“I didn’t mean it that way” – CFY hosts microaggression workshop

“It happens to all of us. We have the best of intentions, but sometimes we say or do things that negatively impact other people”, said Rosie Bolen, Ph.D., Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Training and Development at Mount St. Mary’s University.

Bolen was the presenter at Thursday’s workshop focused on recognizing, reframing, and responding to microaggressions in our daily interactions to promote a more inclusive climate in our workplaces and communities.  The workshop was hosted by the local community coalition, Collaborating for Youth (CFY).


Microaggressions refer to commonplace verbal, behavioral or environmental slights, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative attitudes toward stigmatized or culturally marginalized groups.

Bolen said microaggressions typically come from stereotypes we have inherited or learn..

“We cannot help learning these things from our environment, but we can replace automatic processing of these stereotypes with mindful intention,” she said.

About 35 participants – both community residents and CFY staff members – attended the workshop, with others participating online. The materials were presented simultaneously in English and Spanish.

Dr. Bolen provided an extensive list of examples of microaggressions (including the use of sexist/heterosexist language; assumption of criminal status; color blindness; assumption of alien origin; ascription of intelligence based on color or race; classism; religious practice; disability, for example) and then discussed ways to avoid, or respond to, these behaviors, by employing microaffirmations.

Based on the response from numerous participants, it was clear that almost everyone in the group had, at some time in their lives, experienced or witnessed micro-aggressive behaviors toward themselves or people around them.  Participants walked away with the assignment to practice recognition, interrupting, and reframing micro-aggressive behavior in their own language/actions and those of others.

“In the past few years, CFY has intentionally focused on efforts of inclusion and belonging in the Adams County community,” said CFY Executive Director Andrea Dolges, stressing that it is vital for the health of the community to learn and grow together in a positive way, honoring each other’s backgrounds and diversity and embracing the “patchwork, the fabric of our community with all its wonderful differences”.

Dogles said there was an ongoing need to evaluate CFY’s own practices and those of their coalition partners to effect positive change “with beautiful intentionality.”

Dolges invited community members to join one of CFY’s sub-committees or volunteer in other ways for the organization. She noted that, in a post-Covid world, most organizations struggle to get folks to come out and participate. 

Dolges’ vision is for Adams County to be a community where people “want to grow up and grow old.”  She particularly emphasized the need for older residents to get engaged in volunteering, as the impact of an experienced retiree engaging with a young person would be invaluable. 

Collaborating for Youth is an Adams County organization, comprised of 25 partner organizations and community members with a mission to develop the positive potential of youth within safe and supportive families and communities.  CFY hosts a variety of programs, including summer camps, drug-free community efforts, after-school programs, Spanish language projects, as well as events such as the annual Black Balloon Day, a nation-wide day of bringing awareness to overdose deaths.

For more information on CFY or to sign up for volunteering, visit their website:  https://www.cfygettysburg.com/.

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Donate Gardner, freelance reporter, came to Gettysburg in 2021 from Montgomery County, Maryland. A former linguist-turned-legal professional, Donate recently retired from the corporate world and is eager to support her new community in a variety of ways. As an immigrant born, raised, and educated in Germany, Donate still maintains a strong connection to the German language as a freelance writer and translator. Donate is an active musician and has made her new home in Gettysburg available to host house concerts for traveling musicians and local artists in need of support. Donate and her husband have two daughters and three grandchildren.

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