Below the Radar Transcript

Episode 121: Community-Engaged Learning — with Timothy Eatman and Mohamed Farge

Speakers: Kathy Feng, Am Johal, Timothy Eatman, Mohamed Farge

[theme music]

Kathy Feng  0:01 
Hello listeners, I'm Kathy Feng with Below the Radar, a knowledge democracy podcast. Below the Radar is recorded on the territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples. On this episode, our host Am Johal is joined by Dr. Timothy Eatman and Mohamed Farge. Timothy is an educational sociologist, a professor and the inaugural dean of the Honors Living-Learning Community at Rutgers University in Newark. Mohamed is a junior at Rutgers University and a scholar at the HLLC. Together, they discussed community-engaged scholarship and research and the importance of creativity and personal narrative to community engagement. Enjoy the episode.

[theme music fades]

Am Johal  0:43 
Hi, everyone. Welcome again to Below the Radar. Delighted that you could join us. I'm really excited to have Timothy Eatman and Mohamed Farge with us today. We are going to be talking about community engagement and community-engaged research. I'm going to ask, why don't we start with you, Timothy to introduce yourself a little bit? 

Timothy Eatman  1:03 
Yes, thanks so much. It's a pleasure to be here. And, you know, Below the Radar is like where I like to flow. So, it's good to be in a space with this dynamic theme. So, my name is Tim Eatman. I'm an educational sociologist, and I do, you know, work in the area of equity issues in higher education generally. But a lot of my research has focused on publicly-engaged scholarship and faculty rewards, frankly. How we acknowledge the contributions of knowledge making in the 21st century, which are far more expensive than what they used to be. One expression of that is my current work as the inaugural dean of the honors Living Learning Community at Rutgers University, Newark where I'm also a faculty member. And I hail from Harlem, New York. My graduate work or doctoral work was at the University of Illinois, Champaign Urbana, and a Master's from an HBCU, the Howard University, which you may be aware of, and my undergrad was in New York at Pace University. But the work that I'm doing now with the Honors Living-Learning Community, which is part of the honors enterprise at Rutgers-Newark, has me engaging these stars like Mohamed Farge, who I'm delighted to be on with today. And I'm excited for us to have some discourse around what's going on in the HLLC. And how that is relating to his evolution as a young scholar, and so on. I invite Mohamed to share a little bit about his background.

Mohamed Farge  2:38 
Absolutely. Now, that's a tough person to follow, in any realm, but particularly in this space. I'll do my best. But yeah, my name is Mohamed Farge. I also attend Rutgers University in Newark. I major in finance and I minor in social justice, part of the Honors Living-Learning Community, as a scholar at Rutgers-Newark right now, class of 2018. So I'm a junior right now. So really excited to be a part of some of the some of the initiatives that Dean Eatman speaks about and, and also bring forth ideas that I may have that I think that could definitely be useful in community impact. And I'm just very excited to be here, very excited to work with Dean Eatman, excited to like Dean said, have that dialogue about, you know, the topics that you're going to bring forth to us, Am.

Am Johal  3:19 
Yeah, and, you know, as I said to you before we started recording, that combination of social justice and finance is such an important set of skills to bring together. It's interdisciplinary by nature, but oftentimes lacking in social justice movements, or bringing to bear those pieces. And you know, Timothy, we met a long time ago at various conferences. I was just starting my job as a staff person in community engagement and looking to hear different voices just trying to understand this work a little better, because I come from working in government and nonprofits and this type of thing. And university-community engagement has a long history in the US, which is, you know, slightly different than Canada. But I'm just wondering if you could speak a little bit about the importance of research within community engagement, because that's a piece that you have really articulated very well about the importance of the evidentiary part of community engagement, why it's important and how to build on that work or broader impact.

