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Introducing... Karolyn DeKam

Karolyn is the newest member of the Office of Social Justice team. She joins our team this week as the Justice Mobilizing and Advocacy Fellow, a one year position with our office. Karolyn comes to us with a background in Sociology after attending Calvin College. We are thrilled to welcome Karolyn to the team!

Who is one of your social justice heroes? 

There are many people, both personally known to me and not, whose social justice work I admire! One that comes to mind is Shane Claiborne and his idea of ordinary radicalism. I deeply admire his commitment to nonviolence and to the poor, and I hope to emulate some of his teachings in my own life.

You just graduated with a degree in sociology.  What has been one of the most formative experiences or lessons learned from either your education or work in that field?

Studying sociology at Calvin opened my eyes to the pervasiveness of structural inequality and the need for broad structural change in order to promote human flourishing. When we recognize the inequalities built into our systems, it helps us to understand the experiences of others and builds compassion for the struggling of marginalized groups.

Tell us about a time you have been inspired by your congregation or church.

I attend Sherman Street CRC in Grand Rapids and, while Sherman Street’s commitment to social justice has always been inspiring to me, the care and thoughtfulness they took in approaching the Covid-19 pandemic especially moved me. The measures they took to keep people safe while still maintaining a supportive Biblical community reminded me of the care and thoughtfulness of Christ.

You worked as a Civitas Fellow at Calvin University.  What did you study and what were some of the most formative experiences you had in that role and how do you think that experience will enrich your work in the area of social justice?  

One of the research projects I worked on as a Civitas Fellow was on The Colossian Forum, which is an organization that promotes respectful and compassionate Christian dialogue around divisive issues. During the two years I studied this organization, I took the time to evaluate my commitment to compassionate dialogue in the face of injustice and build a deeper understanding of what it means to recognize the Image of God in those with whom I disagree. This research has convinced me that social justice work is most effective when agents of social justice learn how to communicate across disagreements and actively foster unconditional love for others. I carry this knowledge with me as I begin my work at the OSJ.

What TV show or book character or best embodies you and why?

I have always identified with Amy Santiago from Brooklyn 99. She’s a little over-enthusiastic and pretty Type A, but ultimately she cares about other people deeply and wants to do the right thing.


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