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When the rainbow filter went global

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) made history on Friday, June 26th by ruling that same-sex marriage be legal nation-wide. Countless Americans took to the streets while others proudly displayed profile pictures in rainbow hues, celebrating this moment in jubilation. As the story hit international news streams, perhaps billions of people received the news to mixed reactions. It is interesting that 21 other countries – even developing nations like Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay, as well as South Africa – legalized same-sex marriage before the United States, and yet none of them caused the international uproar that the SCOTUS ruling achieved. This is yet another testament to the kind of global influence America wields.

As the SCOTUS ruling made its way around the world, gathering statuses, comments, likes, hashtags, and more rainbow-filtered profile pictures, something more sinister was brewing beneath the surface. In Russia, conservative politicians and Orthodox Church leaders were quick to denounce the development as America’s attempt to “impose its anti-natural and post-human view of marriage on other countries.” In China, Prof. Zeng Yi of Tongji University, who described the U.S. decision to approve same-sex marriage as a “crime against humanity,” stressed that the purpose of marriage was to have children. Most chillingly, ISIS decided to commemorate this historic event by posting footage of an execution of four gay men in a barbaric fashion – throwing them off a roof of a five-story building and sending them plunging to their deaths. This video was accompanied by ISIS’ ironic use of the hashtag #LoveWins.

I myself was eager to see the reactions of other Sri Lankans to the news, and was horrified to see the outpouring of hatred and bigotry on Facebook. Many commented on same-sex unions being unnatural, akin to pedophilia, was immoral, was upsetting the balance of nature etc. It was clear that homophobia, which had long existed in the form of micro-aggressions and less overt forms, was being pushed to the surface by this landmark ruling in America. I shudder to think of the backlash that the members of the LGBTQ+ community must be experiencing in their home countries, from being denied their identity to being denied their life, much like the four innocents who lost their live to ISIS.

Many wonder as to what the cause of this surge of resentment and bigotry could be. One answer is that the topic of LGBTQ+ rights was never a mainstream issue in these countries, until society perceived the institution of marriage to be threatened by the U.S. ruling. Others claim that such a bold and sweeping move was not expected from a nation as staunchly religious and conservative as the U.S., thus shaking the confidence of the religious right and traditionalists globally. Whatever the cause may be, the U.S. cannot be held to blame. It is not the fault of Americans that bigotry exists in other parts of the world. Each of us must shoulder the weight of what flaws exist in our own countries.

On a more positive note, not all of this is gloomy and dark. In Australia, legislators are confident that the U.S. policy isolates Australia as the only developed, English-speaking nation to refuse to legalize marriages between same-sex couples. Legislator Janet Rice, Greens Party leader, called the U.S. ruling “the loudest call yet for marriage equality in Australia.” Meanwhile, in India, activists believe that this recent development would force legislators to reconsider the 2013 Indian Supreme Court decision to reinstate a colonial-era law making homosexuality a crime. As Chinese LGBTQ+ activist Ah Qiang, director of Guangzhou-based Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) said, “I’ve never seen so much debate in both the traditional media and social media – so many people, and in so much depth. People who opposed homosexuality rarely felt a need to speak out — but they’ve taken this chance to express their feelings.”

This was definitely the case for the many vociferous opponents of marriage equality in Sri Lanka, who flooded my newsfeed with their posts, comments, and homophobic memes. I doubt that many of these people had ever had a full-fledged conversation about LGBTQ+ rights. And yet, the news of the SCOTUS ruling had forced these opinions out on to the surface. No longer were they festering deep in the hearts and minds of people, but being aired out in public and debated by others. This gave me the opportunity to write a blog post that addressed some of the basic arguments against queer identity that I encountered, which got over 1,400 views and was shared by many. I do not say this to brag about myself, but to point out that every word and gesture helps. I know that my voice may have helped someone out there question their prejudice or rekindle hope in the heart of those who are driven deep into the closet. This is the first step to more and more people realizing the justness of the LGBTQ+ cause.

Let me end by saying that for those who believe that the struggle for queer liberation and justice is over, think again. Queer identity is continually besieged both in America and abroad, and no one can rest until all people celebrate the same rights under the same rainbow flag. Yet today, we are closer to achieving that dream. It is the duty of each and every one of us to engage our family, friends, and social media acquaintances in these conversations, and to spread the message of equality that the Supreme Court stood for.