Timothy Eatman  4:17 
My story is not possible without higher education, period, full stop, end of sentence. You follow me? It is not possible. And I won't go into the history of higher education, although I could because I'm a student of higher education. But for me, this milieu is really about knowledge making. And we get fancy and we talk about scholarship and all of that, right. But when it comes down to it, knowledge making happens in a whole lot of places. I have a daughter who's in an MD-PhD program now, and her great grandmother has just transitioned a few months ago, and she spoke no English, only Spanish. And she was the midwife in the village in Colombia where she grew up. Mita transitioned at 103 years old. And my daughter is also fluent, but I love hearing them have a discourse about obstetrics, you follow what I mean? Whereas Africali had an appreciation for the latest state of the art technology, she also knew that Meeta's perspective on knowledge making, about reproduction, about delivering new humans to the world was as valuable as some of the technology that she has. And so, when you ask me about research, and publicly-engaged scholarship, and please hear me well, I talked about publicly-engaged scholarship, a lot of people talk about community engagement, and that's fine. I don't quibble over the semantics. But there's something about going beyond just public engagement. Because, you know, gentrification is public engagement. You know, the idea of scholarship and knowledge making wrapped up in the core of publicly-engaged work is really quite powerful to me. And it really presses us to think in more sophisticated ways about what knowledge making is and how knowledge relates beyond the field. You talked a minute ago about Mohamed's penchant for finance, and community engagement, right? We forget that folks like Bernie Madoff, you may not know Him in Canada, but the dastardly Ponzi scheme that, you know, like he went to college. And so if we're going to heal our communities, if we're going to do the kinds of ameliorative things in our society, we need young Farges to approach and bring to bear an imagination around the use of finance, but in ways that are healing, in ways that pitch towards democratic practice and justice. And we need an evidentiary base for that. I hope I'm not rambling. I wanted to give a few examples. But we can certainly talk in more detail about the importance of research, creating an evidentiary base that is not restricted to the academy. Knowledge does not only live at Rutgers-Newark. Ra our knowledge lives in our mosques. Knowledge lives in our civic centers, and in our synagogues, and in our churches and knowledge lives with our fraternities and sororities. There was a whole lot of knowledge there when I attended that beautiful tribute to Jim Green, in the memorial that was held there where you invited me. And so I'm very sensitive, when we think about knowledge making, not to think of it in a shrinking imaginative way, but with prophetic imagination, to think about the variety of artifacts of knowledge that can be produced with respect to publicly-engaged work. I think I'm rambling.

Am Johal  8:19 
No, no, not at all. I was gonna ask, Mohamed, you as a grad student, what draws you into the work in terms of community engagement, your own sort of areas of interest, how you try to pull this together? I mean, it's a problematic world of authoritarian populism and climate change, and so many things wrong with the world. It'd be wonderful to get your perspective on what brings you into this kind of work.

Timothy Eatman  8:44 
Did you call him a grad student?

Mohamed Farge  8:46 

Am Johal  8:48 
Yeah. Well, you already talk like a grad student and I know you're going there.

Mohamed Farge  8:54 
So, and that's a really interesting question that you posed as to what really captivated me to go into this space. What made me want to say, for example, apply for the HLLC, the Honors Living-Learning Community, because of the work that they do. And like Dean said, the engagement that they have the public engagement in the community engagement that they have. And so I remember having a conversation earlier with Dean Eatman and saying that, if it wasn't Rutgers, Newark, HLLC, so the three layers of Rutgers, of Newark, of HLLC, then I would have went to Howard University, at an HBCU, to truly understand and to truly gauge the more effective ways to really connect with people just of that alma mater and have the people who attended that university. But I believe one of the key reasons that got me into this space is because, at a very young age, I knew that I understood that I wanted to live for a very long time, you know. And with that, I wanted to live in a place that I wanted to live in. You know, it's as simple as looking at it as moving into a neighbourhood, in, you look at the pros and cons of the neighbourhood of things that come along with that. And this is a little bit more tricky because you're not really moving into a space, but you're actually creating the space. And you could partake in that creation and partake in that development. And the earlier you get into it, the better, the more input you have as to really figuring out what you want to see in the community that you live in, that you wake up in every single day. And before I attended Rutgers, I was really engaged with a councilman here at Ward E in Jersey City. I was really engaged with the president right now at Jersey City Board of Education, Mussab Ali. And that all falls under the same umbrella from the grand scheme of things, that may seem all over the place in terms of, you know, as you mentioned, this climate change and things that you could focus on. But that all falls under the umbrella of wanting actionable change that you know would better the society that you live in today. And I get asked this all the time, from both ends of the spectrum from social justice scholars and from individuals who work in the finance world as to why is that my makeup? Why do I major in finance, but also decided to minor in social justice? Because you don't want to spread yourself too thin. And I feel like it's that... Dean, I hope you speak a little bit about this as we go on. But that shrinking imagination of you can only really focus on one thing. So why did you decide to choose two things, right? But when you really put things into perspective, and, you know, God willing, we live 100 years, and we want to make those 100 years as impactful as possible. And our entire purpose is to make this world a better place. While we leave it as it was when we first came in, then you start to understand that these things are really interdependent, and really, is the reason why we live in a society that we live in today, for better and for worse. And so you could start making actionable change. And I think the earlier you get into certain aspects of life, the better.

