Echoing: A Practice of Liberation through Transformative Education


  • Monika L. Son John Jay College of Criminal Justice
  • Virginia Diaz-Mendoza John Jay College of Criminal Justice
  • Schevaletta Alford John Jay College of Criminal Justice
  • Erica King-Toler John Jay College of Criminal Justice
  • Gabrielle Cuesta John Jay College of Criminal Justice
  • Lenwood W. Hayman, Jr. Morgan State University


Black diaspora, contemplative practices, innovative teaching, transformation, Black liberation, well-being


Black people living in the U.S. have had to resource themselves with practices to help them remain resilient against the oppression they experience. Pandemic-inspired challenges have made the collective contemplation on how to engage in liberating, transformative practices imperative. Faculty across the country have been tasked with creating nuanced ways to cultivate contemplative, restorative, and liberatory pedagogy. The focus of the current study was to develop a clearer understanding as to how contemplative practices help inspire people constrained by structural inequities to actively shift their mode of being and teaching in higher education. Through a contemplative practice known as echoing (Laymon, 2020), the authors wrote brief love letters to one another. Thematic analyses of each letter yielded suggestions as to how this practice could be used to further resource resilience, well-being, innovative pedagogical practice, self-care, and spirit-nurturing rituals for teachers, students, and staff inclusive of every part of the Black diaspora. Additional discussion is offered on how echoing can be applied across various contexts.

Author Biographies

Monika L. Son, John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Dr. Monika L. Son serves as Assistant Professor, Chair and Director of the Percy Ellis Sutton SEEK Department of John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Guided by heart-spirit, the ancestors, and palpable connections to suffering in the world, her calling has been grounded in finding ways to be free from the conditions of oppression to discover paths to self-realization, connection to the world and radical love. Monika is also a certified embodied coach and trainer.

Virginia Diaz-Mendoza, John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Dr. Virginia Diaz-Mendoza has been a member of the Counseling Faculty in the SEEK Department at John Jay College of Criminal Justice - City University of New York for over 20 years. Her scholarship, advocacy, and mobilization efforts focus on restorative justice, educational equity, and institutional effectiveness.

Schevaletta Alford, John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Schevaletta (Chevy) Alford is a licensed mental health counselor and Associate Professor of Higher and Adult Education, who has served in opportunity programs focusing on urban commuter students for more than thirty years. Her primary area of expertise is assisting students in moving from the ordinary to the extraordinary as they seek to realize their dreams.

Erica King-Toler, John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Erica King-Toler is a licensed cross-cultural psychologist who has been working more than 20 years in SEEK developing student leaders and encouraging student resilience in the face of life challenges. Erica is known for encouraging students to strive for excellence, while letting their lights shine.

Gabrielle Cuesta, John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Gabrielle Cuesta serves as an educator/counselor in the SEEK Department at John Jay College whose passions include liberatory pedagogy and healing practices. As a queer cis-woman of mixed race, white skin identity, Gabrielle feels a strong responsibility to dismantle structural oppression and violence.

Lenwood W. Hayman, Jr., Morgan State University

Dr. Lenwood Hayman is a community health methodologist who specializes in cultivating community cohesion, resilience, and contemplative inquiry. The primary focus of Lenwood's work is on empowering historically oppressed communities to craft their own narratives regarding the challenges and successes they have experienced along their journey towards well-being.


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