What I Be Project still encouraging students

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The words “thought-provoking” come to mind, said 20-year-old anthropology and ethnic major Khaalis Jahal, as he admires the “unity” of the brave faces that line the campus library walls.Red hair pushed to one side, the words “skin and bones” run across a student’s collarbone. Coach Sage looks to the side with “stupid” written up her neck. Nearby, a student stares directly into the camera with “fake” written across his adams apple.

It took a great deal of courage for the participants who stepped outside their comfort zones and openly expressed their insecurities through the ‘What I Be Project’ last Spring, now on display in the library, Facebook and Rosenfield’s website.

Davis photographer, Steve Rosenfield created the ‘What I Be Project’ as a way to help people better understand each other by expressing their insecurities.

Rosenfield photographed several students, staff and faculty members at Cosumnes River College as each one displayed their biggest insecurity about themselves by writing a word or symbol on their upper body or face.

Underneath each photograph is a caption that says, “I am not my …”

Safe Spaces Coordinator and anthropology professor Anastasia Panagakos called Rosenfield’s project “a powerful exhibit on campus,” that generates empathy among students.

Students are able to see the images of their peers and relate to them in ways perhaps previously masked, Panagakos said.

CRC is the only campus in the U.S to display Rosenfield’s photographs in exhibit-form, said Chair of the Social Responsibility Committee and ESL professor Sandra Carter.

Carter said the wall “offers refuge” to students as she’s heard only positive feedback from those who observe the photographs on the wall.

Through projects like Rosenfield’s, “people have a great chance to own their securities and be proud. It takes the power away from bullies,” said CRC women’s Basketball Coach Coral Sage.

Sage said she used to be afraid to write on the board because of her dyslexia, but participating in the project allowed her to break through that barrier.

It’s important for students to see faculty express their insecurities, and know that you can be professional and still have insecurities, Sage said.

Ginny McReynolds, Dean of Humanities Social Sciences, said she’s received a lot of positive feedback through Facebook since participating in the project.

The ‘What I Be Project’ helped her realize “anxiety doesn’t have to rule my life,” she said.

McReynolds called CRC students “lucky” to be apart of such a small and close knit community where faculty and staff are active members in ensuring the campus provides a positive environment.

“It’s a great place to be a student,” McReynolds said.

People work hard to protect each other on campus, McReynolds said.

In terms of religion, race, sexual orientation and politics, “we don’t tolerate discrimination or bias on campus,” Panagakos said.

A safe space sticker can be found on staff members’ office windows, which lets students know that door is always open to anyone on campus, Panagakos said.

Jahal said after participating in the ‘What I Be project’, he’s noticed a positive change among students and how they treat each other.

His friends changed their views in terms of gender equality and he’s noticed they’re more careful with what they say to women, Jahal said.

As a participant Jahal described his experience to be “freeing” because he was given the opportunity to perhaps help someone else feel more comfortable in their own skin.

We’re all here to learn and further our careers, but “we can’t learn if this isn’t a positive environment,” Panagakos said.

Steve Rosenfield said he “created this project to open the lines of communication and accept diversity with an open heart and mind,” according to Rosenfield’s ‘What I Be Project’ website.

Regardless of how we present ourselves to the world “we’re not always what we appear to be,” Panagakos said.

Whether someone feels uneasy about the size of their body or the sound of their voice, “we’re all feeling creatures struggling with the same things,” said McReynolds.

Rather than flaws, our differences make us unique and bind us together.

“It’s about finding oneself. We’re all human,” Jahal said.

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