Am Johal  11:51 
Wow, that's such an amazing perspective you're bringing to bear on this work, you know, in terms of immediate crises that we have, obviously, the pandemic has brought a lot of things onto the surface. The crises existed before, but this thing just placed it onto the surface and made it really visible. And I'm wondering how you both think about how it affects knowledge making, higher education, the community at large. I mean, obviously, the American election is one symptom, and certainly the border, these ideas don't just stop at the border. They come up here as well and affect things broadly. In my class as well, you know, we're talking about India and Brazil and Turkey and real challenges to what is happening around democracy and in communities and, and this idea of enemies within the country, enemies outside of it. And, you know, how are you thinking through the pandemic kind of period and all of the stuff that's come up to the surface? I mean, Tim, you're a dean now. So you've got a whole lot of people to answer to and, and things like that. But how do you think about your role, being situated at a university, about what it's going to mean to come out on the other side of this pandemic, a very changed world?

Timothy Eatman  13:10 
Whoo, wow. I'm kind of glad this is not a video podcast, because that way folks don't get to see how white my hair is. You're kind. You're not saying anything about how much whiter my hair is now than when you saw me last. But this is not disconnected from all of the stuff that we're going through. It's actually hereditary as well. But it's an important point, right? There are two or three things I want to just touch on about what the pandemic has meant, in terms of my particular work. One is that, as a sociologist, it has really provided some profound examples of what we have been talking about in this work, profound examples. So, you know, it's a little bit more difficult for those who do not want to see, to say that structural racism doesn't exist. I mean, they could say they still say it, right. But it's, it's hard, it's real hard for them to, like, say it with conviction, you follow what I mean. Because it's, you know, and, you know, for a community, like the Honors Living-Learning Community where we challenge young people to grapple with this stuff, you know. Mohamed, I'm not sure if it was his year, but we often do have a contrarian paper in local citizenship in a global world, which is one of our courses. And, you know, you choose your topic and, and you rebut yourself, right. That means that you might have to watch, you know, a couple of weeks of Fox News, a couple weeks of MSNBC, a couple weeks of BBC. You follow me. So you can get your arguments really together. Anyway, I'm rambling again, I don't mean to. The point of it is the illuminative power sociologically, unparallel. I mean, I almost don't even have to prepare for class. I mean, I will. I could just sit. I really, almost don't. Second thing is this, I believe that we will emerge from this pandemic, and Mohamed with a more clear than ever sense of how important it is to be together. One of the things that kept me up at night, Mohammed, and you know, he's my intern. So you know, we roll close, you feel what I mean. And he knows this, one of my things that kept me up at night, is when we had to translate our admissions process from an in-person process to an online process. And it'll take too long to go into why that's so important. Suffice it to say, I know, every one of my students names, you feel what I mean? You cannot walk, Mohamed will bail me out. You can't walk past me on campus. I'm like, wait hold up, you know, right? I'm challenged, because right now, the current cohort, I don't know all of their names. And that sits on me heavy, because the work that we're doing is not just about content, it's about relationship. And in fact, you know, I talk about senses of engagement that I won't relate here, but they are so critical to this work. So I think that as we emerge from the pandemic, we will have a renewed sense of how important it is to be together. Finally, I'll say this, we have never known more powerfully, or had glimpses of the challenges that folks are navigating. You know, I have students on campus, some, because they made a strong case for why, even though classes were mostly virtual, they wanted to be on campus as a new college student. And I get that, but I have some students that have to be on campus. If they're not on campus, they're homeless, Am. 

