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Atlas Week Inspires Action for Global Change

by Katie Gortz on 04/19/2021

In celebration of the 10th annual Atlas Week, SLU-Madrid organized panel discussions, guest lectures and workshops addressing the theme, "The House that Race(ism) Built." The week-long program was designed to explore topics of race, race equity and racial justice, and their impact on global society, while also celebrating SLU-Madrid's international identity and commitment to bringing about positive change in the world.

The rich and varied program this year included a mural painting project focusing on housing discrimination, a cross-disciplinary roundtable on the impact of the pandemic, several lectures delivered by expert faculty and guest speakers, a photocall and a drawing workshop. An exercise in inclusion both in terms of content and in execution, many events incorporated Zoom access to ensure that members of the SLU-Madrid community who are not currently based in Madrid could also attend. 

Atlas Week mural

"Murals are a unique art form because they are public and therefore owned by a community rather than institution. In addition, they have historically been centered on social and political issues which is what Atlas Week is all about! So, in keeping with the theme, 'The House that Race(ism) Built,' we designed the mural focusing on how housing discrimination, i.e., redlining, and environmental disparities have historically been racialized." – Jackie Amacker, SLU-Madrid Class of 2022

An annual Atlas Week tradition, this year's international party came in the form of an open-air arts performance celebrating the many talents of SLU-Madrid's international community. Students, faculty and staff gathered on the Padre Arrupe Patio to enjoy live music, a contemporary dance performance by a local dance troupe called 180 Danza, poetry readings in various languages, and even a Bollywood dance workshop led by Student Life's Mohit Naregalkar.

Hamish Binns, program director for modern languages and English as a second language, has served as the SLU-Madrid Atlas Week coordinator since its inception on the Madrid Campus. For Binns, celebrating Atlas Week this year was perhaps more important than ever as we navigate our interpersonal relationships amid the global pandemic.  

"During these strange times of social distancing, Atlas provides us with the chance to draw near to each other through a series of academic talks and fun activities to celebrate who we are and how we are," he said. "The best way to combat any type of -ism is to take a step closer and simply accept each other for what we are."

In addition to celebrating the community's international identity, the Atlas Week events focused on how, as global citizens, we can contribute to a better life for all. The program goes beyond raising awareness of global issues; it aims to inspire and encourage action as we strive to live out the Jesuit ideal of being men and women for others.

Guest speaker Esther Mamadou, an expert on human rights and forced migrations, drove this message home in her talk, "Racism in Spain: The Importance of International Responses." "We are at a point where there is no denying that structural racism exists," she said. "We all have a part. It is up to all of us to demand change. Just like in the past, when society together has pushed for equal marriage or equal rights for men and women, we can all contribute to creating communities where we all are treated with dignity and respect."