Maddie Bockus '21
How BC Has Taught Me to Confront the International by Focusing on the Local
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, I was watching the news report rising cases with my host mom at the breakfast table in her tiny apartment in Granada, Spain. Only shortly thereafter, I found myself packing up all my souvenirs and visiting the Alhambra one last time before making the long journey home to Manchester, CT. Returning to quarantine in my hometown after three months of travelling and immersing myself in Spanish culture was a difficult adjustment to say the least. In my boredom, I reflected on my time in Granada and how I had a firsthand view of foreign governments responding to the public health crisis. When watching populations and cultures different from my own face a pandemic, it demonstrated to me what had been discussed in many of my International Studies classes prior––how those of us across the globe are all connected through common global issues.
A month into settling back home, I received the news that after campaigning virtually from Spain, I was elected as a Co-Director for FACES Council, Boston College’s only anti-racism organization and a group that I have been a part of since my freshman year. FACES is committed to educating the BC community on the issues of race and systems of power and privilege. Through discussions, social interactions, and academic forums, FACES stimulates dialogue and strives to eliminate racial polarization.
When I learned of the murder of George Floyd, I had just completed my finals and was laying on the couch at home scrolling through my phone. FACES called an emergency task force meeting that week to decide what action to take. We provided resources on social media for our following of mostly BC community members and hosted two virtual events on Zoom to provide safe spaces and facilitate conversations. Within the same week, I started a new job working for my local government in the Department of Families, Recreation and Leisure and with the Office of Neighborhoods and Families. I was not only a Facilities Director, but also a contributing writer for the Department’s magazine. The many parts of my life at Boston College were suddenly colliding in my life at home: I was fulfilling my FACES position virtually from my childhood bedroom, starting a new job connected to my interest in public policy and government, and taking on a journalistic role locally, a skill I had been honing through involvement in Boston College’s progressive student publication, The Gavel.
In all of these roles, I was impacted and motivated by the surging movement for racial justice. I brought my experience and skills from FACES to my new position working for the Town of Manchester. Within my department, I helped to support grassroot activist organizations by providing resources and setting up for marches, published articles addressing the protests and the importance of allyship, and started a project to recognize historic leaders of racial justice within town. I was able to transfer the conversation, leadership, and organizing skills learned at BC and apply them to local community work. This was a critical point of reflection for me. I was able to understand through hands-on experience how global issues, like racism and the COVID-19 pandemic, are addressed on a local level. If we are to confront and dismantle the complex, international issue of racism, intense work at the community level is a critical part of that.
Last fall, I was sitting in my Ethics, Religion, and International Politics class when a guest speaker from a human rights organization focused on the Rohingya crisis recommended that we, as International Studies students, enter the workforce at the community level to understand the needs of those being most directly affected. Those words have stayed with me to this day and rang true yet again in my work over the summer. In my experience working for local government during a pandemic and an international resurgence in the movement for racial justice, I have learned that, ironically, addressing international issues sometimes means starting at the community level–– a lesson I plan to take with me into future career choices.
Maddie Bockus '21