Am Johal  17:05 
Yeah, totally. 

Timothy Eatman  17:06 
And so, you know, when we think about getting glimpses of the needs that people have, you know, it really gets to be really powerful. I'm going on too long here. Please, Mohamed.

Am Johal  17:16 
No, no. And Mohamed, I think, you know, from your perspective, coming in as a student, and just a different generational perspective, what the pandemic has meant to your own university experience, and where that takes your own thinking.

Mohamed Farge  17:30 
Right, just even bouncing off of what Dean said, and even to your earlier question as to what has this pandemic done in this, in knowledge making in general? I think it's forced people to do the work. You know, I think we were living in a very complacent environment, where, for example, it was okay... So Dean Eatmas speaks about how he knows every single one of, and I could testify to that, every single one of his students as the Dean of that program. And you're not going to find that everywhere. And I think now with the pandemic, institutions are incentivized to put a little more care into their processes, because they can't be as complacent or careless in how they invite people into their respective spaces. So with that, I'll speak to this a little bit. The reason why it was so difficult for the HLLC to shift from in-person interview process to a virtual process was because they brought you in to feel your energy, you know. They brought you in to hear your side comments, hear your off-the-cuff comments, your body positioning your body language to, you know, how are you going to respond when you're challenged in a way? And again, as a junior, you've done your fair share of interviews, that isn't as prevalent as the HLLC. So when you shift from that, to that, you understand what you're missing out on in understanding who students are. Before there was a very archaic, I believe, formula as to how to assess knowledge. Very archaic in regards to whether it be letter grades, whether it be a specific metric that needs to be followed by certain students. And so with that, it was easier to just pinpoint students from X,Y,Z University, because they had the right knowledge, quote, unquote, based off what the formula says. But now with the pandemic, when that's being challenged, that system is being challenged as is that really reliable, robust system? Places are finding ways to engage with students or with people in general virtually, to really understand who's going to be brought into space. Because, for example, a 4.0 from the most prestigious university may not mean the same in a virtual environment, you know, and it's important that we understand who we're bringing into our home. Whereas before, it was okay to let that slide because of the system that was brought up and brought forth. And as a student at Rutgers University, particularly at Newark and being a part of the HLLC. One thing that I found very important that I didn't really notice was important is the support system that you have, that you need to trudge along. And that's really what it is, you know. As beautiful as you could speak about community, there's a lot of gritty work that goes into it. There's some days, you don't want to get up and open the laptop, because it's right next to bed, you know. And you've been doing the same process for now what Dean a year, you know? So on day 221, you need that extra push that that community gives you, and not a lot of universities, and I'll go as close to saying about 90% of universities don't necessarily do that. Why? Because it doesn't fit their bottom line. And that's really important to understand, as a student, really being aware as to what is important in this time, because God willing, with everything working out, we are going to get out of this. And we're going to look back at these times and going to pull out the greatness of it. And also understanding why things were so bad and how we can put that behind us.

Am Johal  21:03 
Yeah, I found myself, in teaching my graduate Liberal Studies class, the ease by which I can bring guests into class. I owe a lot of dinners to people now because they jumped in, because I know no one wants to listen to me on Zoom for three hours. I got to make it more interesting. I am teaching this summer and similar to semester in dialogue, we interview students before we come in. We want to meet them in person. And also it's a cohort-based program. So it's full time. We're with them 9 in the morning till 4:30 every day in the session. It's really intensive. We're doing the interviews online right now. And we're going to be doing the whole thing online. And it's going to be such a different experience. And previously, it required everyone to actually be in the room. But we're gonna have a student from Saudi Arabia. We're gonna have students from other places. And so it will be a wonderful experiment. But as an instructor, we have so much to learn from our students in how to do that, too. So it has been tough and interesting, but both the opportunities and challenges of technology come to bear. I have a question, Timothy, for you. I know that you had spent a lot of time with Imagining America for a long time. And we don't have that same organization in Canada. But wondering if you can speak a little bit to that organization and the value that you got out of it and the kind of work that they kind of laid the groundwork for that still kind of resonates in the US. Because I think we have a lot to learn from it here in Canada.

