Imago Dei, a video series and movement started by a group of Lee students and dedicated to starting conversations about social justice issues and recognizing the image of God in everyone, held an event called “Imago Dei Live: Our Uncomfortable Conversations.”
According to Kat Lange, a senior accounting major and one of the founders of Imago Dei, the event was focused on conversations people usually “shy away from,” including immigration, police brutality, and hope.
“Our hope after all of our events is that people leave with a broadened perspective and a greater love for their neighbor,” said Dhuranique Ferguson, a senior exercise science major and another one of the founders. “We all strive to see the ‘Imago Dei’ in everyone.”
Speakers for the event included Lee students Brandon Akiona, Mareline Alfaro, Stephen Carter, Jalyn Poynter, Riley Smith, James White, and David Williams, along with Dr. Carolyn Dirksen, distinguished professor emeritus of English. The event was structured around three conversations with a time for reflection and discussion after each.
During the conversation on immigration, Ms. Alfaro, a senior sociology major, told her story about immigrating to the United States from El Salvador and her experience as a DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) student. Mr. Akiona, Ms. Alfaro, and Dr. Dirksen also discussed what it means to be an ally to those students.
The second conversation focused on police brutality, and Ms. Poynter, a senior nursing major, told about her experience as a Black woman with a white mother and a Black father who works in law enforcement. Ms. Poynter and Mr. Williams then discussed the humanity of the communities involved in the recent civil unrest and the conversations that need to be had.
According to Mr. Williams, a senior elementary education major and another founder of Imago Dei, police brutality stems from a lack of communication between the community and law enforcement. “People need to be willing to compromise and see humanity in one another.”
The last conversation focused on hope. Mr. Carter, Ms. Smith, and Mr. White discussed the importance of having hope and recognizing the ‘Imago Dei’ in everyone amidst difficult times. They also noted how vital honesty and understanding is when having thoughtful conversations.
“We need to have these conversations with open minds, willing hearts, and an understanding that it’s not going to be an easy thing because we have preconceived notions and ideas,” said Mr. Carter, a senior business administration major. “We need to be willing to fully understand the other side and things we may have never heard about before. Conversations like this help us realize the true reality and weight of a lot of difficult situations.”
The speakers also discussed their hopes for the future of Imago Dei and the Lee campus as a whole.
“In the next four years, I hope to see us come together, not as Christians or as Lee students, but as human beings, because then we will really be able to see the humanity and the divinity in everyone,” said Mr. White.
Imago Dei focuses on having hard conversations that help the campus unify and recognize the image of God in everyone. It was started by seniors Ferguson, Lange, and Williams in August 2020, who felt called to start the movement after the summer of civil unrest. They are part of Lee’s Office of Racial and Ethnic Relations, directed by Gloria Scott-Richmond, and according to Lange, they function as a “bridging network that connects all areas of campus” with uncomfortable but vital conversations.
“I clearly remember my first encounter with the founders of the Imago Dei movement, specifically their desire to address the pain and stain of racial injustice,” said Ms. Scott-Richmond. “Their mission and vision were clear: seek not to be catered to, but serve with humility to seek the path that leads to racial reconciliation. My prayer is that the work of Imago Dei and focused, transformative conversations will continue, reflecting the will of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
To view the entire event, visit https://youtu.be/wcDesVSSGXA.
For more information about Imago Dei, including past and upcoming events, and access to the movement’s Instagram and YouTube pages, visit https://sites.google.com/view/imago-dei-club/home.