Uncategorized

Pride Week kicks off October 10th

pride-week-2016The weeklong celebration is hosted by SDIS, OutLaw! QSA, and DAB. It’s a collaborative effort to affirm the LGBT+ community by providing recreational, social and support services, and learning opportunities to continue fostering a positive campus climate.
Pride Week is a celebration of identity and expression. Many individuals come to campus without a lot exposure to the LGBT+ community. Pride Week is a platform to engage that learning opportunity and, overall, celebrate diversity.
University campuses vary widely in whether, how, and when they organize LGBT Pride observances. At St. Thomas, Pride Week takes place in the Fall. Our activities include speakers, panel discussions, movies, and a celebratory dance.
Throughout the week, there will be a large number of opportunities for students to get involved, this is the link to events.

Diversity, Heritage Month, Uncategorized

St. Thomas Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

hispanic-2016Hispanic Heritage Month is upon us; the celebration begins on September 15 and is set to continue for a full month until October 15. The purpose of the celebratory month is to recognize the contributions and vital presence of both Hispanic and Latino Americans to the United States and to observe their native heritage and contributing culture. The history of Hispanic Heritage Month has deep roots in the United States, the month long observation began in 1968, and always begins in the fall of each year. Originally the celebration was not a month long; in fact it was only a week. President Lyndon Johnson first approved Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968, and was expanded to a full month by President Ronald Reagan in 1988. Finally, Hispanic Heritage Month was officially enacted into law on August 17 of that year.

September 15 was not a date chosen at random; in fact the date contains a large amount of significance for multiple Hispanic nations. According to USA.gov, the date is the anniversary of independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. They all declared independence in 1821. In addition, Mexico, Chile and Belize celebrate their independence days on September 16, September 18, and September 21, respectively. Hispanic Heritage Month was enacted to celebrate the fundamental contributions Hispanics have made to the growth, vitality and culture of North America.

This year at St. Thomas we once again celebrate and provide opportunities for the community to engage in the month-long celebration, details are available on our website.

As a Latina I fully embrace the necessity of this month. Hispanic Heritage Month is the month I remind you and myself that “mi gente” are powerful and resilient. Hispanic Heritage Month is the month I get to celebrate all of our accomplishments. This is the one-month out of the year where I get to remind you, boldly, that we matter and that we extend a “bienvenida” to you as you help us celebrate. Hispanic Heritage Month is not about one community but rather is it about realizing and accepting how vast and complex our varied cultures are within the Latinx narrative. Latino/Hispanic Heritage Month gives us a chance to celebrate what each of our cultures bring to the St. Thomas community. I encourage all students, faculty, staff and the greater campus community to join us in celebrating  ‘la cultura Latina’ through all the events and programs on campus. We are very excited for this year’s events!

Uncategorized

“You Spoke, We Listened”

ncoreThis summer, the news has been filled with examples of many of the uncertainties and problems that plague our world today. What is the message of Black Lives Matter? How do we uproot the racism embedded in our justice system? What does immigration reform mean? Is anonymous speech good for society; is it destructive?

In order to engage students on some of these issues, SDIS provided an opportunity for all incoming first year students to share the causes they are willing to SPEAK UP about. Incoming first-year students watched “The Danger of Silence”, a TED Talk video by Clint Smith, during a breakout session at Orientation and Registration led by SDIS. After viewing the video, students had an opportunity to send an anonymous text message to a digital bulletin board, where they named a cause that they are passionate about. After meeting with 36 different groups of students over nine Orientation days, we saw that the following topics were the most oft-submitted as ones that the students want to speak up about.

1. Immigration
2. Black Lives Matter/Police Brutality
3. LGBTQ rights
4. Women’s rights
5. Islamophobia/Religious freedom

To respond to and generate discussion around events that matter to our students, SDIS will using these themes to help us frame our conversations during our weekly Purple Bench discussions on Friday afternoons. Purple Bench discussions are designed to encourage participants to step outside of their comfort zones, offer their opinions on challenging topics, and to not shy away from asking questions. No reading or research is required in advance at Purple Bench; it is a forum where people can talk about issues they care about, and a space where one need not be an expert in order to participate. We believe it is important to cultivate conversations on important issues that challenge us, so that we can learn from one another and become more familiar with having constructive dialogue with people who may hold and express different points of view.

