Back at it

Ladies and gents, I’M BACK!

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I’ve taken a bit of a hiatus this summer but as the school year approaches  I’m so ready to dive back into activism taking place on the college campus!

FYI,  I’ve left the big city,FOR NOW, and will be  be blogging about activism and activist clubs at the University of Illinois at Champagne-Urbana instead of at Pace U-sad face.  However, I’m excited for a new change of scenery. I have a lot in store for you guys this semester.  It’s time to buckle and get ready to be a part of the trealmovement! Check back in soon! -xoxo

Making a Diffrence

As the school year comes to close and many of us head home it’s important to remember that activism can be done anywhere. Yes, a lot of time works better when it’ a group effort but don’t let that stop you.  Speak up about issues that are dear to you and people will flock to you-build a team. Only speak up about  things that are 100% dear to you-never half do anything. Always know that you don’t alway have to make a change all by yourself working with other is good and can even be more productive.  Never give up on your activism!bg3xqysw-1415267333

Next Up

Joanne Neveras-Cardoso is a freshmen hear at Pace University and next year she will be the President of Pride at Pace.  Pride at Pace is an activist group here at Pace dedicated to the LGBQTAA community. I recently sat down with her and we talked about the future of Pride at Pace, now that it’s in here hands.

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Karenys Espinoza(left) and Joanne Neveras-Cardoso(right). Photo by Cornell Craig.

I started the interview off by asking Joanne how she plans on improving the club and continuing its activism for the LBGQTAA community. She said, ” As president of Pride at Pace I plan to expand the diversity of the members, educate and motivate  them to involve themselves in the spreading of equality and supporting of the LGBTQAA community.” In turn I asked Joanne what her biggest concerns as President of Pride at Pace are. She basically said she’s concerned   about the lack of membership and involvement  in the club. One of Joanne’s main goals will be to increase the membership and involvement of Pride at Pace. The last thing I asked Joanne was if she will try have more events this coming year? She said, ” I will be hosting many more events that are educational and fun.”

Joanne is hoping to bring out the the inner-activist in future Pride at Pace members. She wants people at Pace to be more involved in the club. She’s next up and I look forward to seeing what she does to improve and enhance this activist group.

Group Effort

In honor of April being Sexual Assault Awareness Month I decided to interview Debbie Levesque. Levesque has worked at Pace University for over 30 years and one of her main jobs is tackling sex assault on campus. On Saturday we sat down to talk about the program she’s apart of here at Pace, activism and ways to help stop sexual assault on campus.

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Debbie Levesque. Photo by Tajah Ware

My first question for Debbie was for her to explain the program she is apart of here at Pace University. She responded with the following

” About two years ago I became the Assistant Dean for community standards and compliance and part of that role at the time was to help on both campuses. I became part of an executive team that began to look at Governor Cuomo’s Enough is Enough Legislation regarding campus sexual assault. Everybody pretty much knows by now that Vice President Biden became very interested in the topic and they began to really look at what was going on college campuses because it seemed to be escalating and everybody felt it was time to get a handle on what was going on and Pace was no different.”

My follow up question was why she thinks rape is so prominent on campus considering the fact that college campuses are made to be some of the safest places on Earth. She responded with the following

” I think when everybody is looking at that age group there are a lot of young women that are that age on college campuses and I think many times a student hasn’t lived away from home in an unsupervised environment. I think everybody, women and men, are being told ok you’re an adult now you have to take responsibility. During that first 6 weeks of college you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know who you can trust and that’s all coming together and it’s also happening very fast. So we started asking out students what could we do to make that easier and we got a lot of feedback and the students say ” hey we need to know that if we need to talk so somebody who’s a confidential resource as opposed to a non-confidential resource or if I see something who do I tell.” We started using things like bystander training and Step up and different things like that. We published a brochure that has confidential resources in it. What we want out students to know is that they’re in control. Ya know, whatever happens in a situations is based upon what you say so if you decide that you don’t want to call the police no one’s going to make you call the police. They are going to tell you why it’s a great idea to call the police but if you stop at that point they aren’t going to make you do something you don’t want to do. We just want the students to know Pace does have a policy for sexual assault.”