Timothy Eatman  22:27 
Yeah, you know, I love to talk about this. I go to the University of Michigan for postdoc after my PhD at Illinois. I finish a postdoc and begin as the first director of research for this national consortium Imagining America, artists and scholars in public life. One of the first things I learned is that I need to be far more humble about what my quantitative analytic methodological approaches mean for knowledge making. Imagining America centres on civic engagement, and the power of the humanities and the arts. And anyone who knows me and has followed my work can see a through line from Imagining America to the Honors Living-Learning Community at Rutgers-Newark. Because our primary pedagogy is humanities and arts. And I could give several examples of that. I will say that Imagining America, now headquartered at the University of California Davis, with an amazing Faculty Director, Erica Kohl-Arenas, who you should interview for this podcast, I think, I'd be glad to make the introduction, is still in the business of really raising some questions about what is America? And what is democracy? And how can we advance the aims of a democratic society by not bracketing out the humanities and the arts? One of my graduating seniors, her name is Vivian Peralta, just got five years of full funding for PhD in bio sciences at a university out west. And Vivian, I mention her, Mohammed knows her because, you know, she's gonna be a research scientist without question. She's amazing, right? But Am, she's an artist. Now, I wish it was a video podcast that would show you her art, right? But she doesn't even talk about herself as an artist. You got me? Because it's so much a part of who she is, like the way she breathes and the way she thinks and the way she does her science, and she's interested in entomology, right, is so steeped in the arts, right? I had a meeting today with some of the facilities people for our new building, 48 New, and a piece of her artwork that was generated in our class, local citizenship in a global world, is going to be in the lobby of the new building, you following I mean, as a mural, I really wish I could show it to you. What's my point? You asked about the importance of the arts and humanities in general, Imagining America and that ethos and that philosophy in particular, I don't think that we can, shame on us if we try to do publicly-engaged work, community-engaged work, and don't realize that you don't make cultural change without using cultural methodologies and strategies. And for that, we must look to the humanities, we must look to the arts, we must allow ourselves to be humbled. Dr. Eatman, with all your statistics. I remember working on a report on promotion and tenure with the founding director, Julie Ellison. And I said, we got to put this table in this chart. She said, No, no, no, we won't. I say, What do you mean? We got to explain the various... She said, What's the story? People are moved by the story. What's the narrative? And so I became more muscular as a researcher, when I really began to understand and embrace the importance, not only of my beloved quantitative analysis, I'm a survey researcher, but opening up ways to invite the humanities and the arts into the space. Last thing I'm going to just say is, I have a daughter, who's in an MD-PhD program, right now. She's at third year, a student at Emory in Atlanta, but she's a ballerina. And, you know, I won't name her undergraduate institution. I love them, they got all my money. So you know, I must love them.

But they told her, she couldn't be, you know, she actually ended up in a Bachelor's-Master's neuroscience program at the institution because they were close to a medical school. But they say you can do a program and be a dance minor. And she said, Oh, no, that that's how I make sense of the world. That's how I breathe. And even now, in med school, she's part of an Atlanta Dance Company. Because shame on us, Am, for bracketing this out of our young people. And it manifests in different ways. When I think of Mohamed, I think of an artist. Now, he's not a visual artist, he doesn't play any instruments that I know of. But the art of strategy is deeply embedded in how he rolls and how he thinks, you follow what I mean. I'm inspired every time I talk to him, you know, he owns that piece of it. And I'm talking again, too much, but you, you pressed a button when you talked about Imagining America, Am, so I'm gonna say it's your fault.

Am Johal  27:38 
But I can also say, Mohamed, if you're doing social justice, and finance, that automatically will make you a very good philosopher. When you bring those things together, I guarantee. Wondering if you can talk a little bit Mohamed about, in your learning in these various disciplines, how are you bringing this stuff together to land down in the real world? How are you getting your hands dirty? Bringing this stuff together?

Mohamed Farge  28:02 
Right? So that's a really great question. And with that, I'm gonna bring an anecdote. So I recently interned for a company, an amazing company at that. And when I was there, I was afraid that I was a little too, you know, the skills like...

Timothy Eatman  28:15 
Why so cryptic? What's the company?