During our annual Welcome Back to Campus social (September 9th 1-4 p.m.) we will provide an opportunity for the campus community to suggest other important issues we should be talking about during the upcoming school year. We really want an opportunity for faculty, staff and students to interact on the important social issues of our time, and we will continue to listen to our students and shape our weekly discussions to address the issues that matter to them.

Diversity

2015-2016 Wrap Up: Thank You!

Today marks the last day on St. Thomas’ 2015-2016 academic calendar. And looking back, it is hard not to be grateful for the people in and around SDIS that have made this year as eventful, progressive, and fun as it was.

We saw bright, courageous multicultural leaders stand up for social equity on campus like we never have seen:

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We were blessed by other powerful voices coming to campus, like Sister Outsider and Jose Antonio Vargas:

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We turned up on a boat:

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Took advantage of opportunities to make change, large and small:

DorseyWay

‘Campus Way’ has been renamed to ‘Dorsey Way’ in acknowledgment of Father Dorsey. A small gesture working toward acknowledging St. Thomas’ diversity, and making it more inclusive.

And still found time to chill every now and then:

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A lot has happened this year, and we hope the momentum created by the actions in and around our office is carried into the fall.

Special thanks are in order for our full-time staff—Peggy Jerabek, Patricia Conde-Brooks, Brad Pulles, and Jessica Gjerde. This office serves many different functions for many different people, and the community and opportunity created between the four of you should not go unnoticed.

Thank you, fellow SDIS Interns—Cory Kemp, Abeye Cherinet, and Yaia Yang—for contributing to this blossoming community of students, staff, and faculty pushing to make St. Thomas a more inclusive, worldly community.

Most importantly, thank you to all students, staff, faculty, and local community members not directly affiliated with SDIS for participating or contributing to our efforts this year.

Whether it was attending a program, telling people about upcoming events, or simply stopping by the office to greet and thank those who were working there, the engagement with SDIS is what makes the office special.

You validate everything SDIS tries to do for the St. Thomas community and we recognize you, long list of contributors, for making the feeling around our programs and activity what it is.

Have a great summer, everyone! We will remain open throughout the summer, so stop by ASC 224 anytime before the Fall 2016 semester if you just can’t wait to be around us again!

Courageous Conversations

Anti-Racism Campaign

Rachel

It’s April 2016, and you still probably don’t think racism exists at the University of St. Thomas.

Starting with a protest of USG in November, a strong contingent of students of color have continued to voice their frustration with the campus’ racial climate.

Since the protest, the formation of the Students of Color: Claim Our Seat (SOCCOS) movement has occurred. SOCCOS published a document of policy recommendations regarding the diversity and inclusiveness of St. Thomas’ campus climate two days after the protest.

Since then, the document has reached the desks of many administrators, faculty, and staff, including President Sullivan, Provost Richard Plumb, and members of the Anti-Racism Coalition. The coalition, formed by students, staff, and faculty aligned with the SOCCOS movement, published an open letter earlier this month drawing attention to persistent issues of inclusiveness and racial injustice on campus. The letter was met with a thorough response from President Sullivan herself.

In the letter, Sullivan highlights the work of the ‘Embracing our Differences as One Human Family’ task force of the Strategic Planning Committee. Sullivan addressed the urgent requests of the coalition to invest more into creating or developing inclusive space, equity training, and educational efforts.

Movement at the administrative level has not slowed down the need of students to continue voicing their concerns. Students both affiliated and unaffiliated with SOCCOS have been participating in the Anti-Racism Campaign for Tommies! (ACT!) in the past several weeks. The campaign captures the issues facing some students of color on campus through a photo series and video.

Many of the students featured in the ACT! campaign want to express that racism happens in ways that aren’t violent or individualized. The students share about their experiences with stereotyping, microaggressions, and being misrepresented among other issues.

Freesia Towle, graduate assistant at SDIS, is leading the charge in developing the campaign. She aims to make the ACT! campaign a platform for students to leverage their voices to facilitate racial justice dialogue and anti-racist mobilization in the St. Thomas community.

