Transylvania strives to carry out diversity and inclusion efforts through a theme marked by the phrase “Unlearn Fear + Hate.” Professors Kurt Gohde and Kremena Todorova were inspired by Affrilachian poet Frank X Walker’s poem titled “Love Letta to De Worl’.” The duo arrived at the phrase by recognizing fear often leads to hate.
“It suggests that fear and hate are behaviors we have learned, that they are not our natural state,” Gohde and Todorova state in their initiative.
The project also acts as a response to the growing debate over two statues, that of Confederate General John Hunt Morgan and John C. Breckinridge. The controversial statues stand in a recreational hub of downtown Lexington that formerly served as a prominent location for trade and selling of slaves. Through their work, Gohde and Todorova address why it is important to acknowledge the historical impacts of artwork and consider its removal in order to encourage growth away from our past beliefs.
“It suggests that fear and hate are behaviors we have learned, that they are not our natural state,” Kurt Gohde and Kremena Todorova state in their initiative.
Not surprisingly, the phrase has made its way into Transylvania academia. This school year the phrase will be the theme for academics. No time was wasted in implementing the theme, proven in the August Term curriculum, which involved over 100 members of the first year class of 2020 being the first to experience an on-campus project under the theme. Students carried out an artistic project in which they painted, using temporary paint, the phrase “Unlearn Fear + Hate” on the asphalt of Bourbon Street. The placement of the artwork is symbolic itself.
“If we question all of these norms, it makes us value things even more. As far as the liberal arts, it challenges us on how to think and deal with real-world issues,” said JT Henderson.
“Bourbon Street is a good example of how Transy connects to the community. I think that was a good location to put it,” stated junior August Term Scholar J.T. Henderson.
Bourbon Street is a connecting point between Transy’s campus and the north end of the Lexington community. There is an ongoing effort to appropriately encourage student interaction within the community.
“If we question all of these norms, it makes us value things even more. As far as the liberal arts, it challenges us on how to think and deal with real-world issues,” said Henderson.
Henderson also noted the motto: “Question everything. Accomplish anything,” to stress the importance of community engagement and its importance in a fulfilling liberal arts education.
Transylvania senior, Social Practice Art major and August Term Scholar Teddy Salazar shared her strong appreciation for the initiative’s ability to reflect contemporary societal issues in a collaborative artistic setting.
“I personally feel like the mission of the statement is to get people to start reflecting on the fears that they embody and project on other people,” said Salazar. “I believe that people who are racist or hateful towards people are that way because they are ignorant and afraid of these things they aren’t familiar with. And seriously, the unknown is scary. I respect and understand that. But once you are able to reflect on your own fears, you can try to learn about those things that make you afraid and maybe by becoming familiar with them, you aren’t as afraid.”
The theme of “Unlearn Fear + Hate” being an integral part of the Transylvania experience puts its students one step closer to making a valuable impact in the world. Look for the “halos” that read “Unlearn Fear + Hate” around Lexington. One currently hangs upon the 21c Hotel, in close proximity to the controversial statues that illuminate America’s dark history that birthed the fear and hatred that is practiced today. Another hangs at the Village Branch Lexington Public Library, which provides an abundance of titles that have been translated to Spanish to accommodate for its growing Spanish-speaking population. The halo reads “borremos el miedo y el odio.”