Mohamed Farge  28:18 
The Royal Bank of Canada, right. And I do that because I also wanted to be a little humble, but an amazing company. And I remember being afraid to bring some of the ideas that Dean Eatman said, talk about your story and talk about the story because people care, and listen to the story before anything else. And so with that, I had the mindset that I had to be the most technical, sound person. And it's really important to be technical. But that's not the entire story. And I just bring that up, because I've met two particularly great people. And I just won't name their names just because I don't want to put them on the spot. But they will listen to this, and they will know I am talking about them. And I remember them telling me that it's about the human connection, this speaking to the story, and these are people who've been in the fields for decades. And they said, they can't tell you how many charts they've seen, or how many interns that have come through the processes, just check a box, you know, and don't really go into, you know, the work of being human. That is really important, because at the end of the day, they want somebody that they could, you know, talk to and be with, throughout the long grueling days of the finance field. You understand how hectic that can get. And it was then that I understood that the traits that I learned from minoring in social justice and the skills of being personable, of you know, listening, of telling a story and, and making sense of a story before anything else is the same thing that's going to connect to everybody. It's a universal language. It's not something that's only, you know, prevalent or useful in one field. It's something that can be appreciated across all spectrums, and what I mean by that is if somebody gave me a research report that I know nothing about, about, for example, how vaccines work, it's going to go right over my head if I read it from beginning to end. But if somebody can sit down and communicate to you the story of how effective they are, and really take the time to understand your perspective, and make it fit to you and to cultivate that story to make it more, you know, as I said, as effective as possible to you for you to understand, then that is priceless. You know, and I'm very grateful, because if it weren't for those particular people I met at RBC, then I wouldn't have understood that. I would have went a route that wasn't Mohamed Farge. You know, I would have went a route trying to impress people in a way that wouldn't be impressive to myself, you know. And that wouldn't mean much to me, where now I have bi-weekly meetings, I would say, with very important people with a Global Head of their specific fields, with managing directors, with directors. And every single time we have these meetings, we speak about how, I'm very grateful, because they take time out of their busy schedules where they're in calls, you know, from 6:37am, all the way to 7pm. And then they give me an hour just to talk about life, just to talk about how things are going before getting into RBC or getting into, you know, financial trends or anything like that. And it all goes back to the baseline, the foundation of speaking, of engaging, of communicating with people. And that's a skill, and I wasn't even aware of, we're very proud of, you know, and I will always let that be shown, and can only hope people appreciate it. You can't force people to appreciate it. But what I found in my very short time here on this earth is that people may not know exactly what it is about you that they appreciate. But they always say there's something about that person that I just like speaking to him for however long. And to this minute, Dean Eatman can tell you, he'd have to remind me about the things that I do and things like that, just because I don't think too much of it, just because, like I say, is just who I am. But it goes a long way with these people, because they understand, like I said, they've been in their fields for a very long period of time. They understand what's important and what's not at that point, you know, and when understanding and when really boiling it down. I don't really compartmentalize the two, you know. You bring them together, and it kind of fuses into who you are, you know. And I can't have a conversation about one, without the skills of the other gleaming through, you know, how to be impactful in your respective community. That will bring forth in speaking whenever I'm in that finance world, or bringing forth some of the analysis that needs to be brought forth in social justice, to make particular people care about a certain issue because they need that, quote, unquote, proof. You know, it's really important for me to always let that be shown simply because that's who I am. And if I was liked for another reason, or this field valued something else that wasn't necessarily in me, then it'd be much tougher to really go head on in each respective road.

Am Johal  33:10 
Absolutely, I really concur with what you just said. Because I think in the work that I do, relationships and trust are so fundamentally important, because then when inevitable conflict occurs, you can actually work through it, if you have the trust in the relationship. It's a trust relationship. It isn't wrong when conflict arises, it can mean all sorts of existential problems, but then you can work through difference. You can disagree, you can agree to disagree if the relationship is strong, because this is... I live where I live in a small town. So, you run into the same people over and over again. And so you know, you got to work through difference. That's just the way it goes. My final question to both of you is, what are you excited about your work right now that you're doing? 

Timothy Eatman  33:54 
Go ahead. 

