After a silent protest against racism last week, students are finding ways to increase awareness and sustain dialogue about race on campus.
The protest, which attracted over 200 people, was organized in response to a Daily Pennsylvanian guest column authored by Liberal and Professional Studies student Christopher Abreu detailing his encounter with racial slurs.
Responses to the column have made Abreu realize that his experience is not an “isolated incident,” he wrote in an email. Abreu plans to start a nonprofit organization to help all students nationwide feel like they belong in their communities.
“When I wrote the article, I was at my lowest point. I didn’t think anyone cared, I thought I was alone,” Abreu added.
He hopes his nonprofit will provide a support system for students with similar experiences and “help prop them up when they are at their lowest,” Abreu wrote.
Abreu has requested a meeting with Penn President Amy Gutmann to convey the prevalence of racism at Penn.
He also plans to write a book about his experiences surrounding race and belonging.
“There is so much I want to do. I feel really inspired. I feel it’s my calling,” he added.
Students also started a blog, “We Belong at Penn,” to serve as an open forum for students to share opinions and personal stories about racist encounters.
As part of the “We Belong!” movement, organizers also plan to create a video featuring students from different backgrounds and nationalities stating why they think they belong at Penn, College freshman Ernest Owens said.
Owens, who will be participating in the video, said he hopes the University will broadcast the video to current and prospective students.
A group of students are also working on a list of goals to present to the administration, said College senior Justin Ching, one of the organizers of the protest. These include initiatives to expand diversity programming across campus.
“Time is the issue right now. It’s a race against the clock, in terms of execution,” Ching said.
The United Minorities Council, along with other minority coalitions and the Penn Consortium of Undergraduate Women, met with the Office of Student Affairs and Manager of LPS Student Services and Records Kathy Urban to discuss ways to move forward.
“We’re trying to get the administration involved and find institutional ways to make Penn a safer place for minorities,” Nursing sophomore and UMC political chairwoman Elizabeth Park said.
The minority coalitions also want to increase their visibility on campus and ensure that cultural resources are more accessible to students.
Each minority coalition and cultural center plans to make a video to put on their websites to introduce prospective and current students to their resources, Park said.
College sophomore Maya Brandon wants to make April 20 — the day of the silent protest — a “We Belong!” day each year, where everyone would dress in black in remembrance.
“It’s to make sure we don’t forget and to ensure the dialogue never dies. We should make [the day] a permanent part of Penn,” she said.Comments powered by Disqus
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