– Themal

Source: https://s3.amazonaws.com/prod_object_assets/assets/38908737700680/Rachel-Dolezal-NAACP-Spokane-1.jpg?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAI7NUHQYARXR2GGCQ&Expires=1435178857&Signature=pM%2FlYEfpQVLT77cC%2FhWnVU0kNSo%3D#_=_

Why Rachel Dolezal’s Story is so frustrating

If you haven’t heard the name, Rachel Dolezal, then you’ve been doing a pretty good job at hiding from media circuits. In case you are that person, let me catch you up: Dolezal has brought her name to fame and tarnished it all within a few days. She is a Caucasian woman who has been living the most recent portion of her life as a black woman. Yes, you read correctly. Her social media debut was when her estranged parents informed a news station that she has been falsely claiming to be African American. Dolezal has been identifying with a non-white race since the early 2000s. She has been sporting kinky weaves, braids, and skin bronzer in an attempt to deepen this facade. She has even made some extensive life choices that have helped her narrative: She attended a historically black university, Howard. It was at Howard where she even sued the school for discriminating against her for being biracial. She taught Africana studies at Eastern Washington University. She was also the head of the NAACP chapter in her place of residency, Spokane, Washington.

In recent interviews, Rachel Dolezal has revealed that her identifying as black is nowhere near deception or a mockery of black culture as many people are calling it. She claims that she feels an inherent connection to black culture, and that the black experience and struggle have spoken to her. She has told different interviewers that she’s known she was really black ever since she was young. Dolezal has even gone to the extent of saying that her parents aren’t her real parents, and that there is no way of proving otherwise (even though she won’t take a DNA test).

But Dolezal is, in fact, white. Her familial heritage does not indicate otherwise. For many people, this situation is laughable. But looking at my Facebook a night or two after her story was released proved that not everyone was able to find the humor. Many of my friends, predominantly black, shared information about her story with comments of outrage and confusion. I share the similar anger and disbelief when learning more details of Dolezal’s story, and my frustration mirrors much of the opinions presented in articles that have been published in response to Dolezal.

Rachel Dolezal (Image from the Internet)

First and foremost, impersonating any race is pretty hard for me to find justifiable. She used this new identity as an attempt to assimilate into black communities. She wanted to understand the black experience on a personal level. Yes, while identifying as black, Dolezal worked as an activist for racial/human rights justice. She did great work and was a community leader. But she could have done this work as a white person. White activists exist. Different NAACP chapters across the U.S. have employed white people. I feel as though we are currently in such a crucial time where white allyship and solidarity are needed and are being defined. Dolezal could have used her experiences and her privilege to mobile change in a way that would never have called for her to misrepresent herself.

Another issue I have with her story is her going to Howard. I’m not upset that someone who is non-black has attended a historically black school. What’s troubling is that if she claimed to be black to get into Howard, it is as though she cheated a person of color out of a spot at the university. The school was established to provide opportunities that non-white learners couldn’t get otherwise. If she wanted to attend a historically black school, she could have attended as a white person because historically black schools do admit white students.

Issue number three is her claim that she needed to identify as black as a way to help and relate to her black adopted siblings. There are studies that show that children who are adopted by families with race/ethnicity different from their own can have self-esteem and identity issues. I have even heard firsthand accounts from friends and family who were adopted by different races and have been told of these challenges. As an educated person who is aware of these challenges, she could have still been a support system without changing her identity. Her actions make it appear as though adoptions shouldn’t happen outside of an adoptee’s race, instead of advocating for restructuring how families help their new family members feel supported with their differences.

The end-all is that I feel as though Rachel Dolezal has trivialized black culture. Using her privilege, she invited herself into a culture that continues to fight for its protection. By simplifying the experience and making it appear to be so easy to “become black,” she is making an example of herself. She has made it known that others can take something that never belonged to them. Women of color still struggle to find job opportunities with natural hair and darker skin. As a woman of color myself, I often wonder if I will face discrimination for sporting my natural hair or the styles she’s brandished over the years. What Dolezal really did was to revel in enjoyment of being able to change herself – bring able to play both sides so fluidly, without fear or consequence. If I relax my hair and bleach my skin, I’m still black.

