Wishes for the future: How would you imagine your environment needing to be for you to feel that you don’t have to do DEI work anymore?

The environment will have the following:

  • agency – for anyone to grow into their own power in a healthy healing way
  • autonomy – to be self-determining and independent, to be exactly who I am without code switching
  • belonging – the spirit of being seen, being heard, being appreciated in your full humanity change
  • transformation – which at the root, is the difference between transactional work or transformational work.

Keesa V. Johnson

2nd Year Master’s Student, Integrative Design

Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design

Being your best DEI self: Think of a time when you were at your best at advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion. What happened? Who was there? Why did you feel at your best?

I came to Michigan due to its invested interest in DEI as an initiative throughout campus. What I have learned from being a part of the DEI Professional Certificate program and having conversations with Robert Sellers, the Chief Diversity Officer, that it was created to be a subversive strategy to the current structures in place at the university. It was not created to uphold the status quo. So when I’m in any class I ask with deep reverence if there are any black or indigenous design methods that can be used in my design research. As a DEI practitioner, cultivating a sense of belonging is a part of my professional design values, so it’s within my everyday thinking to create “bridging patterns” through the designerly questions I ask of myself and that of others. I should see a reflection of myself in the courses I take. Also, as a designer, if I am here to dissolve/solve a solution to a historical problem, I need tools that pull the root of the problem out to see the “breaking patterns” it perpetually creates within our organizations and society. I can only find those tools within the margins of society.

What does it mean to you to be a recipient of the MLK Spirit Awards?