I then asked what polices does Pace have in place to penalize on-campus rapist. She responded wit the following

“We have what we call a single investigative model. All complaints go to Lisa Miles,when a complaint goes to her she will open an investigation and she’ll get all the information she can from the person who’s filing the complaint and then she’ll interview all of the people involved. She also talks to the respondent, the person being accussed, and witnesses and looks at a tape if it’s available. College campuses use what’s a called a preponderance of the evidence-which means if it’s more than likely than not that it,the rape, occurred then the investigator will make a recommendation to the decision maker, which is the Dean for Students on the opposite campus. After they review the report and the recommendation the decision maker will make a decision and they’ll let both parties know what the decision is. After that either party has the opportunity to appeal the decision . The person accused could be suspended, they could be dismissed or there can be a permanent note on the person’s transcript, it just depends on whether or not the incident is proven.”

I then asked her if she would consider herself an activist for this cause. She responded with the following

I would hope people would think that. I’m in a good group of folks. Because we have an executive committee at the University and we have folks from the Presidents office, we have Lisa Miles and Zoila Perez from Title IX. We have the University counsel , we have somebody from HR, somebody from Government and Community Relations. It’s a great group of administrators that really are looking over Pace University to make sure that when students are coming to the city or  to Westchest that they reasonably feel that the administration has their back. Because we aren’t going to be successful at all without our students.

I then went on to ask her when she decided she needed to use her voice for the voiceless. She responded with the following

“I’d like to think that I’ve been doing that for my entire career but I think I became more vocal and more focused after I had kids. Because I had to be sure I was doing for others what I’d want someone to do for my son and daughter.”

The last thing I asked Debbie was what advice she would give to young adults who want to be activist. She responded with the following

“I say look for a group. Look for a group that has the same ideas.”

After interviewing Debbie my entire outlook on activism shifted. Her main message to me was that group work is how you make a difference. My other blog post really focus in on individual activism -which is great. I still maintain that you have to be the change you would like to see. You should always initiate positive change however in order to really make substantial change you need a group. You can’t tackle the oppressor without team work.

Activist Steps

Nu Zeta Phi, a local sorority at Pace University, is currently hosting an event titled  Small Steps Toward a Big Cure.  I briefly spoke with Tejiana Lee a member of the sorority about this yesterday. Lee told me that this event has actually taken place every year for the past 15 years. Lee said”we hold this event annually to raise money and awareness for Breast Cancer Research and all proceeds go to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.” According to Lee this annual event was created by one of the members of the sorority who  claimed Breast Cancer personally  touched her life and because of that she came up with this-  she wanted to help contribute to the cause.  According to Lee”Nu Zeta Phi likes to give back to the community by volunteering locally and holding events throughout the school year to promote and fundraise for Breast Cancer Research. ”

act.jpgActivism is all about shedding light on a situation that is important to you. You shed light on a situation and do your best to promote change for whomever that situation may affect. I’m not sure if Nu Zeta Phi is aware of it but they are currently being an activist group. They are trying to help bring about change, aka a cure, for people with  Breast Cancer. Nu Zeta Phi is all about helping give back to the Breast Cancer community. The work they are doing is nothing short of inspiring.  They along with the other organizations at Pace U that I have talked about are either  trying to promote change or  are shedding light on situations people  knew nothing about or were trying to ignore.  To be honest, I never would have thought a sorority at Pace would be interested  in trying to help out like they are. I always give credit where credit is due and Nu Zeta Phi definitely deserves some credit for this event. It’s one thing to use your voice to shed light on a situation but to actually put your money where your mouth is and host an event  to promote some type of change for the community you’re being an activist for is amazing.

