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Doing the Work: Dr. Atiera Coleman’s Address

On February 3, 2022, Beloit College formally introduced its celebration of Black History Month with a keynote address from Dr. Atiera Coleman, Rock County Equity Manager, former Beloit College Associate Dean of Students, and class of 2010. This virtual address was streamed to the college’s youtube channel from 4:15pm to 5:15pm. 

The event was opened by Cecil Youngblood, Dean of Students and Chief Diversity Officer. He spoke of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with praise, calling him, “the GOAT, if you will–the greatest of all time,” affirming that the college has, and will continue, to do better over time in creating and maintaining an equitable and antiracist environment for staff and students. Youngblood constructed the notion that Beloit college will continue to further King’s equitable vision every day.

Subsequently, President Scott Bierman described his own journey towards a more equitable life, describing his “what would Cecil do?” (WWCD) test. Whenever unsure of what to do in a situation, Bierman explains that he thinks about how Youngblood would approach the issue; “When confronted with a WWCD moment, the first sentence out of his mouth will be do the right thing.” Using this framework, Bierman goes on to explain that the college’s goal is ultimately to do the right thing. This includes an “ongoing commitment to do the work.” In this way, Bierman illustrates the importance of active engagement and assurance towards a more equitable future. In order to make any progress “the work,” as he puts it, must be done.

Dr. Atiera ties the two preceding talks together, commenting on the ongoing importance of continuing King’s work, not just as a pop-culture icon but a radical activist for urgent change, as well as Beloit’s commitment to doing the work with its “Becoming Better” plan. This plan is an outlet to make spaces more inclusive and equitable throughout every facet of the college. It strives to tread equity into every space, but it can only do so if every individual in the community is invested in doing the work.

There are six ongoing, distinct goals in this plan to do the work: strengthen the foundation, grow the community, spread knowledge, share a common language, create spaces for the black experience, and resist injustice. Each of these goals is key in the effort to enact real, systematic change to the Beloit community. Some actions that have been taken in heedance of these goals include, new additions to the board, the addition of an equity advisor role, restructuring the application process, revising majors of academic study, and the creation of Grace’s Place, among others. Ultimately, the Beloit College Becoming Better plan is about just that: becoming better through engaging in the work and amplifying current efforts in that work.

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