– Lulu

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Why Pride isn’t enough

It’s Pride season, and everywhere and everything is festooned with rainbow hues. The colors carry symbolic meaning, representing the diversity of the queer community. While watching the Boston Pride 2015 Parade last week, I was struck by the scale of this diversity. The parade featured nearly all identities of the movement – trans* community, white and racial minorities, differently abled. It was heartening to see signs of ‘Black Trans Lives Matter’ being borne right before the delegation from the Union United Methodist Church. It was a moving experience, to feel the sense of community that prevailed in that space, and hear the crowds cheer and support all the different identities of the queer community.

But by now, you should know that I rarely write happy, positive pieces. While it is truly amazing that inclusive spaces such as Pride exist, this is not a daily reality for the queer community. It always saddens me to think that a movement that has experienced the pain of exclusion and stigma would dole out those very things to their own. The queer community has much to do in terms of tackling the sexism, racism, transphobia, and other forms of prejudice that exist within its ranks.

I once wrote an article about gay cis-men and their male privilege. In it, I discussed the privileges that gay cis-men take over women and their bodies, infringing on their bodily integrity by critiquing their fashion, appearance, and diet in a non-consensual manner. It is worrisome that this trend extends to sexual harassment, with gay men groping women at bars and clubs and using their sexuality in order to trivialize their actions. The fact that sexual harassment has little to do with sexual desire and everything to do with power assertion means that gay men contribute to sexism as much as the rest of society. In another article – an interview of faith-based LGBTQ+ advocate Judy Hanlon – I was shocked to report the blatant racism that she and the LGBTQ+ asylum seekers in her care had experienced. To take for granted the legacy of queer communities of color, such as Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Audre Lord, Angela Davis, and Alice Walker, is to do a disservice to the legacy of the queer community itself.

Another dimension in which this insularity occurs is in the trans* exclusion that prevails in certain sects of the queer community. The Human Rights Campaign recently came under fire when one of their staffers asked an attendee at the Proposition 8 Supreme Court hearings to remove a Trans Pride flag, on the grounds that marriage equality is not a trans* issue. As the key group supporting marriage equality initiatives across the country, the organization’s trans* exclusionist policies has led to a stifling of trans* perspectives in this issue. As of 2013, the organization did not have any trans* individuals in their staff and they did not include the letter ‘T’ in their use of the LGB acronym until 2004. Most troublingly, they have supported transphobic policies, such as in 2007 when they supported a version of the Employment Non Discimination Act (ENDA) in Congress that did not extend the same protections for discrimination on the basis of gender identity as sexual orientation. It seems that there are those within the community who have forgotten the ‘T’ in our label, and don’t find as much meaning in the diverse colors of the pride flag as they should.

One of the major problems with the mainstream queer culture is that it has become assimilationist, adopting a white, middle class, cis agenda at the expense of identities that don’t fit into this mold. Consider how the hallmark LGBTQ+ issue of the modern day – the one that is debated by hopeful politicos and the Supreme Court – is marriage equality. Violence against LGBTQ+ identity still exists, as is demonstrated by the statistic that queer youth are twice as likely as their peers to experience violence. 73% of youth are more comfortable being honest about their sexuality online than in the real world.

Employment discrimination on the basis of sexual identity is yet to be criminalized in 29 states. And yet marriage equality has become the seminal topic of queer rights. What is most disturbing of all is that marriage equality is commonly referred to as gay marriage – which fails to be inclusive of many queer identities – representing how its poster child would be a gay, white, cis-male couple. It is signs like this that point to the insularity of mainstream queer culture, and the many ‘isms’ that exist within its midst.

It is important for the queer community and its allies to force these conversations, discuss these issues, and attempt to rectify the mistakes that we’ve made. For if not, Pride would cease to be any kind of meaningful symbol to the queer community and the world at large.

Themal

Sources: http://mic.com/articles/40629/as-marriage-equality-marches-forward-don-t-forget-the-trans-people-left-behind ; http://www.hrc.org/youth/view-statistics/#.VX4STPlVikp

- Photo by Suaida Firoze, Boston MA

#Pride

The LGBT Pride month and festivities are a 40-year-long tradition in the United States. Many of us don’t know that it started as a commemoration of the Stonewall riots that took place in 1969. Stonewall, back then, was a very popular gay bar situated in Greenwich Village in Manhattan.

ElyanaThe riots themselves were a series of rebellious and violent demonstrations against the NY police for raiding the Stonewall Inn on June 1969. This single event is currently considered the biggest tipping point for the LGBT civil rights movement. Since then every year, the LGBT community and supporters get together and celebrate the diversity of the LGBT community and the impact they have had all over the world.

