Newly appointed Director of the Office for Racial and Cultural Engagement (RACE) Jade M. Turner hopes to increase her understanding of race relations on Emory’s campus and host a racial justice seminar that encourages community work.
Turner, who identifies as a “black feminist,” will head up the Campus Life office that was created last fall. She hopes that the office will be a place where students of all backgrounds come to understand their identities and their power to make the Emory community a “racially just” place.
“Whether you are coming from a background that is marginalized or you’re coming from a background that is extremely privileged, everybody has a race,” Turner said. “The office of RACE serves to help folks explore that in a deeper, more intentional and critical way so that we can all aim towards a common goal and shared purpose in making sure that Emory, among other things, is racially just.”
Before Turner came to Emory, she served as the associate director of the Cross-Cultural Center at the University of California at Irvine (UCI), which is also where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Criminology, Law, and Society. After she earned an M.S. in Counseling, she received a masters in counseling and Student Development in Higher Education at California State University, Turner worked as the student development coordinator at the Cross-Cultural Center at UCI.
Assistant Director of the Cross-Cultural Center at UCI Daniel K. Park told the Wheel that while Turner was associate director of the Cross-Cultural Center at UCI, that she was “a fierce student advocate.”
“[Turner] will definitely advocate for our most marginalized students to make sure that their voices are heard,” Park said. “One of the things that I really appreciate about her is that it doesn’t matter what space she’s in. She will continue to advocate for them and won’t back down.”
About three weeks into her term at Emory, Turner said she has familiarized herself with Black Students at Emory’s 13 demands, hopes to host meet and greets on the first Friday of every month and aspires to teach a racial justice seminar.
Turner intends to be involved in the Emory Commission on Racial and Social Justice, and wants to discuss with students the progress of the 13 demands over the past few years, along with their perspective on why the demands were released. She said that her past work with activism on college campuses showed her that the fight for change can be challenging.
During the meet and greets, Turner plans to provide donuts and ask community members about the racial climate and culture at Emory.
“It’s really important for me to listen and to learn the climate, the culture, what the needs are, what students perceptions are and what they’re expectations are of the office because it is so new, and we’re still establishing our identity,” Turner said.
Turner hopes to teach a racial justice seminar, the Cooperative Educational Program, that would educate “students on critical race theory, movement building, strategies for advocacy and organizing, exposing them to different theorists and practitioners.” To encourage students to work toward racial justice, the seminar may require a course project in which students would work at a local social justice organization.
Turner believes people should work to better the community because “it’s important not just to think about [race] in terms of the individualistic, because it is a construct that impacts us globally, particularly when we start talking about racism and racial justice and how they are linked to … a number of other different forms of oppression, and -isms, and phobias.”
Conversations with people from marginalized groups are important, but speaking with people of privileged backgrounds is also necessary, Turner said. She added that “being non-racist” is insufficient — she believes that people must actively combat racism through their actions.
“When you talk about racial justice, it’s not just about having the conversations and having dialogue, it’s about action and driving action, because you have some students and folks in the community who are like ‘We’re having a lot of conversations. How do we move forward?’ ” Turner said.
Executive Director of the Community Edward Willies Lee, III wrote in a Jan. 1 email to Senior Staff of Campus Life that he had confidence in Turner’s ability to lead the Office of RACE.
“I marvel at Jade’s capacity and willingness to take advantage of the opportunities to acknowledge and connect with others,” Lee said. “Jade Turner is one of the more thoughtful, compassionate, and driven people I have ever engaged. The Office for RACE could not be in better hands.”