In September, two John Brown University students started an Instagram page called Embers of Deconstruction, where they post student-submitted art, photography and poetry. The admins of this page are anonymous, as well as the poets and artists that submit. The bio reads, “Confidentiality guaranteed,” creating a safe space for students to talk about topics that are normally not discussed on campus.
The name “Embers of Deconstruction” comes from the first poem posted on the page: “Excellence is kindled from ash amidst embers of deconstruction.” An anonymous admin explained the significance of this phrase. “Even though deconstruction of one’s identity or belief is painful and marginalizing, beauty grows from these embers,” they said.
The page was formed as a result of a group of students who felt there was no space to talk about difficult subjects related to race, sexuality, religion, and mental illness at JBU. “We started writing poetry during class and sharing it with each other, and realized that there was a beautiful healing in sharing these poems. We started to wonder who else on our campus needed this safe place where their voice was heard,” one admin said. The page now has 130 followers and 19 posts consisting of anonymously submitted art and poetry. “We have been deeply moved by the vulnerability of the art submitted, and it has been healing for us to be a part of this poetry haven,” they said.
Anna Noden, an English education major, is a follower of the account. “It is moving to hear the experiences of others through such eloquent poetry,” Noden said. She believes there is a place for poetry such as this outside the confines of anonymity on social media. “I think there are countless people on campus that are ready and willing to hear and understand how people are hurting,” Noden said. However, Noden does not want to dismiss people who feel like they can’t share their story openly. “I understand that I do not have the full picture. Ideally, we all should be listening intently face to face with the people we do life with.”
The admins of Embers of Deconstruction believe that in order to create space for open discussions on campus, there must be changes at both the policy and community levels. “JBU needs to reevaluate whether its policies are inclusive to all of its students. If they do not feel safe, they cannot learn. On the community level, JBU students need to recognize that there is a huge diversity of identities and beliefs that surround them,” they said.
The admins explained that the responsibility lies with both students and the administration. “In order for a safe place to exist on the JBU campus, both the institution and the students need to fight the fear of the other … Listen wholly and empathize completely.