Life has a curious way of reminding you who is the boss. Most recently, I’ve been out of commission due to a spine surgery that I delayed because of an intense desire to get one more thing done. And, get it done I did. But now, I am taking time to heal, not because I necessarily want to, but because it is required of me to slow down and allow my body a chance to renew and refresh. Unfortunately, our bodies are unlike computer screens that refresh in minutes; instead, our bodies renew only after a slow and patient wait. This recovery time has given me a moment to reflect on the nature of being broken or worn down by life.

We live in a time where we can honor the fullness of our histories, not only the battles won but the costs to others, the slow wait to rights and the failure to recognize our common humanity — and that includes the broken places.

Just last weekend, there were PRIDE festivals all over the valley, highlighting LGBTQ+ Pride as well as the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall riots, where members the LGBTQ+ community violently protested a police raid at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village. It seems hard to imagine a time when LGBTQ+ individuals did not have the right to marry or have housing or sexual orientation and gender identity protections in the workplace. Much of that changed by Utah law in 2014 and 2015. In 2019, our state Legislature passed a bill to criminalize hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It has been a slow, painful process, but we have become stronger in those broken places because now we clearly see what our delays in these human rights have done to us all.

Juneteenth is right around the corner, this year celebrated on June 15 and 16. This is another time for education and awareness about our culture and society as we celebrate the end of slavery. Most people believe that slavery ended with the Emancipation Proclamation, however, this is not true. Recognizing that freedom for some was not freedom for all is critical as it helps us understand the development of Jim Crow and the decades of harassment, racism and hostility still experienced by Blacks and African Americans to this day.

This year, much time will be spent reflecting on the fact that 400 years ago, America’s first slaves arrived in Virginia. It is imperative we look to the fuller history to understand how people can be broken but unbowed, remaining the captain of their souls as today, we continue to struggle to define what is moral and just in contemporary society.

This brings me back to the broken places. We live in a culture that likes to win, in fact, we seek the win. However, there is value in exploring the places that we have lost or been broken. It tells us something, not only about ourselves but about those around us. Think about the Golden Spike sesquicentennial last month. There is a very easy narrative about the joining of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific with the golden spike, and it is one worth celebrating.

The fuller story is more powerful. Understanding the people of the time who toiled together and apart to unite the country through a railway system tells us more. The bulk of railway builders were Chinese men. In addition, there were Black, Irish, German and women among them. When we begin to understand how cultural dynamics and beliefs determined positions, pay and engagement, we can begin to understand why people operated in segregation.

The fuller understanding of these celebrations reminds me of the Japanese concept, Kintsukuroi. It means “golden repair.” It is a centuries old method of fixing broken pottery with gold, silver or platinum. Thus, the broken crockery becomes unique and special by emphasizing its fissures and fractures instead of hiding or ignoring them. In this way, we take our history and our celebrations and honor the fuller history, we become stronger in the broken places, moving us into a new way of living and being in the world.

I invite you to join us across the summer in celebrations that honor and expand the telling of our histories, cultures and identities. Look for the broken places, that is where we are strongest.

Adrienne G. Andrews is Assistant Vice President for Diversity and Chief Diversity Officer at Weber State University.

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