True story: I told my mom about the backlash I received on campus for the beautiful gesture offered to me at Apollo night.  In all of my mother’s wisdom she imparted these words from Childish Gambino: “Don’t be mad cuz I’m doing me better than you doing you.” With these profound and inspirational words in mind I respond to the comments and questions Astrid Quinones ‘14 posed in her “Standing up for the Wrong Reasons” article in the March 5 issue.

“Where are you when horrendous things happen on campus?”

We are organizing events like Black History Month Discussion, Take Back the Night, Act Against, Gender Bender Ball, Women Gender and Sexuality art exhibition, MLK walk, Undocumented students solidarity, Performing for Change, The Gorilla Movement, Open Mic Nights, Islam Awareness Week and Hijab Day. Do not devalue the work we do on this campus every day and in our lives. Do not disrespect events we pour our hearts and souls into. Do not disenfranchise the agency of the students and the individuals who fight to make spaces for themselves and others on this campus.

“Where is the unity when you are witness to fellow peers being discriminated against and victimized?”

We are standing on stage. We are meeting at all hours of the night to share our experiences. Just because you can’t see the ways in which we support each other in the silence of an embrace, the crying together in the middle of the night or the “I love yous” we jokingly say to each other but know deep down we really mean it.

Alan Pelaez-Lopez ’15: “Sometimes, I’m not here — I can’t be here because it’s too much to handle my own problems, and I can’t always come out and speak on behalf of all of my oppressed identities. We shouldn’t always be forced to speak out every time something occurs, if we did, we’d spend more time defending ourselves than studying, or not getting enough sleep to not burn out. I stand in solidarity. All oppression is connected.”

“When are you talking about your struggles with gender, race, sexuality and class?”

Everything thing that we do, say and experience reflects the intersections of our identities and often our multifaceted oppressions. There is no separating because that’s not how our bodies and minds experience the world. We are always talking about it – it just takes some listening to hear it.

“What do you truly believe in? It is imperative to be sure of who you are and how you would like the world to be.”

Nikki Garcia ’14: “I believe in freedom of expression. I want the world to be – however it unravels – people are different. I’m not very open; it’s hard for me to express myself – especially when I am surrounded by a huge majority of people that will never understand. But I look up to those who find it in themselves to speak up and share themselves with the world. Whether I agree with what they have to say or not, I will defend until my death their right to say it.”

“Women who have experienced sexual violence were re-traumatized at the thought of having an object forced into their bodies.”

Organizing Take Back the Night taught me the importance of protecting all stories and allowing all stories to be heard. Especially the importance of survivors of sexual assault to tell their stories in their own words without the fear of silencing, shaming or re-victimization. Re-victimization occurs when the public uses the survivor’s story against them or undermines their experiences by making it a debate rather than the survivor’s truth. I chose to put the Virgin Mary in my body. Do not devalue my agency, my experiences or my voice. Do not speak on behalf of all women who have experienced sexual assault. Do not white wash experiences or discriminate against victims who do not fit the victim-narrative.

Alan Pelaez-Lopez ’15: “If I heard that at an open mic, I wouldn’t feel triggered. I don’t say this as a woman; I say it as a queer male of color, who’s a survivor of sexual assault. I grew up in the ghettos of Mexico City, with the Virgin Mary as the only ezperanza [hope] in my life. As an indigenous man and a spiritual being, I see the act of placing the Virgin Mary inside as something sacred, a defense mechanism, an indigenous form of white magic to protect us, survivors, but not just us, our families.”

These are the beautiful things that came out of Apollo Night:

Students stood in solidarity on the Apollo stage and demonstrated the power of civil disobedience. Around 22 students gathered together to write a collective article defending our right to freedom of speech. On Sunday we joined together in the Mezzanine to share our poetry, experiences, music, favorite videos and even essays we wrote in class. We engaged in difficult topics, revealed personal experiences and truly bonded over the freedom to be who we are and say what we feel. This Tuesday, colored women joined together in a Yoga Healing Circle to release our trauma and revitalize our community and ourselves.

Solidarity. Collective consciousness (i.e. @UncensoredStags). Empowerment. Love. Sisterhood. Brotherhood.

Please feel free to join us in solidarity for the #struggleforjustice.

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