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Matt LaVine

Equity Facilitator/Consultant
What do you do at CEI?

I’m a race equity consultant and facilitator.

What did you do prior to CEI?

Prior to starting at CEI, I worked on race equity and inclusion in higher education. Most recently, I was a program analyst in the Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and assistant professor of interdisciplinary studies and environmental studies at SUNY Potsdam (occupied territory of the Mohawk Nation of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy). As a DEI analyst, I facilitated DEI trainings, coordinated peer-mentoring and education programs like the Potsdam Diversity Ambassadors & Mentors, and organized racial justice conferences like the Days of Reflection: Education for Racial Equity & Justice and Denouncing the Doctrine of Discovery. As professor, I taught courses on Africana philosophy, environmental ethics & justice, residential segregation, global intellectual and cultural history, mathematics, and the history of analytic philosophy. While I was very excited to move outside of the confines of higher education and into the CEI community, I still occasionally engage in writing, lecturing, and podcasting on racial justice, gender justice, and environmental justice.

Why do you do this work?

This could be understood in at least two different ways—what caused me to do this work and what do I do this work for? As for the first question, my family is a huge part of the answer. They showed me very clearly what it was like for a human to deeply harm another human and what it was like for a human to deeply love another human. It helped me to see I wanted to be a part of reducing harm and spreading love. My mom was especially helpful here. She’s one of the most compassionate and empathetic human beings I’ve ever met. As a white man, I really needed that training in compassion and empathy that wasn’t coming from any other part of society. As for what I do this work for, I believe in the possibility of, what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called, beloved community. I believe in the possibility of groups of people coming together to support each other and to accomplish more together than we’d be able to individually. Unfortunately, that’s not the society we live in. Rather than that social contract of everybody coming together to agree to a set of rules for everybody for the betterment of everybody, the modern world has been run by, what Charles Mills called, a racial contract (and associated sexual, class, ability, etc. contracts) where a subset of white folx came together to agree to one set of rules for white folx and different rules for BIPOC folx for the sake of bettering the lives of white folx and to the detriment of BIPOC folx. I want to be a part of a community working to disrupt these unjust contracts and build toward a beloved community. I’ve found that here at CEI.

What do you believe?

Probably the most succinct way to put some of my most closely held beliefs is “Black and Indigenous grandmothers’ lives matter!”. That is to say, my work is grounded in the activism and thought of the Black Lives Matter movement. Furthermore, like the movement’s founders, Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, and Patrisse Khan-Cullors, I think movements for justice can only be successful if they are firmly grounded in intersectional thinking and acting. Finally, following the work of Dr. Claudia Ford and others, I am a proponent of grandmother epistemology— the idea that Black and Indigenous ecological wisdom, often cultivated, held, and passed down by grandmothers, contain models for being, doing, and knowing that we want to honor, center, and uplift for a just, sustainable, equitable future— free of the hierarchies and destruction which are the rule in today’s world.

What is a question that guides your work?

It’s hard to choose just one—so, I’ll give you three:
(i) Do I love myself?
(ii) How can we be useless to capitalism today?
(iii) What have I done today to build toward beloved community?