Towle describes the ACT! campaign as, “A multimedia platform for students to address their concerns in response to national and local racial justice issues.”

“It’s critical that students of all racial-ethnic identities have informal and formal opportunities to exchange personal narratives of either witnessing or experiencing racism. ACT! asserts the need to talk about how social constructions of race and the deeply harmful impact of racism permeates our St. Thomas community,” Towle says.

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The photo series has been launched today, with banners hanging over the ASC Atrium from the second floor. The video is set to premiere on the digital ad screen on the first floor of ASC Tuesday, May 3. The video will be displayed on repeat between 11:30 a.m and 1 p.m on Tuesday and Wednesday, May 4. Be on the lookout!

Students hope the ACT! campaign garners serious attention to the concerns of some of St. Thomas’ students of color. The ACT! campaign also aims to change the way the St. Thomas community thinks about racism and racial injustice.

Take time during the end of this semester to think outside of yourself. Hopefully, stories from the ACT! campaign help you see racial injustices affect more than just direct victims of it.

Thanks!

Heritage Month

AAPI Month 2016 Is HERE

 

2016AAPIEventsScreen

It’s that time of year again!

The last national heritage month we celebrate during the academic year is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. It is a time to learn about and acknowledge the issues, culture, and history of individuals and communities with Asian or Pacific Islander backgrounds.

Though it is meant to be celebrated in May, we start our observance of AAPI Month early so St. Thomas community members are able to make time for it before the hectic last week of the semester.

Before previewing some of our wonderful programs for the heritage month, here are a couple of questions we hope you find answers to as you learn from and enjoy the month:

  1. How diverse is the Asian American and Pacific Islander population?
  2. How does American culture affect the experiences of Asian Americans?
  3. What are the unique social and cultural problems affect Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders?
  4. How can I be more mindful in viewing and interacting with Asian American and Pacific Islander communities?

With those questions in mind, here are a few programs that you’re guaranteed to learn from and enjoy!

Diversity Dialogues

2016DiversityDialoguesScreen

Our second annual Diversity Dialogues is tomorrow! As we prepare for Jose Antonio Vargas to visit campus on April 25, we will be screening his documentary Undocumented. A discussion on the experiences of undocumented immigrants will follow. You can still sign up in ASC 224 and receive a free T-Shirt!

And Still We Rise

2016AndStillWeRiseAAPIScreen

Hosted at the Luann Dummer Center for Women, this month’s And Still We Rise is a student-led presentation on popular culture’s fetishization of Asian women and its negative impact. Come learn from and discuss this issue with presenters Divine Zheng and Gabbie Ryan, as well as other interested folks coming through for the event!

Festival of Nations

2016FestivalofNationsScreen

On May 7, SDIS and Residence Life will bring students to St. Paul’s annual Festival of Nations. The festival is an enormous showcase of the Twin Cities’ various ethnic communities featuring dance performances, cultural exhibitions, and a marketplace full of ethnicity/nationality-themed stands where food, clothes, and other goods can be purchased. Communities represented at this year’s festival include the Thai, Japanese, Taiwanese, Indian, and Sri Lankan among the wide variety of peoples there.


 

The last month of the academic calendar should not be an enormous, stressful cram session. Sometimes, the best way to relieve yourself of your problems is to interact with and learn about other people. Take the opportunities we’re providing to immerse yourself in something new, even if it’s just for an hour.

Hope to see you at our programs!

Uncategorized

On being American: Journalist, filmmaker–and undocumented immigrant–Jose Antonio Vargas to speak at St. Thomas

JAV new 4x6The University of St. Thomas Lectures Committee presents a lecture by Pulitzer Prize winner Jose Antonio Vargas on Tuesday, April 25, at 7 p.m. in Woulfe alumni Hall. The event is free and open to the public.

A Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist, acclaimed documentary filmmaker, and founder of Define American.com and #EmergingUS, Vargas seeks to elevate the conversation around race, immigration, identity, and citizenship in a multiracial America.

