CDO Rhonda Brown expands 3R ribbon project

Rhonda Brown at Occidental College. Francisco Esquer/The Occidental

In light of the events surrounding the 9/11 memorial at Occidental, Chief Diversity Officer Rhonda Brown hosted a gathering Sept. 20 in the Intercultural Community Center (ICC) to expand the “3R Project,” which first debuted July in the aftermath of tragic summer events, including the shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, FL.

The project — the title of which stands for “ribbons, requests and responses” — provides an opportunity for community members to come together for healing, reflection and dialogue, culminating in a visual representation of the community’s thoughts and pledged support to one another, according to Brown, who helped create the project.

During the project’s debut July 20, students wrote their reactions to the summer’s shootings and other events on ribbons, which Brown said she then showed to faculty and staff. The students’ ribbons and the response ribbons were woven into wires strung within a large wooden frame, and the frame was hung in the Arthur G. Coons administration building (AGC).

Brown said after the summertime 3R Project she planned on returning to the ribbons as a way of checking in with the Occidental community. The controversy on campus and in the media about the 9/11 memorial’s removal felt like an opportune time to bring the project back, she said.

The most recent gathering for the 3R Project featured discussion and ribbon-writing focused on the events surrounding the 9/11 memorial at Occidental.

Brown facilitated discussion among the handful of students who attended the event and answered their questions about the administration’s response to the memorial’s removal. Before leaving, the students wrote their thoughts about the 9/11 events on ribbons and added them to the wooden frame.

After the ICC gathering, the frame of gray ribbons — a color Brown says she chose to represent the gray areas in the controversy over the memorial and its removal — was placed in the AGC.

Blank ribbons were available at the ICC and other campus offices so students who did not attend the discussion could pick one up and contribute their thoughts to the display.

The original frames from the summer were already hanging in the AGC. Students’ reactions to the violence in the news are scrawled on orange ribbons. The messages range from “Be kind to everyone, don’t judge what you don’t know” to “The world is on fire. Let’s play Pokemon.”

Faculty response ribbons are interwoven into the mix. On one ribbon, the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life offers up space in Herrick to meditate and breathe. One has Emmons Wellness Center’s phone number. Another ribbon reads, “Res Ed Cares!,” and gives their number to call as well.

Ella Turenne, assistant dean of community engagement, helped create the project, alongside Brown, Director of the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life Susan Young, former Associate Dean Tim Chang and former Assistant Dean Jonathan Grady.

Turenne said the discussion of the 9/11 events has included a lot of voices outside the Occidental community because of the media coverage the memorial received. She said the 3R Project creates a chance for a conversation that is just within the campus.

“This is a way for us to focus on us,” Turenne said.

She said this project also creates for a permanent space in which students can see the opinions of their peers. Finding ribbons they agree with can inspire a comforting sense of solidarity, she said. This will also be a safe place for students to face opinions they may disagree with, Turenne added.

Brown, similarly, hopes this project will allow the Occidental community to see the wide range of opinions that exist on this campus.

“It is the expression of all the different thoughts that I want us always to be mindful of because, truthfully, that’s the diversity that we say we seek.” Brown said. “That’s the diversity that makes our educational experience richer and more vibrant and fuller.”

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