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Penn for Immigrant Rights and Penn Political Coalition's I Am A Human Demonstration Gionni Ponce '15 (hat) Tania Chairez '14 (white boots) Angel Contrera '13 (black jacket blue hood) Abraham Moller '15 (A's hat) Iris Mayoral '15 (I am Latina sign) Afnaan Moharram '14 (tan headscarf) Ibi Etomi '14 (turquoise) Ricky Swieton '14 (Penn shirt) Jose Gonzales '14 (grey sweatshirt) Credit: Abby Graham , Abby Graham

There were signs of unity within diversity in Wynn Commons last Friday.

Bracing against the cold wind, a group of around 10 students from Penn for Immigrant Rights and Penn Political Coalition constituent groups stood in Wynn Commons, holding up signs that declared, “I am ______, and I am Human.”

This demonstration re-enacted a meaningful scene 44 years ago in Tennessee, when a group of workers held similar signs saying “I Am a Man” during the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Strike.

“It was a powerful message that linked black men and white men together … and we wanted to try [to] link undocumented issues with the civil rights movement,” said College junior Gionni Ponce, communications coordinator for Penn for Immigrant Rights.

However, the “I Am a Man” signs in the original march automatically excluded women, and at that time, women were specifically asked not to join the march.

Therefore, while the event drew inspiration from that march, the signs used were tweaked to promote greater inclusion.

“We wanted to take that and link it to a greater cause, and show that of all the different groups on campus, we all have our own characteristics and we are all linked by humanity,” Ponce said.

Penn for Immigrant Rights is a relatively new group on campus. It was started last winter when co-chairs College and Wharton senior Angel Contrera and Wharton junior Tania Chairez — working under different groups for immigrants’ rights and undocumented issues respectively — realized that there was a genuine need and interest for a single group to concentrate on pushing forward these initiatives.

For Chairez, it was also a much more personal matter. “My own motivation is very much my own experiences, because I am undocumented. I’ve seen many people struggle, and I don’t think I can just be a student and not fight for immigrant rights,” she said.

The demonstration was also strategically planned just before Election Day to show that while undocumented immigrants may be labeled as very different people, “we are all bounded by this one unifying thing — that we are human.”

And at the demonstration, many had the same mission — in different ways. “I am Gay and I am Human,” said one sign. “I am a Feminist and I am Human,” said another.

College sophomore Abraham Moller, who is half-Iranian, joined the event to support the important value of “respect for different types of groups and people.”

For Wharton and College junior Afnaan Moharram, holding up a sign saying “I am Muslim, and I am Human”, the event spoke to her as part of a powerful mission to unite different minority groups and address their struggles in terms of acceptance in American society.

“My identity has been greatly shaped by the fact that I am Muslim, and that I was born shortly before 9/11,” she said. “This is kind of my way [of] showing people who don’t see myself as an equal human that I am. I have the same values about life, and that’s really what matters, not my religion or race or anything like that.”

To further spread this message, Penn for Immigrant Rights will take the demonstration and turn it into an online campaign, posting photos of the event onto its blog and raising awareness on campus through social media.

And the group is always hoping to do more. “Events we’ve held are really about signaling and letting people know that diversity is clearly more than skin-deep, or more than just the color of your skin,” Contrera said. “It’s about the thoughts and your ideas.”

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