Living in History: Interview with Spirit of King Award Winner Dr. Richard Craig

Interview with Spirit of King Award Winner

by Jennifer Shaskan

Living in History: Interview with Spirit of King Award Winner Dr. Richard Craig
Richard Craig: Spirit of King Winner

Congratulations to our MA Director Dr. Richard Craig on receiving the Spirit of King Award during George Mason University’s Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Kr. Evening of Reflection held on January 28th, 2021.

This award is presented to members of the Mason community for their commitment to carrying out King’s vision of social justice. For Craig, King’s visions are a point of guidance not only in his personal endeavors but within the classroom as well. Specifically, in his Media and Society course Craig explained that:

“The course is basically how when every new media technology comes along, how culturally there’s a shift and what that means for voices that previously hadn’t had access to getting their issues and their thoughts out there to people. With each level of media technology and development, and evolution of media, we have these conversations about what it means for humanity and then particular groups. And I love talking about how marginalized groups are represented or have power over their representations and their images and things of that nature.”

Craig also expanded on the course work of Media Policy courses at Mason in which discussions revolve around topics such as: “media policies that have implications on access, ownership for people of color or women, for those that traditionally haven’t had the capital to earn. We talk about laws that are impacted by media representations and everything of that nature.”

These discussions become more natural because during his classes, Craig designates time for students to have conversations regarding current events in an environment in which they can be heard and can learn from one another with the chance of relating to coursework. One pivotal time Craig recalls is during the Trayvon Martin events of 2013. Discussions at this time were heated and passionate, but also very informative. Craig utilized this moment to have an integral discussion with students and relate it to their studies:

“We had a conversation about the challenge of mainstream America empathizing when young black kids have loss of life, especially in such tragic ways. And I related it to the conflict that was going on with the Hunger Games film. This conflict was that a big part of the fan base was upset because they cast Rue as Amanda Stenberg. There were people that love the character in the books when they had their opportunity to imagine what the character looked like for themselves and they empathize with her but when they see this young, black, child playing the role it’s all of a sudden, a major shock to their system and can’t have the same type of empathy.”

Approaching these impactful topics in the classroom can be difficult which is why Craig stated,” the most important thing for us as instructors is to have a pulse on our class.” Every class is different and should be approached according to their own unique interactions and values. Craig claims, it is a constant balancing act, but respect is key.

Regarding receiving the Spirit of the King Award, Craig stated “It’s awesome of course, feeling like you’re appreciated or that what you do have some value to it or to other people in particular.”

For current students enduring the obstacles of Covid-19, online learning, social injustice and inequality Craig offered the following words of wisdom:

“We are living in history all the time. It may be the moment right now but, 20, 50 or however many years from now, people are going to be looking back and hopefully as they do that they’ll see people that were working together collectively to try to figure out a better way to behave, and to progress.”

To endure these improvements, he encourages our current generation of students to stay optimistic, be open minded, have conversations, contribute to policy, and don’t be afraid.

We are so proud of Dr. Craig and look forward to what great things he will do next!