Emily Rónay Johnston

Associate Director, Dimensions of Culture Program, University of California San Diego
Emily Rónay Johnston

Emily Ronay Johnston, a White European American cis woman with green sunhat

I am a teacher, administrator, researcher, and activist working to end all forms of violence. Writing is my medium. Writing in its myriad forms can transform the systems of domination that perpetrate and perpetuate violence. It is this very power that compelled me to pursue a career in writing. I have administered and taught courses in composition, rhetoric, gender studies, trauma studies, film studies, and English as a Second Language. I hold a Ph.D. in English Studies (2016) and a Graduate Certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies (2016) from Illinois State University, an M.F.A. in Creative Writing/Poetry (2007) from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and a B.A. in Women’s and Gender Studies (2002) from the University of California Davis. Today, you can find me at the University of California San Diego, where I am the Associate Director of and a Lecturer in the Dimensions of Culture Writing Program. When I’m not teaching or writing, I’m probably hiking, pleasure reading, or cuddling with my cats, Patu and Glacia. www.emilyronayjohnston.org

Workshop: "Sharing Lessons Learned: From Antiracist Programming to Antiracist Conferences

Date: Thursday, April 22, 4:30-6 pm EST

Description: This session will function as a workshop on developing and implementing feedback and reporting mechanisms for conferences to assess their antiracist performance objectives. Drawing from their own experiences of piloting an antiracist pedagogy initiative and a learning/teaching for justice conference at their home institution, the presenters will showcase lessons they have learned about antiracist programming in higher education, and guide participants in developing strategies for transferring those lessons into the context of antiracist professional conferences. Ultimately, participants will come away with a drafted set of best practices for designing and assessing antiracist conferences centered on intersectional collaboration, collective accountability, and radical care.

The workshop will open with a case study of antiracist programming at the presenters’ home institution. Emily Rónay Johnston will describe the Certificate in Antiracist Writing Pedagogy Program she has developed to support first-year writing instructors in crafting a teaching philosophy and toolbox of practical methods for resisting White supremacy. As recent composition scholarship makes clear (Condon & Young, 2016; Inoue, 2015; Inoue & Poe, 2012), first-year writing (FYW) is entrenched in Whiteness. And, since FYW is among the strongest predictors of student success in higher education (see Garret, Bridgewater, & Feinstein, 2017), FYW is an ideal site for teaching students to interrogate the standard language ideology that permeates higher education in the U.S. As she will explain, sustaining such a program cannot and should not occur in a vacuum. To live up to its founding principles of naming and actively resisting White supremacy, the program requires collaboration with campus communities across disciplines and units, such as teaching resource centers, writing centers, student resource centers, and upper-level administrators positioned to amplify the expedience of antiracist pedagogy campus-wide. 

Amanda Solomon Amorao will describe one outcome of these intersectional cross-campus collaborations: the inaugural Learning/Teaching for Justice Conference (or LTJC) at the presenters’ home institution, which emerged from the deep work of building the antiracist pedagogy program that Johnston will describe. The LTJC centers student voices and takes as its point of departure Paulo Freire's notion of the teacher-student/student-teacher in order to break down racist and elitist hierarchies between undergraduates, graduates, faculty, and staff in higher education. The conference aims to cultivate an active, interactive, and inclusive space for educators to be students, and for students to educate. In planning and executing the LTJC, the organizing committee has learned important lessons for enacting an antiracist conference structure. The first lesson is that collaboration with BIPOC and LGBTQ+ students, faculty, and staff in conference design is the starting point. Second, to ensure that conference committees are indeed composed of collaborations among BIPOC and LGBTQ+ students, faculty, and staff, conference committees must look beyond themselves for support. The final lesson is transparency above all. 

Taken together, the Certificate in Antiracist Writing Pedagogy and the LJTC illustrate both the complexity and opportunity of antiracist programming. After presenting a brief case study of the presenters’ home institution, the session will shift into a workshop in which participants will dialogue and collectively draft a set of best practices for convening and assessing antiracism in professional conferences. The workshop will center on three key areas for antiracist conference assessment, based on the presenters’ lessons learned at their home institution:

  1. Intersectional collaboration. Intersectional collaboration in the context of antiracist conferences means that in planning and hosting conferences, conference committees must prioritize participation from BIPOC and LGBTQ+ students, faculty, staff, and community stakeholders.   
  2. Collective accountability. To sustain intersectional collaboration, conference committees must be grounded in collective accountability: a shared responsibility for reflecting on how the committee is living up to its vision of antiracism, especially when that may mean calling out instances or patterns of racism occurring within the committee.
  3. Radical care. Just as intersectional collaboration cannot function without collective accountability, collective accountability cannot function without radical care. Radical care is the daily work of humanizing ourselves and each other in antiracist spaces. Humanizing ourselves and each other means that we regard one another as complex people working within hierarchical institutions who are navigating interrelated systems of domination as we may also, especially amidst a pandemic, experience grief and loss, parent small children while working from home, struggle to put food on the table, and effort to find balance in our everyday lives. Radical care means that we are not only aware of these realities for ourselves and each other, but that we actively make space to share these realities and to integrate them into the work of antiracism.