College and Wharton senior Kenny Puk (far right) and other students break into small group discussions in Houston Hall to share reactions to inequality.

Credit: Sam Sherman / The Daily Pennsylvanian

In a strong display of solidarity last night, several Penn minority groups identified a struggle common to them all.

In Houston Hall, the Asian Pacific Student Coalition, Pan-Asian American Community House, UMOJA, Makuu, Latino Coalition and La Casa Latina came together for an event entitled “The State of Civil Rights Today.”

According to Wharton junior Tania Chairez, vice chair of the Latino Coalition, this event was held in the wake of activism sparked by Martin Luther King Jr. Day last week to reflect on issues faced by minority groups at Penn and their solutions.

The event attracted a diverse group of participants. What brought them together on this issue was a need for a collective response to the social injustice that they have observed.

“We realize that something that affects one of us affects all of us,” Chairez said, “and we want to form a solidarity circle with each other.”

Most participants already had thoughts on issues concerning minority groups and wanted to discuss them. College senior Mo Shahin voiced his own, saying, “A lot of my friends are activists in different issues. I think it’s interesting to not just be so involved but also to step back and question why we are so involved in these issues in the first place.”

After chatting informally over dinner, participants were directed into smaller groups for more focused discussions. At each discussion, facilitators put forth scenarios of issues regarding minority groups, and the group members discussed their reactions to them.

The questions that evoked the most enthusiastic conversation included: Would you react differently to teenage violence between two minority communities than between majority and minority groups? How would you know if you’re overreacting or underreacting to a racial slur?

Beside discussing problems and reactions, participants also brainstormed for solutions to these issues. Among the ideas discussed were mentoring teenagers of a different race to dispel interracial misconceptions and creating space for minority groups to discuss injustices.

Participants asserted their views on the best solutions to problems, disagreed with each other at various points, but resonated with each other on the need for more collaborative solutions.

College junior Abrina Hyatt, a co-chair of UMOJA, said that these discussions aimed to “promote an urgency within the communities to do something about something that’s wrong and not just acknowledge it.”

Jonathan Paz, a College sophomore, said, “I felt Penn was quite self-segregated when I got here. But we talked about the struggle that unites us as minority groups, and I’m optimistic about the future for Penn.”

He added, “There is room for growth for our communities to shape Penn into the university we want it to be.”

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