Pride has evolved from just marches to week and month long activities filled with picnics, shows, huge parades, workshops, symposia, concerts etc. The month of June was also declared as ‘Pride Month’ by President Obama this year.Obama

I attended my first Pride parade in Boston this past weekend. And I cannot do justice to the experience I had, by putting it into words. It was simply exhilarating. Seeing so many people come together to support a movement that not just promotes the LGBT community but sends out an even bigger message – ‘it’s okay to be whoever you desire to be’ – was simply inspiring.

Banks, churches, schools, politicians (WE SAW ELIZABETH WARREN, no biggie :D) and so many non-profits came together to stand up for what they believed in and made the parade a huge success. My favorite moment was when I saw a South-Asian woman carrying a sign saying ‘I support my queer desi daughter’. Of course that hit me very close to home since I am Bangladeshi, but even if I wasn’t that was definitely the proof of how far so many people have come in terms of accepting those that are different from themselves.

- Pride parade captured by Suaida Firoze, Boston, MA.

– Pride parade captured by Suaida Firoze, Boston, MA.

The LGBT community has come a very long way since the Stonewall riots in 1969. The global community has also come a long way to accept those that may not fit the ‘norm’ according to their ideologies. And there is a very prevalent hope that it can only get better from here on out.

After attending Pride this year, the rainbow flag made a lot of sense to me. The flag means a lot of different things to many.  Well for me, it just meant ‘happy to be unique’. Everyone there who could express themselves freely seemed so happy. The entire parade just radiated happiness.

It always feels great to be comfortable in your own skin and embrace who you are. And it just feels ecstatic when thousands around you tag along. Mankind has come so far to accept all the diversity this world has to offer. There’s plenty more milestones to reach till every day feels like Pride for the LGBT community. But till then, let’s appreciate all that we have, and of course- Happy Pride y’all!

– Suaida Firoze

Why a liberal professor shouldn’t be afraid of his liberal students

Facebook is a wonderful thing. It helps one stumble upon everything and anything, from the illuminating to the mind-numbingly mundane. Two days ago, my newsfeed cheerily threw in my face an article that was neither. Titled “I’m a liberal professor, and my liberal students terrify me”, the article speaks of one particular professor from the Midwest who was experiencing grave challenges in speaking out and challenging the beliefs of his students in the face of the growing cost of being politically incorrect. He discusses the challenges in “rocking the boat” by exposing students to controversial material, in the face of the growing power that students have over the job stability and career progression of academics. He blames this (and I quote) on “a simplistic, unworkable, and ultimately stifling conception of social justice”.

There are many things contained in his article that I agree with. His concerns of the stifling of debate and discourse around topics that the social justice movements have embraced are valid (as he cites the examples of the shutting down of an abortion debate in Oxford in 2014). However, there are flaws to his argument which must be addressed. A nuanced response to this article was published soon after, which indicated that the immediate problem that the original writer spoke of does not lie with students and their sense of justice, nor with the bent of various social movements, but with the capitalist motivations of institutions which seek to preserve their reputation and the investment of their students by refusing to diffuse situations or back their faculty.

The original contributor cites many examples of modern youth’s misguided intentions. He mentions that comparing the number of “web articles surrounding the supposed problematic aspects of the newest Avengers movie with those complaining about, say, the piecemeal dismantling of abortion rights,” it is clear how liberal society gets riled up over trifles. And yes, I do agree that social conscious cyber communities may tend to zero in on certain topics with almost missionary zeal, but I believe that it is necessary, nay even healthy, for us to question and critique. If critical thinking is what the writer strives for, then he cannot argue against this phenomenon (especially when media has proven time and time and time again that we cannot accept what they present at face value). The second element, and one that is required to complete this process of problematization and engagement, is to create spaces for the discussion of such topics. Secondly, I do not agree that the number of articles that exist on a particular topic is in and of itself an indicator of how great a concern it may be. This seems rather simplistic. The abortion debate has existed for decades, and is still a number-one priority in many social justice movements. Timing is everything, with more recent debacles, such as Joss Whedon’s alleged treatment of gender, tend to garner an immediate response. More problematic to me, if truth be told, is how short the memory span of cyber activists may be, but that is a discussion for a later day.

