July 20, 2020
Amber Shaverdi Huston, CAE
NACA Executive Director
While reading books with my daughter or the late night moments of silence I have been thinking, reflecting, and traveling back to memories from my childhood. I've always been the person, especially as a kid, that asks why. Why does hatred exist, why are people cruel, why injustices have persisted, why the differences in religions have created wars. I appreciate my mother's patience with my questions, but in all honesty these questions have never left me. Through my reflection I have asked myself if I have had a hard time understanding why people of different identities are treated differently because of how I was raised. Treating all people with respect was embedded in our family, simply not a question of if and more about how. My father, an immigrant, and mother are of two different races and it wasn't until middle school that I personally experienced words and name calling filled with hate and ignorance.
I have always been surrounded by caring people of different identities and my mother exposed me to different cultures. We didn't have much for financial means, but we always traveled to new places that were educational: the Brown v. Board of Education Museum, community celebrations of various faiths, and community programming. We all have those memories where you can remember the sound, smells, noises surrounding you and the internal emotions. I have that memory from when I was 11 and we traveled to D.C. We visited the Abraham Lincoln Memorial. Walking up the steps, my mother pointed out the plaque marking the spot where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech. At the memorial, I remember seeing tears streaming down my mother's face and naturally, I asked why. She tried explained to me the role that President Lincoln and Dr. King played in history, giving me an overview of the Civil War to the Civil Rights movement. While I was 11 and trying to grapple with a lot beyond my comprehension, it left an impression on me and I'm thankful my mother attempted to find a way to have a conversation with me about these important issues instead of just brushing my questions aside.
My reflections have lead me to wanting to keep exploring, continue learning, allow different emotions to be felt, and above all exposure not only for myself but for my daughter. The exposures I have had and will continue to experience will fuel compassion, my voice, and drive. The responsibility of fighting injustice starts at home with ourselves, our families and our communities. I hope, no I ask, that we all be vulnerable and open ourselves to new ideas and people of different cultures and identities, to be proactive with the uncomfortable conversations. The conversations we have today will be the ones our children, students, and friends reflect on decades from now.
Amber Shaverdi Huston, CAE is the executive director of the National Association for Campus Activities. Shaverdi Huston has over a decade of association management experience focusing on transforming operations and people through project management, process design, strategy and assessment.