An online writing movement
by Damele Elliott Collier
I began the Our Lives Matter movement as a freewriting assignment in a First-Year Writing classroom at Baruch College. It embodies the idea that we achieve liberation, and consequently an improved society, when we develop the individual, as well as when we form a coalition of people with the common goal of liberation and social uplift. Our Lives Matter encourages students to ask themselves a simple-yet-complex question: Why do their lives matter?
This movement purports the belief that regardless of the color of their skin, their social class, their sexual orientation, their gender, or their religious background, their lives are of distinct and unquantifiable value. By encouraging them to write about why their lives matter, it affirms their power and allows them to resist political, cultural, and social erasure. This is essential as they continue to seek collaboration, meaning, and identity, and as they strive to make a positive difference in a fractured society.
The Our Lives Matter Movement can be accessed on several platforms: the OLM Instagram is baruch_olm. Here students can view powerful and inspirational videos from their peers that explain why their lives matter. If your students would like to make their own videos and have them featured on the OLM Instagram, please contact me. The official website of the movement is blogs.baruch.cuny.edu/ourlivesmatter. Students can post to this blog at any time. Also, Our Lives Matter was recently published in an international online publication, In The Write, with a blog that features the poetry of Baruch students and a video of students explaining why their lives matter. For most of the students who participated, this was their first opportunity to see their work published. It was gratifying to see students recognized for their hard work on this project. It allowed them to see the benefits of collaboration, and it also created an opportunity for dialogue around the topic of their potential to positively impact society, not just nationally, but globally.
In 2019, I had the opportunity to present the Our Lives Matter Movement at the Council of Writing Program Administrator Conference, in Baltimore, Maryland, at the Conference on Community Writing, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and at CUNY IT Conference, in New York, New York. The aim of these presentations was to invite both composition instructors and instructors from across the curriculum to consider incorporating OLM into their classrooms, either as an overarching theme, or as a stand-alone or extra-credit assignment. Since then, instructors from the College of Staten Island and Medgar Evers College have joined Baruch in this collaborative effort. It is our hope that instructors throughout CUNY and nationwide will consider implementing the Our Lives Matter online writing movement in their classrooms and utilizing this digital intervention to improve student engagement and promote positive mental health among students.
Damele Elliott Collier is an adjunct instructor at Baruch College and Medgar Evers College. She is a PhD Candidate at The Graduate Center, CUNY. Her dissertation, entitled “‘Tell Them about the Dream Martin!’”: The Retelling, Reframing, and Re-examination of the Civil Rights Movement through a Black Feminist Lens” highlights her interest in the way in which gender and racial politics intersected within the Black liberation movement, commonly referred to as the Civil Rights Movement. Her specific research project investigates the suppression of Black Female Rhetoric by Black male leaders during that time. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.