I do not doubt that the professor who authored the article is well-intentioned. For instance, he does state that we cannot dismiss identity (and the prejudice that follows like a rabid dog). However, he does much harm by stating that the feelings dictate discussions of identity, as opposed to rational thought. I, for one, am rather tired of feelings being demonized and denigrated to a lower status than rationality. In the age when we believe that emotional experiences form the cornerstone of human life, we still cling to the archaic belief that rationality trumps all. It is emblematic of the eurocentrism that still dominates any mode of philosophical thought. Mothers make split-second, emotional decisions to protect their young; is this bad? It is time we realize that emotions are an integral and necessary aspect of humanity, which we cannot trivialize. Secondly, it is not only the feelings of individual students, for instance, that stand to be affected when one discusses problematic issues without any modicum of sensitivity. The very real threat of reinforcing harmful stereotypes and beliefs – which students take with them from the classroom to society – cannot be ignored.

He blames social justice movements for being insular and narrow-minded. Yet again, while I agree that open dialogue and discourse about issues is the ideal modus operandi for the fight for equality, there are very real barriers to consider. First, let’s really think about the scale of the movement. We’re not talking about a shadowy, Illuminati-esque force here (as Ann Coulter would have us think). Socially conscious liberals and libertarians are still very much a minority in this country, and are constantly required to debate and revisit the basics of their ideologies before a majority that views them with skepticism. Even a simple example serves to illustrate this point – consider how terms like fag and retard are still in use, and how long it took for the n-word to be phased out of our lexicon. While I don’t believe in censorship, to blame all social justice movements for this phenomenon is to undermine them as any whiff of a flaw has the critical majority out for blood. In fact, this degree of opposition necessitates that social justice movements constantly evaluate their ethos, serving as an undesirable checking mechanism.

In such a volatile environment, there are grave dangers in promoting unrestricted freedom of speech. I know that this may be an unpopular opinion, but I believe this American insistence on free speech needs to be reined in. Allowances for free speech enables people like Ann Coulter to travel around the country, propagating her ill-informed messages of hate and bigotry. Although she expects the truth to emerge in a free marketplace of ideas, reality is not quite so simplistic. People are willing to embrace what ideas appeal the most, and with money and fame to lend power to their voices, the likes of Ann Coulter are able to appeal to the misinformed masses.

Again, I must point out that open discussion and dialogue are not be demonized and shunned. Yet, the problem is that people do not approach these spaces with the right attitude. Respect alone is not enough. It is important to recognize and value the humanity, and to seek to understand rather than discredit. If only all human beings could approach one another from a place of love. Then again, if that were the case, we would not have anything to discuss in the first place.

– Themal

A Love Letter to Clark

It has been over a year since I began blogging for the ‘Things That Matter’, and I took the time to peruse some of the articles that I wrote during that time. In reading them serially, I was struck by how quickly they began to focus on issues of social justice, discussing topics like race, gender, sexuality, privilege, and the intersections of these concepts. As someone who strives to write from the heart, from a place of authenticity and passion, I believe that what I write is a reflection of who I am and try to be, and Clark has played a large role in that.

In the everyday conversations about Clark that I have with friends, acquaintances, and even random Clarkies (such a Clark phenomenon), I present a critical voice because I believe that Clark should be held to higher standards than the less progressive colleges we are constantly compared to, and should aspire to rectify problems that exist in our community. However, this article will deviate from this tradition, and instead celebrate the many wonderful ways in which Clark broadened my perspective.

As sensitive and aware as my family was of issues like racism and sexism, broader Sri Lankan society could hardly be categorized in the same manner. Racism and sexism, as two issues that had gained ground in the public consciousness, were rife in our immediate environment and were normalized to a great deal. Other forms of prejudice, such as homophobia, transphobia, ableism etc. were virtually unheard of growing up. Worse yet, conversations about identity were not as commonplace as they are within the Clark circles I move through. While there was a chance that glaring displays of racist or sexist behavior would be identified and problematized, microaggressions would slip under the public radar and prevail unchallenged. For instance, I remember being taught at a young age that it was impolite to use the term ‘woman’ to refer to someone who identifies as female. No doubt a legacy of our British colonial past, such ideas had taken root of Sri Lankan society in a death-like vice. Given my young age, I took this lesson to heart, but looking back I question this flawed logic. Why is it acceptable to call a man a man, while the term woman is considered tainted in some way? The sexist overtones – that being a woman is inherently degrading – are now crystal clear to me. I had a penchant for writing, and was prone to write (pseudo)philosophical treatises on all things ontological. When referring to the human race, I would always unconsciously use the term ‘mankind’, excluding women and trans* populations in the process. Never during my 13 years of schooling was this corrected by any of my teachers.