Self-Pride

I recently interviews  Nial Al Qawasmi a Junior Communications and Journalism major here at Pace. Nial is the president of Students for justice ,here at Pace University. The issues in Palestine are often miscommunicated or  not  even communicated at in the U.S., for this reason I decided to interview this outspoken woman about her work and activism with SJP .

My first  question for Nial was  what her definition of an activist is and whether or not she considers herself an activist. She responded with the following

“To me, an activist is someone that works to promote a specific cause, advocates for a greater purpose and pushes for social change that will help others. In this case, yes I do consider myself an activist. My primary activism is for Palestine, but I also advocate for women’s rights from an intersectional perspective – which expands my work to end not only sexism, but also racism, classism, xenophobia, etc. As an activist, it’s important to recognize that you can’t stand against only one system of oppression and forget the rest, because they’re all interconnected – and you can’t (shouldn’t) pick and choose. I’m still growing as an activist and I’m learning to adopt this habit.”

I then asked her what made her decide to use her voice to spread awareness about about the issues going on in Palestine and if there was anything holding her back. She responded with the following

“I’m Palestinian, so I have a very personal connection to Palestine. That was ultimately how and why I got involved in the Palestine solidarity movement. However, it’s important to note that you don’t need to be Palestinian to recognize the violations and human rights abuses that are happening on the daily in Occupied Palestine. I don’t allow anything to hold me back, even though there are some very valid fears and concerns that come about when you’re an activist for Palestine. For example, the fear of being detained or expelled indefinitely from Palestine by Israeli defense soldiers because of your campus work. Safety concerns on campus from pro-Israel students has also been a topic lately as well. However, I refuse to let any of that stop me from talking about and working on one of the longest humanitarian crises of our time that also happens to affect my family and I directly.”

I then went on to ask her as a person of color in a pretty much white dominated society how does she encourage herself  and others to stay true to their culture and ethnicity instead of assimilating and she responded with the following

“As a non-black person of color, a Muslim, a woman, and a Palestinian-American – it’s hard to not fit in. I’ve always stood out because of my politicized identities and have been the “token Muslim” or “token Palestinian” friend and student on campus. Despite how exhausting these roles can be on a very white campus, I’ve learned to accept and be proud of who I am, and use my platform to educate others about where I come from. This attitude is contagious, and I’ve noticed that some of my friends (who are also women of color) have also started to become more comfortable and unapologetic about themselves on our campus. I was never given the space to stay true to my culture; instead, I made the space for myself. I think that’s a very important realization for anyone in a similar position.”

I then asked her if she considers herself and Anti-Zionist and if so how and she responded with the following

“Yes. I also want to take this opportunity to explain that I am anti-Zionism, not Judaism. Our SJP has many Jewish members and works with Jewish organizations (like Jewish Voice for Peace) frequently. The Zionist ideology however, is what I personally reject – for it’s destructive behavior and the suffering it has inflicted upon a group of people, such as denying Palestinians their right of return and for being an apartheid state.”

The last thing I asked her  was how  she, as an Anti-Zionist, rejects settler colonialism and she responded with the following

“The Zionist ideology promotes an apartheid state with their 400-mile long apartheid wall that cuts through Palestinian homes, their Israeli settlements (constantly growing and expanding) that are considered illegal by international law, and by treating Palestinians as second-class citizens on their own land. Whether or not you consider yourself anti-Zionist, none of the above should be happening. They are a complete violation of the most basic human rights and yet the situation in Palestine is still not seen as an oppressed vs. oppressor, but rather, “two people fighting over land” – which is a complete underrepresentation of what’s actually going on.

It’s important to connect this struggle (and acknowledge the differences, too) with similar struggles that have already happened or are on going – for example, settler colonialism in South Africa, and right here in America against the indigenous people.”

My interview with Nial was not only thought provoking but pretty empowering. She is aware that in order to support positive  social change for one group of people you sort of need to  to support it for all people who are being oppressed. Nial uses her voice to support everyone being oppressed, her main focus just happens to be the people in Palestine. She is filled with self-pride and encourages other people to be as well.sjp