“Find your authentic self” with Jason Feldman

Riley Young, Staff writer

Month of Understanding (MOU), MultiCulti and affinity spaces are collectively organized and run by the Dean of Equity and Inclusion at Urban. In an interview with The Urban Legend, Feldman reveals his ideas for MOU, gives advice and shares his personal history. The following interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. 

 

Riley Young: What were your childhood/teenage years like?

 

Jason Ernest Feldman: I was born to a Filipina immigrant mother, who came over from the Philippines after med school, and a Jewish father who had been raised in New York, in a very traditional Jewish area. My mom converted to Judaism and I was born a Filipino Jew. I went to a private school, and then went with my high school sweetheart to George Washington University. Don’t you dare go to college with your high school sweetheart. It’s such a mistake. It wasn’t the right time, or the right place. I ended up transferring to Boston College where my childhood best friend was going to school. I immediately felt at home. 

 

RY: Why did you want to become Urban’s DEI?

 

JF: Working in education offers me an opportunity to provide healing in equity and inclusion for students in a way I never got. I want to make it clear to folks that my role is student-facing. I’m here for those who feel they’re not yet accessing the school’s community.  If there are students who feel their whole person can’t be part of the classroom or the community, those are the spaces I want to channel my energy into. 

 

RY: What are your plans for MOU and Multiculti this year?

 

JF: The fact that so many people talk about MOU is such a beautiful thing. The whole event is truly part of the school’s fiber; I want to protect its integrity. I would love for us to empower our affinity and ally spaces to do some teaching, not only during MOU. I don’t want our young activists to channel so much energy into the month of January and February, burn themselves out, then feel as if the work is over. Like, “I learned during MOU. Now I’m chillin’ for the rest of the year.” Not how it works. I would love this to kind of be an ongoing conversation where we view MOU as one of the MANY public events where our student body learns about cultures, ethnicities and identity markers that are different from their own.

 

RY: What advice would you give to your younger self, people of color at Urban or to any student who doesn’t feel they fit into a certain category?

 

JF: To anybody who feels they have an inner voice telling them some part of their identity isn’t accepted in this space: If you’re putting on a mask for the rest of the community trying to hide other parts of yourself, the invitation would be to listen to that voice. Start to wonder, “Why do I not feel comfortable in this space?” “Why do I feel like I’m putting on a mask?” And then “Who else can I talk to about this?” Who else might be feeling this way but is also afraid to say something? So whether it’s affinity and ally spaces, whether it’s clubs, whether it’s sports, whether it’s the performing arts department, finding space where you can truly express who you are, without feeling like you have to filter is the greatest gift you could find. Lean into that. You don’t have to pretend to be something you’re not. Find your authentic self, love that version every single day.