Looking back on my childhood, I feel that I have come a long way. Clark played an immense role in awakening my political and social consciousness. The amazing people I associate on a daily basis have inspired me to expand my awareness and understanding of diverse identities, the intersections of these categories, and the issues that plague them. I have grappled (and continue to do so) with the concept of privilege and how fluid-like it is in changing based upon context and identity, passing hands from one group to another. I think about how historically rooted phenomena such as privilege and power are inspired by centuries of colonial influence and the human impulse to dominate and master. And not only has Clark taught me to question and reflect on such topics, but to speak out and act towards the ending of oppression and the liberation of all peoples.

This particular international student owes a large debt to Clark, for helping him learn and unlearn what he has during the past two years. Yet, Clark alone does not earn all the credit for my transformation. My family has taught me in innumerable ways the importance of valuing human life and easing the suffering of others. My culture has taught me the importance of sacrifice, empathy, and the power of the collective. It is the influence of both Clark and my culture that have contributed to who I am today. Clark taught me who I should care about. Sri Lanka taught me why I should care.

– Themal

Frameworks: Science and Perceived Truth

What is truth? Is there such a thing as absolute truth or is our whole reality a set of perceived truths packaged by each individual? If you have never entertained this question for yourself, please stop reading this and spend some time teasing it out. It is a question thick with potential intricacy or incredible simplicity.

In the past few years, I’ve been contemplating this in great detail. As a student of science, I have been taught for so very long to trust and use the scientific method and process as an accurate framework through which to view happenings on our planet. We quantify, measure, and name the world around us and, through this, create a lens to view the world. It wasn’t until very recently that I heard instructors and classmates begin to mention the word ‘belief’ when discussing science. It is most often presented

image from zdnet.com

image from zdnet.com

as fact instead of a belief system. We are told that science doesn’t claim to be proof of anything or claim absolute truths but it is most definitely treated as though it does by society. Therefore, it holds incredible power. Unlike many other belief systems, the scientific community prides itself in the questioning of results and methodologies making it seem as though we are entirely self-critical. However, we do not question the principles that these methodologies and ideas behind THE scientific method or the idea that quantification is the most accurate way to represent all observable phenomena in our world.

Science is one of the frameworks to view the world that I almost entirely subscribe to, but it cannot be taken as absolute truth. The way I view this world may be filled with fancy numbers and techniques and Latin names, but it is in no way more or less valid than any other way of viewing our world. Our problems arise when we forget to respect each other or to try to understand the places other people are coming from.
Please share your thoughts on science, belief systems, or truth with us!

-Annalise

Event Recap: Hop on a ride to MarketSquare

Clark’s Entrepreneurship Club (CEC) is known to do really cool things. However, last Thursday they outdid their own standards. CEC’s very own MarketSquare was a makeshift market in the Grind where Clarkies came together to sell their own products and services.

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While doing Henna tattoos to the many customers that came by, I could feel the laid-back chilled vibe from all the cool things people around me were doing. There were Clarkies who sold macaroons, others who had just opened up a mini nail salon and this one Clarkie even brought down his clothing line. During those brief moments when I looked up from my own henna art service, I could see all the diversity that surrounded me. AND IT FELT AMAZING!

Most of us came there with our entrepreneurial spirit but we had no idea how successful it really was going to be. I personally just wanted to showcase my culture and food—making money was a secondary agenda I hadn’t given much thought to. But to my surprise, the experience was quite empowering and inspiring. Not only did I get to share my Bengali culture with so many new people, I also got to make a high profit through my products and services.

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All around me I could see entrepreneurs-in-the-making. Some of us even shared our contact information so potential customers could contact us outside MarketSquare. And almost all the products and services were such high-quality; customer loyalty wasn’t going to be far off.

It was truly humbling to see so many talented Clarkies come together and showcase what they were passionate about. And all I could think of the entire time was “Why doesn’t this happen more often?” Hats off to CEC for pulling off such a great event—an experience that will stay with me throughout my time at Clark. I personally hope this can happen more than just once a year and it expands so that Clark and Worcester residents can come be a part of all the cool things Clarkies are doing. Kudos to Clark Entrepreneurs and a huge shout out to Clark Entrepreneurship Club for giving us this incredible opportunity.

