whether or not the public opinion of me is that I am a role model.  Whether or not popular culture find me as a role model, political figure, social guru or a competitive able heterosexual privileged individual, but I find myself comparing and contrasting the notions that I “fear the loss” of my own safety and security for the practice of being “hungry” for mercy, justice, rights and improved working conditions and living conditions.  I find that my “hunger” for improved volunteer and service learning opportunities are questioned when I ask, am I good enough to ask for executive roles in the volunteer and service learning tasks.  Am I good enough to perform on the front lines of activities of performance and distribution of resources as stakeholders, policy makers, strategic planners and capitalists? Where are the service learning opportunities and volunteer positions that I can apply for without competition?  I know that I do not have to compete for the domestic work or the labor work, but I find that problematic, why?

    I find myself in the last 30 volunteer opportunities including 5 internships over the past 20 years that I have done most of my work and volunteer work as a domesticated laborer that has impacted society to change the way they treat marginalized people by what I’ve performed, right?  I have learned that I am “not good enough” because the first thought that a person thinks of when offering me a position it is not volunteer coordinator or executive team interim.  It is within this discrimination that I am possibly cynical that by the time I am forty I would have worked more volunteer jobs than employment jobs, and they all would be in the same theme.  It would not hold the status of fashion guru, capitalist giant nor social role model, but in feminism activism grassroots beginnings, I find that I am “good enough.”  Or am I?

    “Founded in 1992 by Nancy Gruver, mother of twin daughters, New Moon magazine provides a radical alternative to most magazines geared toward young women.” (Seely, 2007, pp. 141)  I am going to leave on a good note, lighter reflection in my contrast and comparison of my past experiences and present moment of activism and volunteering or service learning.  I have learned so much in my lifetime.  My mother call it “character building” for the next life.  It is within the black communities, and black women faith that our life does not begin here but the next life after death.  It is within this belief that it is a privilege to be the Cinderella.  It is within this ideology of the black woman’s experience that she is to be rapture up into someone that is “good enough” not in this life, but the life after death.  It is within this experience, that Cinderella, the black Cinderella, find herself wearing her glass slipper only after she clean enough bathrooms for her evil step sister, and humble herself enough to give only in the attitude of a “cheerful giver,” will she find salvation.

                I find that in the founding of New Moon, I see the black Cinderella’s hope that one day, she would be “good enough” and her journey will begin as a role model that her life would be “good enough.”  It is within this feminist critique that I understand why people view black women as negative instead of oppressed group in pain of a disease that was infected on them by societal construction normalcy of abuse and bigotry.  It is within this light hearted construction of “hunger,” that I leave with Oregon State University service learning practices enforces the notion that volunteer work is meaningless if one is not “good enough” if they are not entrusted with the keys to the money safe.  As a volunteer, the person who must learn their “role” reminds me of the sexualization of misogynist that promise women equality after sexual favors.  It reminds me of the role playing performance of gender construction that women are not good enough even after proving sexual exploitation and secularization of sexual eroticization is still left with women fighting for “food, safety, shelter and clothing.”  Yet at the end of the day, jaguar owners, stakeholders, lobbyist are those who own capitalistic America and Western World Empire of colonization and globalization of the 21st century.  I forgot one more element, who are we volunteering for and why are we volunteering?  Oh yes, we are saving the world, one person at a time, giving one fish, and teaching one to fish.  In order to do so, someone has to buy the fish.  What is this atomic catastrophic behavior that the ying yang notion ends with eating out of the hands of those who oppress the system of grassroots movements and nonprofit organizations? 

    I come into the office with smiles, love and so much more love that I forget that the baby girl is hungry, but she is equal to the white man in the luxurious home, two cars and corporate Wall Street Empire.  They both need food.  I somehow forgot why I am doing this service learning field and activist notion of social change when I am reflecting on the comment from the director that our population is white men.  I cannot ignore the fact, I felt weak when I passed the thought that I possibly had to share the last thought that this fish would have to go to him then that child.  I have become my worst nightmare, and monster that I judged the white man and forgot to judge the child.  In the society of patriarchy and misogynist I must feed you first.  The baby girl must wait in line, and maybe in the afterlife, she will be served first.