Time Spirits and Cultural Transformation

On Friday, October 14, 2011 the UIC MCH Program in collaboration with the UIC LEND program, the Mid-America Public Health Training Center (MAPHTC), and the Wisconsin Pediatric Pulmonary Center (UW PPC) sponsored a day-long Cultural Diversity training at the UIC School of Public Health.  Typically, I do not participate in events that I am involved in planning; however, I did have the time to participate in this one.  I learned more about how Time Spirits are shared cultural constructs/beliefs that we share from any era of history and that continue to have an impact on us and our society (ie, slavery, Jim Crow laws, women’s experience of not being allowed to vote/own property/work outside the home, etc.).  I learned that -isms (racism, ageism, genderism, and some other -isms that we created words for [positionism, visualism]) are fueled by Time Spirits!

During this training, the 30 diverse participants explored four -isms (positionism, visualism, ageism, and genderism) and discussed how others discriminate against us using these forms of -isms and the impact this has on us both personally and professionally. I was in the visualism group with many others of different races/ethnicities and it was so interesting to be part of this small, diverse group sharing this common form of discrimination.  We talked about how just showing up invites people to discriminate against us (or at the very least try to make up all kinds of stuff about us simply by how we look and how this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts).  I’ve been dealing with this most of my life so I know there is quite a bit of healing for me to do in this area.  I was grateful to have the opportunity to realize just how painful this has been for me and to experience in a new way the tremendous impact this has had on me and my life path!

We then spent some time looking at the ways in which we individually discriminate against others – not an easy discussion!  This was another huge learning opportunity which gave me the chance to re-think how I want to show up in the world!  Again, so grateful for the learning.  Personally, this gives me a stronger foundation of understanding and more courage to do what has been in my heart for a long time!

Finally, we explored our ‘locus of control’ or where we might be able to use this work to influence our own behaviors and work and interactions and where we might have some sort of positive influence.  We also discussed where it was probably going to be impossible to have any influence.  My take-away message is that I will work where I can have some influence and trust that these baby steps are impacting systems but that it will take time to see systems-level changes (even though I trust they are happening)!  And, by the end of the day, I reconnected with old School of Public Health Colleagues and new colleagues to start a grass-roots effort to impact the culture in our own School of Public Health.  This was an unexpected outcoome!  All-in-all, a very productive, healing, and hopeful day!

**NOTE:  We invite other attendees to share their stories.**

Written by: Kris Risley, DrPH, CPCC,  MCHP Continuing Education Director & Clinical Assistant Professor

Photo: Bekeela Watson, MPH , MCHP Graduate Education Coordinator and Kris Risley (right to left)