#MySacredStory: Osita Iroegbu, Virginia
Community Trustbuilding Fellowship Alumni 2017
I serve as a community advocate, activist educator and communications professional. Born and raised in Richmond, VA, I am a first-generation Nigerian-American and am currently a PhD student at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) where I focus on the intersection of media, race, health and social justice. My dissertation research is aimed at understanding the psychophysiological impacts of exposure to stereotypes in the media. I've worked as a journalist at the Richmond Times-Dispatch and as public relations manager at both Virginia State University and Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority.
I joined the CTF program to connect with other truth and justice seekers as we aim to strengthen our ability and capacity to resist and persist in the face of injustice and effect positive transformation within our communities. I also hope to strengthen my leadership and community facilitation skills to help ensure engaging, constructive and transformative discourse around race, justice and healing.
The level of creative dialogue and engagement embedded in each CTF learning objective module takes Fellows on a new experience emotionally, academically and physically. We not only dig into critical race and justice issues from a historical perspective and lay bare the remnants of historical trauma, we also attempt to step into the experiences that those before us suffered-- such as during our walk along Richmond's Trail of Enslaved Africans -- to more fully understand the deep level of acknowledgment, ancestral homage and healing that still needs to take place.
This program is distinctive in that it helps situate Fellows of different backgrounds in uncomfortable yet necessary learning experiences while simultaneously equipping us with tools and knowledge to recognize both the pain of racism and societal injustice and the beauty of the possibility of hope and transformation. Through readings and intense, interactive workshops, we deepen our understanding of the role we play and the responsibility that we have within the process.
For me, challenges lead to opportunities. As a 2017 Community Trustbuilding Fellow, we are all challenged to dig deeper and think more critically as we work to construct a narrative of truth, inclusivity and healing. The possibility that this process involves considering not only the narratives of the oppressed, but also that of the oppressor is a perplexing one that can leave one reluctant to do so. This can be an uncomfortable act, because who really wants to evaluate and attempt to understand evil and oppression? However, there is an unveiling that occurs when we peel back both historical and contemporary layers that can lead us to more nuanced discussions about how to identify the root causes of racism and bigotry in all of its forms, dismantle systems of oppression and reconstruct structures and spaces of justice, where the stories, experiences, truths and lives of the historically marginalized and oppressed are not only included, but are centered and elevated. Discussions and workshops surrounding the practice of mindfulness as a transformative technique and strategy on both an individual and collective level within social justice work have also been insightful.
The social and political climate in which we find ourselves today on a local, national and global scale call for an increasing level of awareness, engagement and trustbuilding on all fronts. From issues such as race, poverty, education, immigration, housing, healthcare and criminal justice, we are in need of more profound, honest communication and a greater and more accurate expansion of narratives that incorporate the experiences, voices and contributions of everyone. CTF's mission to cultivate leaders to meet these needs, in an innovative, transformative and intersectional way, is quite timely and very much needed.