After “outing” himself as an undocumented immigrant in The New York Times, Vargas was featured on the cover of TIME magazine as the face of the conversations about immigration in America, and has testified before the US Senate. His film about his experiences, Documented, has won several awards and recognition by multiple film festivals and associations and will be shown April 21 at 5:30 p.m. MCH 100 as part of Diversity Dialogues. (You MUST REGISTER to attend… Register now in ASC 224 and receive your FREE t-shirt!) View the trailer for Documented here.

In July 2015, he produced and starred in White People, a film for the MTV “Look Different” campaign about being young and white in America.

Vargas’ further contributions to the conversation include Define American, a non-profit media and culture organization that seeks to elevate the conversation around immigration and citizenship in America, and#EmergingUS, a multimedia news platform launched in 2015 in partnership with the Los Angeles Times, focusing on race, immigration, and the complexities of multiculturalism.

In addition to his work on immigration matters, Vargas has had a prolific journalism career, including work for The New Yorker, the Huffington Post, and the Washington Post, among others; he has covered a wide range of topics, including tech and video game culture, HIV/AIDS, the 2008 presidential campaign, and an acclaimed profile of Mark Zuckerberg. Vargas was part of the team that won a Pulitzer Prize for covering the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech, and his 2006 series on HIV/AIDS in Washington, D.C., inspired a feature-length documentary — The Other City — which he co-produced and wrote. In 2007, the daily journal Politico named him one of the 50 Politicos to Watch.

 

LeagueofWomenVoters
Heritage Month

League of Women Voters and Women’s History Month

It’s Women’s History Month, and one way female social activists are honoring the month is through the fight for restoration of the Voting Rights Act.

Get to know the League of Women Voters!

Founded in 1920 after women in the United States achieved suffrage, the League has since concerned itself with the preservation of the right to vote for all underprivileged social groups in this nation.

With the presidential election coming up, the League’s most urgent fight has been brought to greater attention: restoration of the Voting Rights Act.

In Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder (2013), the Supreme Court struck down Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act which granted many protections against discrimination in the voter registration and polling processes. Section 4(b) is a coverage formula which determines if a local government has practiced discrimination in their voting processes.

Basically, being identified as an area with discriminatory voting practices puts Section 5 of the VRA into effect. Any state or local government in violation of Section 4(b) has to wait on a pass from Congress, called preclearance, to continue running their own voting affairs.

According to this graphic on The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights website, 16 states are covered by the aforementioned Section 5 of the VRA. States with large impacts in election years such as Texas and Florida, as well as states with intense histories of voter discrimination such as Mississippi and Alabama, are affected by such changes to the VRA.

StatesAffectedbyVRA

The setback of Section 4(b) being removed from the VRA prompted congressmen to work toward strengthening it again. In January 2014, the Voting Rights Act Bill was introduced and then re-introduced to Congress a year later. Then in June of 2015, the Voting Rights Advancement Act was introduced with the aim to restore former VRA provisions that were taken out as a result of Shelby County v. Holder in 2013.

Protections that were granted by Section 5 of the VRA are important to regain. Just look at what happened in Florida right after the Shelby County case in 2013…

Starting with a list of 180,000 voters, Florida’s state government attempted to purge people from the list of registered voters under suspicion of being non-citizens. In the final list of 2,700 people, 58 percent of them were Latino.

Florida’s Latino population is 13 percent.

Of the 2,700 on the final list, fewer than 40 of them were actually non-citizens. Details on that voter purge and similar incidences post-Shelby County v. Holder can be found here at the Brennan Center for Justice site.

That being said, the fight for restoration of the Voting Rights Act is crucial. And despite issues of racial and class privilege within the feminist movement, those invested in Women’s History Month are standing firm behind this fight.

The League of Women Voters is exemplifying the notion that the freedom of other people is tied to their own. Women’s suffrage in 1920 was a great victory, but this organization has continued to use the privilege granted by that to bring fair treatment to other marginalized groups.

Having read this, celebrate this Women’s History Month knowing that fighting for gender equality is intimately tied to other fights for groups on the margins.

