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A graphic designed to start a conversation

April  10, 2015

A member of the women’s track & field team, Kayla Bushey ’16 designed a poster for her graphics design class that caught the attention of coaches, professors and college administrators. A banner with Bushey’s design now hangs at Augustana’s Paul V. Olsen Track.

As she explains in her artist’s statement, the message is simple: don’t get nervous about “race,” whether it’s a run or a different skin tone.

"‘Race' is what track people do. It's also what we think, and in track both the run and the social concept of ‘race' are blended daily with the consciousness focused on the differences showing on a stopwatch (first, second, third...) and on the similarities of the people, the goals, the efforts."

— Dr. Paul Olsen,
professor of English
head coach, men's cross country
and track and field

Artist's statement
by Kayla Bushey '16

"don't be nervous. it's just a race. is inspired from the things I love most, track and field and education. This is a simple poster with powerful meaning to take a deeper look into educating people about the racial discrimination of our society. Racial injustice is a big thing to tackle but it takes just one step, one conversation, to start people moving in the right direction. We need to stop being afraid, and push boundaries to learn and start talking.

"All too often we forget not only how far we have come to establishing equality, but also how far we still need to go. Track and field is introduced in the idea with a double play on the word "race." While one refers to the nerves before competing in a meet, the other refers to the fear of offending others of different skin tones.

"The poster would ideally be placed as a banner at a track stadium during a meet to connect with the people there and inspire conversation. Always remember — don't be nervous. it's just a race.

"This poster was created to fulfill an assignment in Graphic Design 225, led by Vicki Phipps, assistant professor of art. After struggling for 10 weeks, with Vicki and I pushing ideas back and forth, the idea finally emerged and became concrete."

Kayla Bushey takes the lead

A graduate of Luther North High School in Chicago, Kayla Bushey '16 has taken advantage of many opportunities during her three years at Augustana. She has become a leader in the classroom, on the athletic field and in the campus community.

A communication studies major with a graphic design minor, Bushey is a dean's list student. She also is on her way to earning her third varsity letter as a member of the track and field team. A CCIW all-conference performer a year ago, she competes in the heptathlon, jumps and javelin.

On campus, Bushey worked as a Residential Life community advisor before she moved into the role of senior community advisor last summer. She has helped create marketing strategies targeted for diverse demographics by planning educational programs for students.

Notes from a Provost: Complexities of Identity

By Dr. Pareena Lawrence

I saw the graphic of this banner and I smiled inside. The rebel that lurks within my soul grinned at how the cleverness of the banner carefully presented a provocative and important message. Then the administrator in me took over and my thoughts quickly morphed into anxiety. My focus became risk mitigation: How will people react? What if they feel the statement "It's just a race" minimizes or overstates the significance of race and racial discrimination in our society?

The anxious thoughts crystallized into doubts, second-guessing and self-censorship. I wondered: Do I really want to approve this project and subject us all to uncomfortable questions, inevitable misunderstandings and possible hurt? Since I am a woman of color, will people just minimize the significance of whatever stance I take? Wouldn't it be easier for all if this just went away?

I had to consciously stop myself from diving into the rabbit hole of second-guessing. I am a woman of color sitting in a decision-making capacity, and I am not going to turn away from this opportunity because I am afraid it might rock the boat. I am going to own this moment because I can and I must. I am going to open up this conversation right here and now.

First and foremost, we are an educational institution. If students and our community do not feel safe discussing and wrestling with difficult and uncomfortable issues at a liberal arts college, where could they possibly find another space to grapple with issues of race, privilege, inequality and public policy? Starbucks? No. Liberal arts institutions pride themselves as places where students learn to reason, to think critically, to ask the right questions, to understand, to examine the past so they can better understand the present, to grow in their understanding and expand their consciousness. So yes, the banner should go up.

Yet, we must not stop there. We have to do more. We must come together and talk about these difficult issues and build community. This webpage is a start.

I am grateful to Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, who had the audacity to launch a national conversation of race in a public space within his purview. I agree that the setting — even with its global reach — did not lend itself well to a discussion on race, and so the effort cooled (so to speak). But what space could be better than a liberal arts college? I know this makes us nervous because we are afraid to say the wrong thing or offend others. We worry that people may look at us differently. Yes, that is a risk. But it is a risk worth taking, because as people, we must genuinely care about each other and the world we will bequeath our children and our students.

Kayla plans to lead a discussion on "It's Just a Race" at the 2015 Celebration of Learning. I am hopeful that faculty, coaches, staff and student organizations will take the lead on our campus in talking about race and the lived experiences of people of color.