By: Adrian Nava
During the 2015-2016 school year, the Latin America Center at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies organized a Social Justice Solidarity Series, where topics and issues that impact Latinxs were related and talked about in unity with issues that impact other social groups, including folks in different generations, Black students, and students at different campuses in the Denver area.
These conversations are important to me because people like me are oftentimes not represented or represented poorly on campus. In the last three years I’ve dealt with experiences and interactions on this campus that would make for interesting and astonishing stories, especially for people who are not privy to the racism, homophobia and other types of discrimination that happen on DU’s campus. The Social Justice Solidarity Series not only included voices of different students but expanded perspectives and included voices of people from different backgrounds, identities and experiences. By attending these events, I was able to sit in a room where I could hear about what mattered to students now, what was important 10 years ago, and what Latinxs in Denver were fighting for 50 years ago. The series offered me a look into Latinx history and a space to offer steps on moving forward.
By hosting conversations of this nature, the Latin America Center at Korbel is confirming its commitment to students and extending support to underrepresented groups on DU’s campus. When I first walked the sidewalks of DU, I felt a great sense of discomfort. I’d walk through the dining halls with caution and a sense of unworthiness, taking only minimal food and eating as fast as I could. Three years later I no longer feel unworthy, but I am jaded and ambivalent most days on campus. I’ve changed my relationship between myself and school grounds: I have a 30 minute commute, assuring that I live far enough away that I can be in a completely different community when school environment is overwhelming. I stacked courses on Mondays and Wednesdays, and only step foot on DU’s red-brick-paved sidewalks two days a week. It has been events like the Social Justice Solidarity Series that bring me back and offer me acknowledgement and ease. There’s a tiny and impactful feeling of power that comes with going to the Latin America Center’s events, knowing that internal shifts are starting to take place and that there are offices and people on campus that care.
In March, the Latin America Center held a Black – Brown Solidarity discussion, where students created a list of demands that addressed racial inequity on campus. Weeks later a group of Black students organized a die-in at the Anderson Academic Commons. As a student of color, events like the solidarity series reaffirm my identity, experience, and allow me to feel some relief on DU’s campus. The Latin America Center will continue to hold these events, and hopefully students like myself will begin to feel included and supported on DU’s campus.
Adrian Nava is a senior at the University of Denver and Research Assistant at the Latin America Center. He can be reached at email@example.com
By: Darren Harvey
I had the privilege of being a part of the Social Justice Solidarity Series, hosted by the Latin America Center at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, this 2015-2016 academic year. As a student of color, attending the University of Denver (DU), it is not uncommon to feel very isolated in my program, in my classes, and in my overall experiences at the institution. As a Black graduate student, I can definitely describe my initial experience as one of isolation. When I first matriculated at the University of Denver, away from family and friends and my usual support systems, I was unprepared for the climate at DU. Attending an institution that is seemingly known for its majority white and affluent student body is an interesting dynamic for a student that is first generation US-born as well as first generation college-bound. I did not feel comfortable in my classes; I did not feel comfortable walking across campus; and I definitely did not feel comfortable studying in the library. Why? Why wouldn’t I feel comfortable being a student in student spaces? It’s one thing to have excellent academic programs and departments as well as having a campus that is beautiful and scenic. It’s totally different to have these features AND have an inclusive and diverse campus climate.
This is not to say that all students of color face this same overwhelming feeling of isolation. There are many that have no issue with DU’s climate and their growth at this institution is worthy of taking note. However, my experience is not unique. There are many that echo my sentiments and even more that have had experiences of dehumanization that have left them with an unsettling sense of frustration. It is tough enough to be a student at DU; add issues of race, gender, or sexual orientation into the mix, and you have one hell of a fight to graduation.
I have always seen commonalities in the struggles of disadvantage people, whether they identify as poor, as different sexual orientations or as different races. Often times, when combating social justice issues there is a crucial element left out – the identification of our commonalities. To prevent the oppressed from joining in solidarity, those who oppress love to provoke division amongst us and our leaders. This year’s Social Justice Solidarity Series took action. These events initiated an important step in facilitating much needed conversations amongst communities and student leaders at DU. We were able to start constructing what Solidarity means and what that will look like. We were able to create spaces of communion for students that all have the shared experiences of isolation attending this university. These events are a much needed piece in DU’s growth to a more inclusive institution and to building solidarity among oppressed groups, and I look forward to being a part of future endeavors.
Darren Harvey is a graduate student at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies and Research Assistant at the Latin America Center. He can be reached at Darren.Harvey@du.edu