-Suaida Firoze

*Photos by Duong Le

Why I believe in Speak Out! Oppression on Campus

I’m going to cut to the chase here. Oppression – in any scale, shape, or form – is a daily reality in any part of this world. Human beings have never fully stumbled upon the miracle of coexisting with differences, and things won’t change overnight. I grew up in Sri Lanka, a culture that was impregnated with misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, racism, the works. I am not stranger to discrimination, and I have learned to make my peace with the knowledge that things will not change radically during my lifetime. But, that does not mean that I stop trying. Nor does it mean that I can’t appreciate the good in my culture. All of these thoughts, feelings, and opinions apply to my relationship with Clark.

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I am exceedingly proud to call myself a Clarkie. Much of that pride stems from being part of a community that inspires one to acknowledge the deep divides that cleave our society into a million tiny shards, and to engage in dialogue and discourse in an attempt to expand our own understanding, acknowledge our inherent biases, and strive to create some change in the world. I feel like Clark has given me the opportunity to expand my social consciousness beyond any limits that I would have conceived.

However, this is not to say that Clark is perfect. This institution is a human construct and it is imbued with human flaws. Moreover, as the creation of many individuals, it has failings that transcend the individual level and possesses the ability to affect entire communities. Nonetheless, as an institution that constantly engages in the rhetoric of being committed to social change and equity and aspires to shape global citizens, Clark University has made a pledge to acknowledge and address its flaws.

When I conceived the idea of organizing a campaign to allow students to produce anonymous testimonies of their own experiences, I hoped to do just that. This institution and its students deserve to hear the voices of those who have experienced discrimination of any form. Students are the greatest assets of this institution, and we make Clark’s vision of an engaged, explorative, and diverse intellectual community a reality. It is of utmost importance to affirm what experiences students may have, due to the human failings that are understandably, but not justifiably, embedded in an institution. The institution itself deserves to hear directly from the students, to know the problems that afflict us, to acknowledge this reality, and take steps to address it. While institutional mechanisms already exist to do this very thing, here’s why I think a campaign of this nature is required.

First, there is an awe-inspiring power in numbers and anonymity. What students may not feel comfortable in sharing with the institution directly and individually, they may wish to share in an anonymous setting while experiencing a sense of solidarity with others with similar experiences. Students are free to challenge by choice and are made aware of the implications and potential risks of participating in the project. Furthermore, they are free to withdraw their submissions at any point.

Second, a major percentage of our community is blissfully unaware of the forms of discrimination that prevail on campus. Many of us truly believe that the institutional values we hear of so often are a living reality and, due to our own lived experiences and socialization processes, are uninformed of the issues that exist within our midst. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not implying that the Clark community is deeply and dramatically prejudiced – a queer, international student of color such as myself would not be here and writing this article if that were the case. However, any form of discrimination, even micro-aggressions, inflicts a very real pain. Who are we to say that some forms of pain are more valid than others? Some of you may think that this campaign targets faculty and staff, but the reality is that students are as capable, if not more so, of perpetuating discrimination as anyone else. The Clark community requires a wake-up call, and this campaign strives to be part of the solution.

Lastly, this campaign is not intended to be a witch-hunt. It is not our intention to name, shame and indict those complicit in discrimination, but rather to realize what structural weaknesses must be stopped up to educate all of us on our own biases and blind spots so that fewer people are afflicted by these grave issues. Every single one of us – even those of minority identities – are complicit in perpetuating discrimination, unwittingly and indirectly; and healing and learning cannot occur in a space of blaming and shaming. It is only through acknowledgment, acceptance of our biases, and the commitment to address our perceptual differences that we can strive towards a truly inclusive society.

I have heard many things about this campaign since word of it first started to spread, and it saddens me that those who critique it have not sought to affirm the fundamental reason for its existence – to give voice to those who have not dared to speak before, or whose voice got lost in the tumult of daily existence. We would gladly accept any constructive criticism that was provided to us. I beg of all of you who read this to take this plea seriously. Consider what we leave with when we leave this institution – a piece of paper and future success that crumbles into dust as we die and rejoin the earth. But the impact we have on human lives? That endures the passage of time, living on in the hearts and minds of our collective consciousness. Our first priority has been and should be the welfare of the human lives that inhabit this institution, and if there is any way to recognize and safeguard the humanity of all, then I believe we should be unafraid to take that step.

-Themal