I leave you with a quote from Lilla Watson, an Indigenous Australian visual artist and advocate for various Aboriginal and women’s issues:

“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

Diversity

Green Card Voices and Jose Antonio Vargas

GreenCardVoices

Happy Leap Day! Today we’re using our extra day in the year to discuss immigration-related programming we have in store for you as we head into the spring.

Immigration to the United States is more than the sensationalized issue of undocumented immigrants from Mexico. Immigrants and the children of immigrants make up a significant percentage of the U.S. population. This is reflected locally where Somali, Hmong, and Ethiopian immigrants, among other groups, heavily populate the Twin Cities metro area.

Green Card Voices is a Minneapolis-based non-profit which aims to represent and connect immigrants, non-immigrants, and advocates across the USA by sharing first-hand experiences of foreign-born Americans. This is done through various video and photographic projects, as well as events such as panel discussions and exhibitions.

Starting today, Green Card Voices will have an exhibit in the O’Shaughnessy-Frey (OSF) Library showcasing images and stories of various American immigrants. The exhibit will be on our campus through March 11.

GreenCardVoicesLibraryExhibit

Part of the 1st floor exhibit. More coverage of the exhibit can be found on our Facebook (U of St Thomas SDIS), Snapchat, and Twitter (@UofStThomasSDIS) pages

Jose Antonio Vargas on undocumented immigrants

In related programming, we will be hosting activist and filmmaker Jose Antonio Vargas on April 25 for a discussion about the experiences of undocumented immigrants as opposed to documented ones. Vargas’ documentary titled Documented came out to critical acclaim in 2013, and he continues to advocate for immigration reform in the United States. A speaker you don’t want to miss!

We hope you stop by the exhibit while it is here. This week’s Purple Bench (March 4, 3 p.m.) will be on the topic of immigration narratives in the United States. Continue to look for updates on our programs and encourage others to engage with us as well.

Thank you for reading! We’ll be sure to have updates and new pieces up throughout the spring so keep coming back!

Heritage Month

Celebrate Black History Month!

BHMEventCalendar

With February comes a new semester at the University of St. Thomas. It also ushers in Black History Month, a time for Americans to intentionally reflect on the history of Blackness both domestically and globally.

Highlights

The first two weeks of the month have already seen a slew of events!

The Black Empowerment Student Alliance (BESA) hosted a social to begin the month. The documentary Dark Girls was screened last week as part of our ongoing Diversity Film Series. BESA also had a screening of their own, airing the movie Selma this past Saturday. Also, the first two Purple Benches of the month have seen enriching discussions about White identity, racial categorization, and colorism across the global Black population.

Upcoming

With the second half of the month starting today, here are some programs to look forward to!

Tonight, BESA is hosting a panel discussion at 6:30 pm in the ASC Hearth Room (room 341) on “the n-word”. The panel consists of St. Thomas faculty, staff, and students with

This week is Slam Poetry Week, a week of workshops, performances, and competition revolving around spoken word and poetry.

For those interested in writing or performing poetry, former national slam poetry champion and St. Thomas alumnus Mike Mlekoday will be hosting two workshops: Wednesday, February 17 at 5:30 in ASC 202, and Thursday, February 18 at noon in MHC 204. Later that Thursday is a performance by touring poetic duo Sister Outsider at 7 pm in ASC Woulfe North.

The week concludes with the Slam Poetry Contest on Friday, February 19 at 5:30 pm in Scooter’s. Mike Mlekoday will also host this event, and students will perform original spoken word and poetry pieces with three Express money prizes on the line.

Next Monday, February 22, is a discussion on the differences between Africans and African-Americans jointly hosted by BESA and the African Nations Student Alliance (ANSA). The following Thursday, February 25, is our Culture Stew featuring senior James Mite’s research presentation on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly.

To wrap up Black History Month, BESA will be hosting a soul food dinner on February 28 in ASC Woulfe South at 6 pm.


Thank you to everyone who has participated in any of the Black History Month programming organized by us, BESA, and other contributing organizations and departments thus far.

We hope the events have been, and will continue to be, fun, culturally enriching, and helpful in understanding the local and global significance of Black history and the Black community beyond the month of February.

Can’t wait to see more of you at the upcoming events!