Mohamed Farge  33:55 
That's a, that's a good one. I'm excited. And this is not a cliche answer, but to continue the very thing that I just articulated. And that's continued to develop those relationships, not only with those people that mean so much to me, to the point where they're now considered mentors, and so far as to say family, in regards to the advice and help that they give you. But to continue to connect to more people. You know, I was recently fortunate enough to have an opportunity to be a part of a Q&A session for interns coming into the company. And it was in that moment that I really, they had the same questions I had coming in. And I was honoured and blessed to not only see one of my mentors on that call, give them advice, but also be in a position to complement that advice from my perspective, you know. And it's all about paying it forward. And it's all about continuing what you're passionate about, and I'm very excited to pay it forward. And on the other end of the spectrum, I'm really excited to continue working with Dean Eatman and think about some of the great, you know, crazy ideas that we have, I know this will connect with people. And this is only crazy because it's never been done before, you know what I mean? So I'm really excited to continue that work. And me and Dean Eatman joke about this all the time ,we have a lifetime contract to each other where there's no exit strategy, for either of us ever, so we're gonna continue that forever.

Timothy Eatman  35:19 
I love you too, son. That means a lot to me. Mohamed earlier talked about a concept that I often refrain, beware the shrinking imagination. What am I excited about? I am excited about playing a role that would assist, not only young people like Mohamed, but also myself to stay in a space of prophetic imagination. And yes, that manifests in a bunch of different projects. And I'm going to mention one before I stop here in a second. But, at base, I believe that one of the reasons, Am, that we find ourselves in such difficult places of mistrust and inequity and darkness is because people are not imagining. This may be part of my faith practice. But I think as a created being, if I'm not being creative, I got to be dark. I don't know if y'all heard that. As a created being, if I'm not being creative, if I'm not thinking with prophetic imagination, I have to have a zero sum game. Or if you got some I don't have, right. Scarcity, lack. No, no, no, no, no. Way I'm working, Am, is in a different space. And you know what, I need those arts to remind me when I do find myself in that shrinking imagination space, which I do as a Black American man, often, where I get depressed about the way that Black and Brown bodies are devalued, and the terrible history of our society and the challenges that just seem so stubborn, imbedded and intractable. But there was a time when planes didn't fly. Yeah. I'm gonna stay right there. And you know why? I can do it, in part because of young people like Mohamed, who keep me questioning and keep me provoked, and keep me growing. Do you know what I mean? It's real, I really am almost 100 now, but they, but they keep working with me and they teach me the new phrases and you know colloquialisms and help me understand new concepts. He definitely hasn't taught me to PS2, or was it PSP or whatever yet, but I'm gonna get that too at one point. One project that I just mentioned in closing that I'm really excited about, you may know of the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), led by Eboo Patel. They have a call for proposals out right now, Am, that would engage several institutions to get students trained, and stipended to go into their communities to share factual information to mitigate vaccine hesitancy. And that's a nice project. I don't know if we will be selected, but we have an application in, and boy, I can just imagine some of our Honors Living-Learning Community scholars going into their communities and helping to ameliorate this uncouth virus situation. Here again, I've spoken too much.

Am Johal  38:57 
No, not at all. It's been so wonderful to speak to both of you, being out here in the West Coast, to see your perspectives from there. It's just been lovely to share with you. And this isn't just a one-off podcast, we're hoping to have you join us at our conference in May 2022. And lots of other collaborations. We love the work that you're doing. We look to you for wisdom and inspiration and all those things as we build out our own projects in our own communities. And so just a bravo to both of you for the work that you do in the communities that you belong to. And I look forward to keeping this conversation going because it's already been going for 10 years.

Timothy Eatman  39:43 
Back at you, man.

Mohamed Farge  39:44 
Thank you so much, sir.


Kathy Feng  39:47  
Below the Radar is a knowledge democracy podcast created by SFU's Vancity Office of Community Engagement. This has been a conversation with Timothy Eatman and Mohamed Farge. You can find out more about the Honors Living-Learning Community And other initiatives discussed in the episode in the show notes below. Thanks again for listening and we'll see you next time on Below the Radar.

Transcript auto-generated by and edited by the Below the Radar team.
May 18, 2021

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