Office of Inclusive Excellence

Kicking the Ball for Community

February 7, 2023

By Brian Corpening

I fancy myself as a nostalgic spirit. I spend time reflecting on my life, often thinking of family, friends, and experiences that have shaped the path I have walked. Maybe that is what age brings: a constant reflection of our life journey. Nevertheless, my embrace of nostalgia is what centers my firm belief in the power of community.

Some of my fondest and most formative memories are of growing up when a group of us --friends and my brother-- would gather in a field in our neighborhood and engage in sports competitions. We would play football, baseball, basketball, and soccer. The competition was tremendous and spirited. But looking back on those times, I now understand that the fellowship and camaraderie made those experiences memorable. Too often, we spend so much time attaching winning and losing to things that we completely overlook that the time spent with others enjoying the experience is what truly matters and makes events so special.

I had such a joyful experience nearly a year ago during a kickball game that broke out during an event held on a Saturday in September. The "Block Party Against White Supremacy" event occurred in a field near the East Campus rental office and allowed our community to support an important cause, engage in fellowship, and connect with colleagues we had only seen on a computer screen the last year and a half. Our colleagues in the Abolitionist and Decolonial Education Collective -- our neighbors and friends -- who organized the event did an incredible service to our community by pulling the event together. Considering what we had gone through, the event was a lifeline to normalcy. 

The kickball game during the Block Party Against White Supremacy became a metaphor for the joy we experienced after the months of isolation. After all those months of avoiding contact outside of close family, there was a craving for collegial interaction with friends and colleagues. Dodging gopher holes big enough to swallow you whole during the game wasn't enough to tarnish the happiness of seeing friends and colleagues in person. The block party with the kickball game was the event that, while showing community support for equity, inclusion, and justice, provided the opportunity to reconnect after the COVID-imposed isolation of the previous eighteen months. 

Last September's event has ended, but the cause that inspired the event has not, and our collective commitment to fight injustice remains unshakeable. We may be through the worst of the pandemic. However, we now understand that if the necessity of the isolation of the previous months returns, we must do everything in our power to remain connected to each other to lessen the detriment of the isolation and maintain our sense of community. A beautiful September day reminded us of that connection's importance and what we mean to each other.

Brian Corpening, Ph.D., is the Associate Vice President of Inclusive Excellence and Sustainability at CSUMB. He is firmly committed to a university that is inclusive, equitable, and just for everyone.